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Nikolas Campbell

"Who Let the Dogs Out?" - The Return of Fire Decks in Standard

Nikolas Campbell takes a look at three Fire-type decks that currently have a lot of potential in the Standard format.

01/25/2016 by Nikolas Campbell

Hey, 60cards readers! It’s me, Nikolas Campbell and I'm really excited to be writing articles here. For people who don't know who I am, I would like to introduce myself. I started playing competitive Pokémon TCG in 2010 when the Triumphant was released. During this five-year period, I was able to get two 2nd Place finishes at Regionals plus two Top 8 finishes, two Top 4 and two Top 8 finishes at States, six City Championship wins, and two Top 64 finishes at U.S. Nationals. Outside of Pokémon, I play Magic the Gathering casually and Hearthstone, where I try to grind for Legend each month. Anyway, you’re not here to read my accomplishments so let's get down to business. With Seismitoad-EX being such a powerhouse in both Standard and Expanded, you couldn't play any Fire-type Pokémon since its release last season. With the release of BREAKthrough, there was a big shift in the Standard metagame. We saw an increase of many different decks revolving around Fire-type Pokémon as main attackers in the Standard format. BREAKthrough gave many Tools like Jirachi XY67 and Assault Vest to give Fire decks new life against Seismitoad-EX. Today I want to go over the Fire-type decks that sprung up over these City Championships.

Entei/Charizard-EX

Entei/Charizard or "Flappy Dogs" has done very well in the Standard Cities metagame and is in contention for being called the best deck in the format. The goal of this deck is not only to get a quick attack with an Entei, but also using your Tools to get an advantage over certain matchups because of Entei's ϴ Double Ancient Trait.

The construction of this deck is very similar to many decks in this format. It has staples of aggro decks in the format like Battle Compressors, Trainers’ Mail, and Acro Bikes to get through your deck turn one. But instead of getting Pokémon in the discard like Night March and Vespiquen, you want to get Energy so you can Blacksmith. Blacksmith has been around since Flashfire and is now getting its time to shine. As you can see, we are playing the four copies of this card just so we can get the quickest start with an Entei. In the past, this card was very mediocre mostly because it was your Supporter for turn, which was way too slow, but with the release of cards like Shaymin-EX and Trainers’ Mail, you can still get gas into your hand while using this slower Supporter.

The other thing you will notice is that there is only one Sycamore in this deck, which is very unusual for decks in this format. Usually people play the full four copies of the card because of its raw power. Though I would admit that would feel comfortable with more copies of the card, Sycamore does slow down the whole goal of this deck of attacking quickly with an Entei. What this means is that this deck is more reliant on Shaymin-EX than any other deck in the format, but also is more susceptible to more bad starts than other aggro decks like Night March and Vespiquen, which can comfortably play four Sycamore. Even though it is a concern, it’s a very rare occurrence to not start with way to dig for a Shaymin-EX or Battle Compressor on the first turn so it shouldn’t be a turn off from playing this deck.

Pokémon

4 Entei AOR 15

The heart and soul of this deck, the main attacker. This card has two very unique attacks that are very good depending on what situation you are in. Its first attack, Flame Screen, is very good against decks that rely on chip damage to get knockouts, like Lucario-EX decks or decks that have a hard time one-shotting Entei when he has an Assault Vest attached, like Night March. His second attack is very mediocre in terms of power because four Energy for 130 and flip to see if you hurt yourself isn't that great, but because of his ϴ Double Ancient Trait, you can attach two Muscle Bands to it and now it’s hitting for 170 which is the magic number for a lot of Pokémon-EX, like Yveltal-EX.

2 Charizard-EX FLF 12

Charizard and Entei are very similar cards in terms of what they do. Just in case if all of your Entei are Knocked Out or if you need a bigger Pokémon that won't be Knocked Out very easily, Charizard is there to fill that role.

3 Shaymin-EX ROS

Three is more than most decks in the format, but like I said earlier, you are trying to get a Blacksmith turn one so you can attack. Three is an absolute necessity in this deck for the quickest start and I wouldn't condemn you if you played a fourth one just because how important it is to get that Blacksmith turn one.

Trainers

4 Blacksmith

The engine of the deck. Outside of seeing an Entei turn one, you want to see this card or a way to get this card on the first turn.

4 Muscle Band

It’s very important to play four copies of this card because of Entei's ϴ Double Ancient Trait, it allows you to hit 170 which one-shots many Pokémon-EX. Playing four lets you see the card faster and more chances to hit 170.

3 Assault Vest

A new card from BREAKthrough and is a very interesting card to include in this deck because it doesn’t help in getting a quicker start or increasing damage for knockouts. The reason this card is in here is to help in certain matchups like Night March and Vespiquen because they rely on Special Energy to attack. If you put two Assault Vest on an Entei and use Flame Screen, that is reduction of 110 damage if they have a special Energy attached, which is very hard for decks like Night March and Vespiquen to overcome.

3 Scorched Earth/1 Parallel City

Scorched Earth are in here to one help draw more cards on the first turn to get a Blacksmith and two help get Fire Energy in the discard for Blacksmith. The one Parallel City is in here to help with Bench space, which can be a problem with all the Shaymin-EX in the deck, but it is also very good in the mirror match reducing the damage from their Entei.

1 Giovanni's Scheme

The reason for this card is to help one-shot Pokémon-EX that have 180 HP, like Lucario-EX and Tyrantrum-EX.

Considerations

Entei AOR 14

This card gives an option to attack for massive amounts of damage for only two Energy with its Combat Blaze attack. While this is a very good card, the problem comes in with that we can only run four cards named Entei in this deck and we would have to cut one of the Ancient Trait Entei for it. It is honestly up to you because it is a good card, I really like starting with the Ancient Trait Entei and cutting one will hurt those odds.

Eco Arm

Being able to recycle Muscle Bands that were used on an Entei that was Knocked Out is very good and I would say this card is the 61st card in this list. The problem with this card is that it can be dead early and most times because you are such a fast deck, you really don’t need recovery most of the time.

Pokémon Catcher

To get more aggressive, you can play Pokémon Catcher to bring up Benched Shaymin-EX to get quicker Knockouts without using your Supporter for turn, which can now be used for Blacksmith.

Matchups

Night March

You want to try to get an Entei going with two Assault Vests and use Flame Screen 90% of the time. Reducing their damage by 110, plus one shooting Joltik will swing the matchup in your favor.

Yveltal/Gallade/Zoroark

This is a pretty good matchup; the fact you can one-shot Yveltal on the first turn is going to give you a huge advantage. Plus if they one-shot your Entei with Yveltal-EX, you can respond with Charizard-EX with a Combustion Blast with a Muscle Band. You're too fast for them and you have perfect responses for their cards.

Manectric-EX/Crobat

This can be a difficult matchup if you don't get a quick start, but not unwinnable. The fact Manectric-EX does more damage if you Tools attached to you is kind of annoying, plus the fact they are now running Assault Vest makes this very difficult, but if you can get a first turn knockout on a Manectric with an Energy or you are able to set up multiple Entei without using Double Colorless, you should be able to pull a win out.

Mirror

Like most mirror matches there really isn't that much skill involved. I will say is Assault Vest and Parallel City will be very good in the mirror match and if you can use them to prevent your opponent from knocking out one of your attacking Entei, you will swing the match in your favor.

Houndoom-EX Mill

Now here is the deck I have played for a couple of City Championships. Now we really haven't seen a deck like this since Durant and they both play very similarly by trying to disrupt your opponent with Energy denial cards like Crushing Hammer and Head Ringer then winning by deck out. Deck out is your only win condition which makes games very interesting and very difficult, but if you know what your opponents deck can do, you can win every matchup.

The one thing I will say that I see many newer players with this deck is that they choose to go first. With this deck you are countering whatever your opponent is doing with Crushing Hammer and Team Flare Grunts. By going first, you are giving up the potential of Energy-removal opportunities and milling. Plus there real isn't set up needed in this deck so going second is always going to be better.

Pokémon

4 Bunnelby PRC

One of the few Pokémon in the Standard format that does two things very well, milling and recovering. In this deck you mostly want to use its attack Burrow because that is your win condition, but there are certain times you will want to use Rototiller. Like when you are running out of Crushing Hammer or VS Seeker, or if your opponent is stumbling and is just draw passing, you can take time to Rototiller back some resources to help seal the game.

3 Houndoom-EX BKT

Just here to use its Melting Horn Attack and nothing else. Having 170 HP does give an advantage over Bunnelby in a lot of circumstances.

2 Shaymin-EX ROS

Every deck plays at least one this card because it is so good. The consistency it gives you is better than any other card in the game.

Trainers

4 Crushing Hammer/2 Enhanced Hammer/2 Team Flare Grunt/2 Xerosic/2 Team Flare Grunt

Because this deck is trying to make a game state where it can mill every turn without worrying about what your opponent is doing. Energy-denial cards is the best way in doing that. With twelve of them, it makes it easier to see them when you want them. You pretty much want to play one every turn until they stop playing Energy.

4 Super Scoop Up/1 AZ

These cards are in here to help heal your Houndoom-EX. By blanking a turn of damage by your opponent, it give you more turns to Melting Horn and Burrow. You can also use them on your Shaymin-EX to help you dig for more Energy-denial cards.

3 Hard Charms

Very similar to Super Scoop Up and AZ, giving your Pokémon more chances to survive attacks gives you more chances at Melting Horn and Burrow.

Considerations

Team Aqua's Secret Base

This card gives you more out of your Lysandre. Making the retreat higher on certain Pokémon, like Shaymin-EX or Milotic can be very good. Plus having a counter stadium for Dimension Valley is very good because it basically becomes another Energy denial card. The only problem is that it will make your Shaymin-EX more of a liability, making you rely on Super Scoop Up.

Crawdaunt PRC

Like I said, it is very important to use your Energy denial cards to give you more chances for Burrow and Melting Horn. This card will help you do this with his Ability Unruly Claw. The problem with this card is that will take set up because it is an evolution so you should go first if you can. Plus starting with it is a real pain when you want to start with either Houndoom-EX or Bunnelby.

Matchups

Night March

Because this deck relies on going through its deck on turn one to do any kind of damage. Plus the fact it's really hard for them to one-shot a Houndoom-EX with a Hard Charm, it’s a pretty good matchup. Enhanced Hammer will shine the most in the matchup because most Night March decks only play Double Colorless as their source of Energy.

Entei/Charizard

This is an interesting matchup, depending on much they have to dig for a Blacksmith and/or Benched Pokémon will determine who will win. If they can get a Entei attacking without Benching or drawing that many cards, it's going to be really hard to come back from it because your Energy-denial cards are going to be very poor against them because they can attach four Energy each turn. Thought it is unlikely they won't draw that many cards.

Yveltal/Gallade/Zoroark

This is a very easy matchup. Mostly because it is very hard for them to one-shot a Houndoom-EX with a Hard Charm. They need seven Energy on an Yveltal-EX to do that, which is almost impossible with how many Energy denial cards this deck plays. Also if they go for a Gallade with Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick, that’s a lot of cards they will have to go through to accomplish that.

Manectric-EX/Crobat

Another easy matchup. This because they are pretty slow deck, plus the fact they need a Golbat, a Crobat, and Manectric-EX using Assault Laser with a Muscle Band to one-shot a Houndoom-EX with a Hard Charm, which is very difficult to do every turn while having there deck being milled. If they can do that every turn while you using an Energy-denial cards, they deserve the win.

M Houndoom-EX

This deck has been pet of mine since the release of BREAKthrough and I have been testing with it more these past couple of weeks. M Houndoom-EX is a very interesting Mega Pokémon. I would compare it to M Rayquaza-EX; they are both trying to do a lot of damage quickly. The difference between the both of them is the setup needed for them and their type coverage. So depending on what the metagame at the time, one will be better than the other. As for right now, I would say being a Fire-type and Weak to Water is better than being Colorless-type with a weakness to Lightning because of how many Joltik and Manectric-EX seeing play.

Pokémon

3 Houndoom-EX/3 M Houndoom-EX BKT

This is your main attacker, M Houndoom-EX's Inferno Fang is used 99% of the time in this deck, but Houndoom-EX can be a pretty good setup attacker as well with its Grand Flame attack. Also I have won a couple of games with Melting Horn in testing because it's usually forgotten about as an attack because your opponent has to deal with M Houndoom-EX so they will be more loose with resource management. It doesn’t come up much, but it is a legitimate win condition.

3 Shaymin-EX ROS

This deck is similar to Entei, you are trying to get a Blacksmith turn one so you can get a quick attack. It isn't as necessary as Entei because you can take a turn to set up with Zubat and more Houndoom, but your best start is to Grand Flame to another Houndoom-EX on the Bench. Just because we want that start, we are going to play three Shaymin-EX to get that quick start.

3 Zubat/3 Golbat/2 Crobat PHF

The best partner for M Houndoom-EX. Since M Houndoom-EX can only hit 160, you need a way to manipulate damage to one hit many Pokémon-EX. With some lists, I have seen them not running Crobat which is a big mistake because it can help in one shooting many popular Mega Pokémon-EX in the format like M Manectric-EX and M Mewtwo-EX.

Trainers

3 Blacksmith

Only three Blacksmith in this list mostly for space reasons. Plus the fact it isn't the end of the world if you don’t get a Blacksmith turn one like it is for Entei because you can still attach on the first two turns and be ready to attack with Inferno Fang.

1 Hex Maniac

Because Giratina-EX is card and can shut you down, you are forced to run this card. I would say this is the worst card in the deck, but it can be alright in some situations, like stopping Shaymin-EX spam on the first turn, but that’s about it. If you could guarantee that wouldn't be any Giratina-EX in your tournament, than I would drop this card for another Blacksmith for consistency.

1 Giovanni's Scheme

In case you couldn't get multiple Zubat down, this is your backup so you can hit the magical 180 damage mark.

2 Professor Sycamore

In this deck, like Entei, you pretty much want to just use Blacksmith every turn or your tech Supporters like Lysandre or Giovanni's Scheme, than use Shaymin-EX as your draw power. You still want to play some Sycamore's to help you get to what you need if you can't draw it with Shaymin-EX.

Energy

3 Burning Energy

This card came out in BREAKthrough and it’s a pretty interesting card. Basically when an attack, like Inferno Fang, would discard Energy as the cost of the attack, you can choose this Energy and it is discarded, but reattached after the attack. This Energy was basically made for M Houndoom-EX, but the only thing is that it cannot be used with Blacksmith, which can be a problem, but the opportunity to do 160 damage without forcing you needing to Blacksmith the next turn to attack again is really good.

Considerations

Jirachi XY67

Just because how bad your Giratina-EX matchup is, you can play this card alongside Hex Maniac to make the matchup swing way more into your favor. Also if they play Seismitoad-EX with Giratina-EX, then you should have this card in the deck. Outside of that specific matchup, this card is very mediocre, it can be okay against Night March, but that’s about it.

Super Scoop Up

To help speed up the deck more with Shaymin-EX, plus help resetting Crobat seems really good and I did try list with them. The only problem is that it made the less consistent and I would just rather have cards like Acro Bike to go through the deck more consistently, but if you feel like being risky. Go for Super Scoop Up because it will make the deck faster.

Hoopa-EX

Because you are deck based around Mega Pokémon-EX, you could throw in a Hoopa-EX to help with the consistency of getting out multiple Houndoom-EX, which is very good. I had this card in there for a while, but I took it out mostly because Bench space can be a problem with Shaymin-EX and Crobat and I felt that I consistently got multiple Houndoom-EX on the first turn that it became more of a liability.

Matchups

Night March

A pretty difficult matchup mostly because you will probably have to Knock Out six non-Pokémon-EX, but not impossible. Your best way to victory is to set up multiple M Houndoom-EX and Zubat without Benching multiple Shaymin-EX. If you can do that without them being to Knock Out Houndoom-EX on the first turn, you have a very good shot because Crobat is very good against Night March because it allows you to Knock Out multiple Pokémon in one turn and M Houndoom-EX is very hard for them to one-shot.

Entei/Charizard

This is a pretty easy matchup if they don't get a very quick start with Entei and multiple Muscle Bands. This because you can one-shot Entei pretty easily with Inferno Fang, but it's impossible for them to one-shot M Houndoom-EX.

Yveltal/Gallade/Zoroark

Also a pretty decent matchup. You one-shot everything in their deck with Inferno Fang and Sneaky Bite. Insult to injury, because you discard your Energy to attack with M Houndoom-EX, Yveltal-EX's power is weakened in the matchup. Also Zoroark BREAK can only do max 100 to a M Houndoom-EX because it has to discard Fire Energy to get the power post in the attack.

Manectric-EX/Crobat

This is matchup is very weird mostly because they play multiple Head Ringers, which is the best card against any kind of Mega Pokémon-EX deck. Though if they don’t draw to them, it’s a very easy matchup because you can go through Manectric-EX pretty easily and it's very hard for them not only one-shot you, it can be difficult for them to two shot you.

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I hope you either try these new Fire decks or at least test with them in this Standard metagame because they’re going to be around for a while as long as Seismitoad-EX stays down in popularity. I want to thank Dustin Zimmerman with the deck lists and for help with testing them. I'm glad writing again and I'm looking forward to writing some more for the 60card community.

-Nik

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