Greninja Makes A Splash!
Mees Brenninkmeijer gives his take on the popular Greninja BREAK deck and explains why it just might be the best deck in Standard.
04/06/2016 by Mees Brenninkmeijer
Hey 60cards readers, after a long time of silence I’m back with a new article about the current state of affairs. Before going into the lists and such, I wanna talk a bit about why I chose not to write for such a long period of time.
I feel like a lot of articles are just written to fit a quotum and not because they actually promote good play, better decks and most importantly, improvement as a player. I want to be able to bring you relevant information that can actually be used at tournaments you’re gonna play next weekend. A similar pet peeve of mine is writing about suboptimal lists or plays that writers would not take into tournaments themselves, and are only posted so there is content and the actual optimal play is not revealed. With that said, I will put the disclaimer here that I haven’t actually used what I think is the play for Standard due to a lack of Standard events in my close area. However, my close friend Benjamin Pham used a list very close to the one I think is optimal to win the Kalos Easter Tournament in Paris, France (A Regionals-level event with the biggest prize pool the EU has seen so far). Most of the changes made to this list are done with his endorsement and the list stays very true to its core.
Greninja is what I think the best deck for Standard, which is an unconventional choice for me, but definitely correct. I very much dislike the thought of Evolving my attackers, as this essentially means you are a sitting duck for the first couple of turns, but at the same time are heavily reliant on them going your way, to actually get back into the game. This position gets further complicated by a format that punishes reliance on Items because of the prevalence of Seismitoad-EX. Rare Candy loses all of its use, which was already limited after the nerf we saw a couple of season ago. Manually Evolving a Stage 2 with a BREAK is a nightmare one would surely want to avoid as much as possible, yet, our current format doesn’t give us the tools we need to pull it off. Luckily, Greninja’s pre-evolution Frogadier solves part of this problem with his Water Duplicates attack, that when used, essentially turns your deck into a Stage 1 deck, with a great BREAK.
Another great aspect to the deck is that the new Greninja is actually a very good card, with solid attacks that fit well in a deck that has to invest a lot in getting set up. Both are low-cost attacks which makes sure we can invest in a low count of Energy cards. The first attack doesn’t deal a lot of damage, but makes up for this with its effect. Older players might remember this kind of attack as “Psychic Lock” from Gardevoir, which dominated the format at that time. Ability lock is strong, and even though we don’t have a lot of decks that depend on Abilities, almost every deck uses Shaymin-EX to draw, and a lot of decks run Abilities for extra damage. Funnily enough, Greninja is actually the deck that is bothered most by Ability lock. The other attack hits twice as hard and has a supposedly negative effect for doing extra damage. In reality, returning the Energy to our hand more often benefits us and should be used in most situations. The benefit we get returning our Energy to our hand is really that our opponent can’t remove it. Crushing Hammer and Team Flare Grunt can’t hurt us, since there is no Energy to remove. Another situation where this comes into play is when Greninja BREAK uses Giant Water Shuriken that depends on having Water Energy in our hand.
Giant Water Shuriken is an insanely powerful Ability that definitely should not have been printed on anything less than a Stage 2 BREAK Pokémon. Although it’s limited by its restriction to only activate the Ability while Greninja BREAK is your Active Pokémon, you can still pull it off twice in the same turn, with the help of Greninja’s free Retreat. Because of this, setting up two Greninja BREAKs with the BREAKpoint Stage 2 should be your goal every game. Double Giant Water Shuriken and Moonlight Slash deals 200 damage in one turn, enough to kill most Pokémon-EX granted they do not have Fighting Fury Belt attached. Greninja XY is great to reach those small deficits against Fighting Fury Belt and Mega Pokémon, without needing to be Active for Water Shuriken to activate. It is also great to get one-hit knockouts on 170 HP Pokémon-EX with a single Greninja BREAK in play (80+60+30=170).
In the past, decks like this would have surely added some kind of starter Pokémon, which would ensure our Froakie to be safe on the Bench while doing something potentially useful to help us set up. Starter Pokémon are in a bad spot right now, as most of the attacks are simply outclassed by the various Items we have in Standard. The need for such Pokémon is high in Greninja, since we don’t want to run with just four Froakie because of games where you mulligan too much or get Benched before you manage to draw another Pokémon. I realize that it is possible to run with just the four Froakie, but this is undesirable since we do not want to Water Duplicates mid game but we also want to be able to force our opponent to draw six Prizes. This is also the reason we don’t run Shaymin-EX, despite its great Ability to set us up. Giving our opponent cheap Prizes with Shaymin-EX is usually okay, since they aren’t hitting our attackers that we are taking Prizes with. Sadly, Greninja doesn’t pressure any deck enough to be able to afford running Shaymin-EX, which ends up being a liability sooner or later.
Straight into this Prize-denial strategy is Jirachi, which fills the role of the starter Pokémon we are looking for, but also denies Prizes with its attack that not only protects Jirachi for a turn but also gets rid of a Special Energy. Jirachi is used to make our opponent’s early game choices difficult, taking advantage of the early game to run us over with a quick Double Colorless Energy doesn’t seem so attractive if the Double Colorless Energy is lost immediately. By punishing the fastest Energy attachment in the game, we try to slow down and move our opponent into a game where we are already set up and have our attackers ready.
With this explanation about the Pokémon going, I want to present you the list that I would play if I had an event tomorrow.
- 1x Greninja
- 3x Greninja
- 3x Greninja BREAK
- 4x Frogadier
- 4x Froakie
- 3x Jirachi
- 4x Professor Sycamore
- 2x Ace Trainer
- 2x Fisherman
- 1x Shauna
- 1x Lysandre
- 4x Rough Seas
- 4x VS Seeker
- 4x Trainer's Mail
- 4x Dive Ball
- 4x Level Ball
- 2x Startling Megaphone
- 1x Sacred Ash
- 1x Town Map
- 8x Water Energy
The counts of the Pokémon probably make sense if you got the general view I have on the different Greninja available, with the BREAKpoint one being the main one we want to focus on. Greninja XY is just there to sit on your Bench and make due when there are small damage deficits you need to fill. Before we move onto the Trainers, let’s talk about the Pokémon I’ve seen in other lists that I don’t like. Octillery is the main culprit here, clogging up the deck with a mediocre draw effect. It’s reasonable to think that you need to replace Shaymin-EX with another Pokémon that draws you cards, but Octillery takes up too much space and forces you to play something that solves its Retreat cost. Miltank is in the same spot, I’m not looking to run cards like Float Stone.
Supporters look different for this deck than we’re used to, but sport the basic four Professor Sycamore we’re so used to seeing.
Ace Trainer is the best card we can play when our opponent is up in Prizes, something we are gonna see often since our deck isn’t the fastest one out there. It’s especially powerful to set our opponent back to three cards and lock their Abilities in the same turn with Greninja’s attack, to stop Shaymin-EX from getting our opponent a new hand. Shauna is another card that’s decent to set up, but that’s not the real reason we play it. Funnily enough, this deck isn’t very good in mirror, being unable to really take any knockouts and the match will eventually just go to the person with the most cards in his deck. Shauna is the most reliable card to get ourselves a low amount of cards in our hand without doing the same for our opponent.
Fisherman is arguably the only Supporter we really want to play after we are set up. Getting back four Energy to potentially discard for Giant Water Shuriken is crucial in making sure we deal enough damage over the whole game. The big advantage this has over various Items available is that we are able to use Fisherman under Seismitoad-EX’s Item-lock, and able to fetch it from our discard pile with VS Seeker, paired with it being the card that actually sends the most Energy possible (of any other cards in Standard) directly to our hand, makes it the best option for our deck.
Finally is a copy of Lysandre, which we all know and love, but actually underperforms in this deck. It’s one of the Supporters I think is replaceable with something else. Sadly, all the other Supporters kinda suck in this kind of deck, so I don’t really see a fit for them. Xerosic fulfils a task we already gave to other cards in our deck (Jirachi and Startling Megaphone), and AZ kinda sucks when you have to Evolve all the way back to your Stage 2 BREAK. Delinquent is a great card that can fill this spot, but has no specific use that we would really want to play it for, except punishing bad play where our opponent only keeps three cards in their hand.
The biggest surprise for most people will be the heavy count of Rough Seas included. I usually see people playing no Stadium at all, with a small amount of them running tech copies of Silent Lab and Rough Seas. I think Rough Seas is a godsend for what Greninja is trying to do: stay alive, deny Prizes and buy time to put an absurd amount of damage on our opponent’s field. Four Rough Seas enables us to counter Stadiums often, which is great in matchups where our opponent’s Stadium allows them to knock out our Greninja more quickly. Don’t be afraid to play this card in Water or Lighting matchups, since we have a ton more burst damage than most of these decks.
Four VS Seeker and four Trainers’ Mail are what I consider core to essentially every Standard deck; play them to win games. Normally, I would say the same about Ultra Ball, which we left out on purpose in this deck. The steep cost of a double discard is often forgotten since we can usually search for Shaymin-EX and just get a new hand, which is unavailable to us. Dive Ball offers a great alternative, searching any Pokémon (barring Jirachi) from our deck for free. Next to this we run a heavy count of four Level Ball, which is our only way to search for Jirachi but also helps a lot in setting Frogadier up quickly, to make use of Water Duplicates.
We run double Startling Megaphone because of Fighting Fury Belt, and potentially Garbodor. While the latter isn’t very popular, it’s a good counter to Greninja and might give us trouble when set up. With good Startling Megaphone timing you can discard a Tool and KO the Garbodor with Giant Water Shuriken in the same turn, and take care of this problem for good. More common is Fighting Fury Belt, which sees play in basically every deck right now. We need an efficient way to remove this, so we don’t end up dumping more Energy with Giant Water Shuriken than necessary.
Sacred Ash is simply the best card to get Pokémon back into your deck, although normally Super Rod would be more desirable with its more diverse options, but in this deck we actually want water Energy to stay in our discard pile so we can put them directly into our hand with Fisherman.
Town Map is a card that I didn’t immediately include. Prizes don’t bother you that much, and seeing where you have double Frogadier Prized isn’t going to change the outcome of a game much. The power of Town Map is turning our six Prize cards into a toolbox of cards we can draw during our turn, with the help of Giant Water Shuriken, without having to wait to use that card a turn later.
Eight Water Energy is the amount of Energy that felt comfortable, as you always want to have four available in your discard pile to make Fisherman operate at full power. Splash Energy could use some consideration, but I generally think getting back a Greninja line is not that strong, since you won’t have all the time to set it up.
Playing this deck is pretty interesting, it’s not as cookie-cutter as most of the decks we have in the format, making it a great play for anyone who looks to challenge themselves with a deck that rewards thoughtful play. For the sake of keeping this article somewhat simple and not dwelling into specific nuances in matchups you’re not gonna face at tournaments, I tried to group the decks that are being played at State Championships in categories where a general strategy applies. This can be the basis for testing the deck and figuring out all the nuances to the deck.
Quad Double Colorless Energy Decks:
You’ll want to slow down these decks as much as possible with Jirachi. Make sure they don’t draw too many Prizes before it’s your time to shine. Versus Night March, this is pretty easy because of the low-HP Pokémon they put into play for you to swoop up with Giant Water Shuriken. Vespiquen is a bit more complicated because of your Weakness, but you get the added bonus of potentially killing Combee before it attacks. Mega Rayquaza has solutions to most of your counters, so don’t expect too much out of this matchup. Your best bet is to keep their Sky Field in play so you can take out three Shaymin-EX before they take six Prizes.
Seismitoad (Any variant)
Both of these are easy to beat once you get a Greninja going, and you’ll get a lot of time making sure that happens once you get Rough Seas into play. Rough Seas takes care of almost any damage output these decks have. Seismitoad decks rely on Double Colorless Energy as well, which you can punish properly with Jirachi, sometimes even breaking yourself free from Item lock for a turn.
Yveltal is probably the most solid deck after Night March in performance, and is generally a deck that is hard to compare to others. While the combination of power and speed can give you some trouble, it’s hard for Yveltal to actually score one-hit knock ]outs against Greninja, because of the very low amount of Energy you keep in play. If your opponent opts for a big Yveltal-EX or Darkrai-EX, don’t be afraid to go deep for a knockout, since that will set them back a great deal and allow you time to get back onto your feet. Rough Seas makes it very hard for them to set up knockouts with Yveltal XY, and the new version is basically worthless since you don’t run any Pokémon-EX.
Outside of these pretty broad matchups, I’ll identify some good plays for any matchup that are essential to making the deck run smooth and giving you the options you need to deal with your opponent’s threats.
- Evolve Greninja from BREAKpoint into Greninja BREAK, and don’t bother Evolving Greninja XY. This has to do with the roles both assume in the deck, Greninja BKP is your attacker while Greninja XY supports you in case you need some extra damage. Greninja BKP is desirable to have in your Active spot, since it can Retreat for free to use Giant Water Shuriken twice in a turn. Trying to do the same with Greninja XY has a bigger cost, and if you get stuck with it Active, it only has a mediocre attack that is outright terrible when you compare it to the other Greninja.
- Go all-in with Jirachi, even if it means sacrificing some of your setup. Jirachi creates huge problems for heavy-Special Energy decks, but only if they have to find one every turn. The moment decks start to stack up Energy, Jirachi gets less effective and easier to get around for your opponent.
- Bench two Froakie on your first turn, to make sure at least one of them makes it out alive on your second turn, where you have the option to Evolve it into Frogadier and use Water Duplicates to set up the rest of your Frogadier and ultimately Greninja.
- Don’t overextend on your first turn; two Froakie are really all you need. However, always keep in mind how you are going to make sure you get Frogadier to use Water Duplicates on the second turn.
- Always keep in mind that Ace Trainer + Shadow Stitching against a weak board can be devastating since your opponent can’t come right back with the use of Shaymin-EX.
- Use Level Ball for Froakie and Frogadier if you can, and save Dive Ball so you can search for Greninja and Greninja BREAK later in the game.
- Try to hit a good Startling Megaphone, and not blow it on the first Tool you see. Removing the Tool isn’t the actual goal, it’s making sure you don’t miss otherwise-easy KOs.
Like I said before, there is a lot more nuance to this deck than I can describe here so get out there and playtest this deck for the last week of States (or Standard Regionals in Europe). Looking at the metagame so far, Night March seems dominant, and with good play, Greninja is a big favourite in that matchup. This is also the big reason to play this deck. It’s a very good counter to Night March, and does well against the traditional Night March counter that Seismitoad-EX has become. With most other matchups being fine as well, Greninja is looking like a monster play for the last week of States!
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