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Tobias Thesing

Cover and Revenge: Vespiquen/Accelgor explained

In this article, Tobias Thesing talks about his Expanded Arena Cup Top 4 deck, including in-depth strategy and a tournament report.

10/06/2015 by Tobias Thesing


The new season has just begun and we already know that the Expanded format will be a lot more important than it used to be. The first major Expanded tournament in the world was the Arena Cup in Würzburg, Germany, which took place just five days after this year's rotation. In my first article, I'm discussing my deck choice for this tournament, Vespiquen with Accelgor, which brought me to 4th Place in the Masters Divison.

When the set contents of Ancient Origins were spoiled, it was already clear that Vespiquen would be a strong card. Flareon earned some major achievements during the first half of 2015, and Vespiquen is just a lot better with free Retreat, a better type (hitting Seismitoad-EX, Groudon-EX, and more for Weakness), a usable first attack, and synergy with cards like Level Ball and Forest of Giant Plants.

However, it still had some major problems, like the lack of OHKO potential especially against Mega Evolutions, and the dependence on DCE, which can't be recovered anymore since the ban of Lysandre's Trump Card. The most popular way to deal with that was adding Flareon and the new Eeveelutions, enabling the deck to hit more Pokémon for Weakness and to use Fire Energy with Blacksmith.

Many weeks before the tournaments, I planned to go for a different approach. Knowing that Wobbuffet would be a very strong card in Expanded, since it not only gives an edge over the feared (and later banned) Shiftry, but also helps getting around Archeops and Vileplume, two deadly enemies of Vespiquen. With this in mind, Accelgor became the obvious partner for Vespiquen for my deck. It had perfect synergy with both Wobbuffet and Forest of Giant Plants and was a very powerful card in Expanded by itself—two of the four Arena Cups of 2014-2015 were won by decks with Accelgor.

My first idea of a basic strategy was to hit Pokémon first with Accelgor, hopefully locking them and enabling Vespiquen to knock them out next turn. With this in mind, I created a draft of a deck list, similar to a normal Vespiquen deck with Battle Compressors and all the stuff, but with 2-2 Accelgor and two Wobbuffet. Since I was going to Worlds, which were just two weeks before, I didn't test my Arena Cup deck until I returned home. However I shared my idea with Robin Schulz, who was sceptical at first, but then tested it on PTCGO and came up with a list more focused on Accelgor and also including Robo Substitutes and Musharna. When I returned from Worlds, we talked about the list, tested together on PTCGO, and changed it some more.

Deck List

After playing the tournament, I'd probably cut the Switch for a third Float Stone. The reason for Switch was to have more options against other Accelgor decks and Hypnotoxic Laser sleep, but against a large part of the metagame I faced, 3 Float Stones would be just more consistent.

I've also considered playing two Enhanced Hammers, since almost every deck I expected in the format plays Special Energy. They slightly improve the Giratina-EX matchup and also help against fancy stuff like Wonder Energy or multicolored energy with Virizion-EX. However, there weren't any cards I could cut without hurting consistency a lot, so I decided to just take that one bad matchup against Giratina-EX, which hopefully wouldn't be played a lot in Würzburg. But with Seismitoad/Giratina becoming popular now, another tech option would be one Xerosic, which can be used under Item-lock and later recycled multiple times via VS Seeker.


First of all, the deck is very unforgiving and therefore pretty hard to play. Resource management is more important than in most other decks I've ever played. You have conflicting resources—Pokémon left in your deck and Pokémon in your discard pile—so it's very important to know when you can afford to discard which Pokémon. This list doesn't run a "safety net" like Super Rod or Sacred Ash. If you feel uncomfortable with that, you can add one, but in my opinion you don't need it as long as you play presciently.

As with many other decks, you also have Double Colorless Energy and VS Seeker as important resources to keep track of. It's often a good idea to avoid attacking with Vespiquen too early. Attacking with Accelgor or even Shaymin-EX preserves your DCE, which increases your lategame consistency significantly.

Now let's look at the different Pokémon in the deck. As already mentioned, Accelgor is the main attacker for early and midgame. Forest of Giant Plants helps to build it up faster, so you don't need a Shelmet ready on your Bench every turn to keep the lock going. You should be aware of the options your opponent has to break Paralysis. Switch and Escape Rope are the most efficient ones against this deck, since there is no Item-lock, but most decks run very limited amounts, if any. The problem is that in most cases, you don't know how many Switch cards your opponent is running in their list, making it difficult to plan ahead. If you manage to find out (in best-of-three or if you somehow got information about their deck list) you'll have a significant advantage of knowledge.

The next kind of option for your opponent to break the lock are certain supporters, primarily AZ and Pokémon Center Lady. Since your opponent can't play Lysandre in the same turn, going for Robo Subtitute is usually a good idea if you expect your opponent to reuse them repeatedly via VS Seeker. Of course, there are also a couple of popular Abilities that help getting out of Special Conditions. Most notable is Keldeo-EX's Rush In, but also Audino's Busybody can be seen in some Vespiquen variants. To stop them, promote Wobbuffet or play Hex Maniac. Be aware that Wobbuffet can be bypassed by Lysandre. However, often your opponent won't have all the cards they need to pull off a proper move involving Lysandre, since Wobbuffet also blocks Shaymin-EX.

Virzion-EX is pretty nasty since it prevents Special Conditions before you can bring Wobbuffet active, given that it's already in play during your turn. You can still Paralyze a Pokémon that doesn't have any Grass Energy and make Wobbuffet Active. If a Grass Energy is attached at that point, Verdant Wind won't work. Another way to bypass it is just by playing Hex Maniac. If possible, you should also consider using Lysandre to get rid of single Virizion-EX or Keldeo-EX techs (for Keldeo-EX, it's very easy due to Weakness).

After using Deck and Cover, the best you can bring up is either Wobbuffet with Float Stone or Robo Substitute. If that isn't possible, you can put a Vespiquen Active. As long as you keep track of your opponent's ways to break Paralysis (as explained above), it might be a good idea trying to get your opponent's Pokémon Knocked Out by Poison at the end of their turn. This works well against 70 HP Pokémon and 90 HP Pokémon (use Muscle Band). In the same way, but a bit more difficult to pull off since your have to keep your lock for two turns, you can, of course, also do this to 140 HP Pokémon and 180 HP Pokémon-EX. Keep track of the damage on your opponent's Pokémon to determine whether you can get an opportunity for an end-of-turn KO.

Whenever appropriate, you should use Mew-EX instead of Accelgor for Deck and Cover to play efficiently and keep your Accelgor. For the same reason, I highly recommend attacking with Shaymin-EX's Sky Return whenever 30 damage (or 50 with Muscle Band) are enough for a KO. Even in turns you can't Paralyze-lock your opponent, the hit-and-run mechanic combined with Robo Substitute can give you an edge during the Prize race against fast non-EX decks such as Night March or normal Vespiquen variants.

Vespiquen is a powerful hitter for lategame. Especially against EX decks, it can quickly take Prizes. Sometimes you can use it earlier to finish off an important target, but usually you want to have a bunch of your own Pokémon Knocked Out before starting to attack with Bee Revenge. In a normal game, you can easily discard one or even two Combee and Vespiquen each with Sycamore or Ultra Ball (or sacrifice them in bad times). Just make sure that you will have two Vespiquen ready for lategame sweeping.

Musharna is in the deck to boost mid- and lategame consistency. You don't absolutely need it, but it helps a lot to keep cycling Accelgor or recovering from a crucial N. Keep in mind, you can try to stall with Munna's Long Distance Hypnosis in case you whiff and can't attack. Unown adds some damage to Vespiquen, making it relevant a lot earlier in the game then it would be without. I recommend to delay the Farewell Letter until you really need the draw, the Bench space, or the discarded Pokémon in that particular turn. The reason for this is more efficiency with Colress, Sycamore, Shaymin-EX, opposing Ns.

That's what you need to know about playing the deck in general. I won't go through all of the different matchups here, since the Expanded metagame is just forming. However you can get an impression of some matchups in my tournament report for the Arena Cup Würzburg.

Tournament Report

Round 1 versus Garchomp/Altaria with Virizion

1) My draw isn't the best, so I have to use Wobbuffet to block her Abilities and stall for time, but since her Virizion is Prized, I can lock Garchomps effectively mid-game and eventually win.

2) Several turns of me whiffing DCE, even after high-count Colress, don't only prevent me from attacking, but also force me to play draw Supporters turn after turn, so I never get to Lysandre Virizion. Because she has a far better Prize trade in terms of damage, I lose this one.

Time is called before we can get into Game 3.


Round 2 versus Manectric/Seismitoad

1) She opens with a decisive Laser heads on my Mew (I'm going second) and gets an early lead after I stay Asleep. Later, I can get into the game and we're almost even. Being fair to newer players, I let her take back a crucial misplay with Shaymin (putting it down and then playing something else before announcing Set Up), just to be "rewarded" with another decisive Laser heads followed by multiple failed Sleep flips for the loss.

2) Though my start is okay, I keep drawing worse while making risky plays since I'm under time pressure, resulting in a close lose for me in the end.


Round 3 versus Sceptile/Crobat

1) He doesn't play Virizion for some reason and my deck works fine. After flipping tails on most of his Super Scoop Ups, he scoops.

2) Similar to the first game, he just can't do much against my deck.


Round 4 versus Night March

1) I've got literally nothing and lose quickly.

2) He kicks himself out of the game for a while by playing Shaymin as his last card into my Active Wobbuffet. Two turns later, he topdecks Juniper, but I'm already ahead and at that point, Night March can't catch up with my deck.

3) This time he avoids my Wobbuffet lock with Lysandre two times, getting him the Prize lead. His midgame draw is very solid and I'm really under pressure, but eventually he whiffs his attack after N and I can quickly take Prizes by knocking out two of his Pokémon-EX.


Round 5 versus Vespiquen with Empoleon and Espeon

1) He can't get any basic Pokémon and I end the game early.

2) This time he has a really strong start with turn-one Empoleon. I try to stall with Robo Substitutes and slowly fight down his Empoleon with Shaymin and Accelgor. Since Espeon blocks me and I can't do anything about it at that point, I have to trade with Vespiquen. He keeps playing N and in the end, he can Lysandre my Pokémon-EX for the win.

3) Both of us have a decent setup while I'm slightly ahead. Midgame, I Lysandre his Espeon and hope for an end-of-turn KO, but he also has Audino. Another Lysandre allows me to get rid of Espeon, and later I can pull off an end-of-turn KO to get my lead back. At that point, he starts to whiff a lot and I keep taking Prizes. An N to one makes me unable to attack, but after two turns I draw the DCE for the win.


Round 6 versus Night March/Archeops

1) After a few turns, my opponent dead draws until he can't catch up anymore.

2) My opponent opens with turn-one Archeops, but then doesn't have any Supporters. However, I whiff multiple times and have Shelmet stuck Active, giving him the opportunity to save his highly damaged Mew. He topdecks Juniper, but at that point I finally get Wobbuffet Active to Evolve my Benched Pokémon. I miss just a little damage to OHKO his Mew next turn, so I'd rather try to Paralyze it. From that point, he can only take one Prize each turn while I get two for Knocking Out his Pokémon-EX with Vespiquen so I can catch up and win eventually.


Round 7 versus Night March/Archeops

1) I get a poor start while his is quite good, but his Archeops is Prized (my Mew as well, though). I attack his small Pokémon with Shaymin, but still can't get into the game until he takes Prizes and gets his Archeops. Thanks to Wobbuffet, I get some Evolutions into play, but I've already discarded many Vespiquen. I barely manage to Knock Out his Archeops and he can't recover it. Because he has multiple Pokémon-EX in play, I can catch up in Prizes and Lysandre Jirachi in the end.

2) Although my start is a lot better than in the first game, I'm still missing something to make the plays I'm aiming for. He doesn't get an early Archeops this time, but can afford to play Lysandre often and avoid my Robo Subtitutes. During the trade, I mainly use Shaymin to Knock Out his Joltik until he runs out of DCE and therefore misses an attack, giving me the opportunity to take my last prize.


Top 8 versus Yveltal (Nico A.)

1) We have a pretty even game at the beginning; he has a good start but I can keep up, even though I get uneven prizes due to baby Yveltal. Then I start to whiff a few times while he can consistently get KOs, so I fall behind. Then I focus on Knocking Out his Keldeo via Lysandre so I can make a comeback with Accelgor. When he has only one Prize left, thanks to high-count Colress, I can continuously draw into the cards for an Accelgor lock, including Muscle Bands for a decisive end-of-turn knockout on his Darkrai. That way I also avoid any trouble from a possible N before taking my last Prize.
2) His start kinda lacks. Mine isn't the best either but it's at least decent. However, I have to discard a DCE to get set up and then I find out that two of them are Prized. I'm forced to play super-defensively, going for repeated hit-and-run attacks with Accelgor and mainly Shaymin while promoting Wobbuffet. Finally I can pick up my first Prizes and get another DCE, which allows me to one-hit his Seismitoad with Vespiquen. I set up Musharna to prepare for an N-heavy lategame. Exactly counting my resources and deck cards left, I can safely Lysandre for his Keldeo and knock it out to win the game and consequently, this really intense Top 8 match.

Top 4 versus Yveltal/Archeops (Fatih A.)

1) I can get some Unown with Level Ball, but they don't help me to draw anything useful, so I keep having a dead hand while he gets turn-one Archeops. Even after successfully stalling with Munna, I can't get into the game and scoop after a few turns.

2) My start is slightly better, but he has turn-one Archeops again. In order to get my setup, I have to discard a lot of resources, causing me to whiff in the following turns and to once again end up with a dead hand. He just keeps attacking and I can't get back into the game, so I quickly lost the Semifinals.

So at the end of a really long tournament day, I finished in Fourth Place. While it would have been nice to play against Robin in the Finals (even though I'd probably have lost hard), I was really happy to reach my goal after such a poor start. For my prizes, I got a special trophy, a Groudon playmat, eighteen booster packs, and of course, 105 Championship Points. The next Arena Cup will be in Berlin on December 28th, so if you live in Europe, we'll maybe meet there.

Thanks for reading my first article. If you have any questions about the deck, feel free to leave comments or to message me.


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