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Caleb Gedemer

Explaining Expanded for Texas — Digesting Pokemon's "Other" Format

Expanded is complicated. With so many decks, where does a player start when picking a deck for a tournament?

12/27/2017 by Caleb Gedemer

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Hey everyone, welcome back to 60cards! It’s time to make another format switch between now and the next big tournament stateside, so here we go… Expanded… what’s new, what’s old? There’s a lot to be said about the array of decks that compile the Expanded format, but the first key to success is simply breaking it down into a sample size that the average player can understand. If you’re looking at a list of over twenty decks, then you’re going to be pretty confused about how to single on out from the rest of the pack.

The biggest takeaways from San Jose, California Regionals this past November are as follows:

  • Gardevoir-GX had a few showings but couldn’t make the top cut
  • Night March is still broken, even more so, with Zoroark-GX
  • Random Item-based decks like Gyarados made a splash without Trevenant BREAK running rampant
  • Sableye / Garbodor was incredibly hyped going in but had no showings at all
  • Sudowoodo was in nearly every deck
  • Trevenant BREAK should be dead for good with the influx of Zoroark-GX decks
  • Zoroark-GX was in almost every day two deck, most of which were Zoroark-GX decks themselves

Using these seven key points, what conclusions should you come to as a player?

  • Having a consistent deck is more important than ever with the influx of Zoroark-GX in every deck, you need to have outs to N and set up impeccable nearly every game
  • Keep in mind many of the fringe decks that can pop up, but focus on the big two threats
  • Your deck choice for Dallas needs to beat Night March and Zoroark-GX more than anything else

Throughout the rest of this piece, I’m going to go through thought-provoking ideas that can lead you to a better deck choice come Dallas. I am by no means decided on a deck myself, so much of what I’ll be going over for you are the exact ideas that I’ve been pondering on my own. Enjoy!

Focusing on Matchups

With so many decks available to you as a player in the Expanded format, you need to cut down on the sheer size of possible plays. The following sixteen decks are still a large list, but they’re the decks that I think you should focus on most heading into any upcoming Expanded format event… 

Sweet Sixteen Decks

  1. Garbodor / Dimension Valley
  2. Garbodor / Golisopod-GX
  3. Gardevoir-GX
  4. Greninja BREAK
  5. Gyarados
  6. Sableye / Garbodor
  7. Seismitoad-EX / Crobat
  8. Seismitoad-EX / Giratina-EX
  9. Trevenant BREAK
  10. Turbo Darkrai-EX
  11. Turbo Turtonator-GX
  12. Wailord-EX
  13. Zoroark-GX / Crobat
  14. Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX
  15. Zoroark-GX / Night March
  16. Zoroark-GX / Seismitoad-EX

From these decks, you can categorize them into smaller sections, like this:

  • Garbodor decks
  • Gardevoir-GX and Greninja BREAK
  • Gyarados and Night March
  • Sableye, Seismitoad-EX, Trevenant BREAK and Wailord-EX decks
  • Turbo Darkrai-EX and Turbo Turtonator-GX
  • Zoroark-GX decks

Garbodor decks are still quite strong. Most decks in the Expanded still use a lot of Item cards, but they have a huge problem: Zoroark-GX. Zoroark-GX not only can use Riotous Beating for 120 damage very easily to take a Garbodor down in one attack, but it can also draw oodles of cards, something that a Garbodor player cannot do feasibly. Garbodor decks are clunky, and their own Garbotoxin Garbodor can slow them down and make them incredibly weak to N in the late game. No number of Colress, N, Professor Sycamore and VS Seeker can bail you out in the late game when there are so many dead cards that you could possibly draw. The deck’s own weaknesses to itself really holds it back in the format that is now all about consistency. I’ve experimented with other rogue versions of Garbodor like with Counter Energy, but many of the same problems remain. If you’re going to play a Garbodor deck, you’re going to need to get extremely lucky; a risk that I do not want to take going into a tournament, and for that reason, Garbodor is “dead” to me for now.

Gardevoir-GX and Greninja BREAK are the big setup decks of the Expanded format. When they get going, they’re generally not going to lose. The only problem, though, is getting to that point, of course. Gardevoir-GX is on its way out in the format in my opinion, since it has a rougher Night March matchup and is quite frankly outclassed by the raw power and speed of the new Zoroark-GX decks that have come up in droves. Lycanroc-GX can use Bloodthirsty Eyes to drag up a Kirlia or Ralts before it becomes a Gardevoir, score an easy knockout, and your opponent can drop an N in the same turn to shuffle away anything you got with Alolan Vulpix and its Beacon. Gardevoir-GX is simply too clunky to function well right now and for that reason I don’t expect many of the top players to be donning the deck in the upcoming months in Expanded events.

Greninja BREAK is something I’m super fond of in the Expanded format, on the other hand, but it suffers from many of the problems that Gardevoir-GX can, sometimes even more so. While all you really need to set up is a Froakie, a way to get Frogadier, and a Water Energy, that’s sometimes too much to ask for as you can draw into clunky hands and be stuck at a standstill. I’ve been running a list that focuses on consistency with twelve Pokemon search cards (if you count Brooklet Hill and Computer Search) and that runs a slew of Supporter draw cards. I’ve been setting up nearly every game, and I love the matchup spread that Greninja BREAK brings to a tournament with favorable ones against the most important decks of Night March and Zoroark-GX decks. If you’re not interested in playing either of these decks yourself, I wouldn’t worry too much about facing them in an event; they won’t be very popular. Of the two, though, Greninja BREAK is better and has an awesome chance to compete with the elite at upcoming Expanded format events.

Gyarados and Night March are very similar in nature. However, Gyarados is simply a worse version of a Night March deck and I don’t really know why anyone would choose to play it over the superior deck of Night March. Gyarados is ridiculously Item-dependent, and gets demolished by Seismitoad-EX and Trevenant. While it doesn’t have a direct counter like Night March does in Oricorio and Karen, Gyarados can suffer from similar problems if your opponent is able to knock out Magikarp on your Bench. The new Magikarp from Crimson Invasion helps out a lot, since its Submerge Ability prevents it from being hit by damage when on your Bench. All this is fine and dandy, but Gyarados needs many more pieces for it to go right when setting up than Night March does. With a Battle Compressor, an Ultra Ball, and maybe a Supporter, Night March will be roaring out of the gate right away with big damage. Gyarados needs to plant a Team Magma’s Secret Base in play to start things off, and then drop Magikarp with it in play to boost your damage. Many more things can go wrong with Gyarados, especially in the setup turns. Without Octillery down in the late game, you’ll be in a bind when you don’t draw well off N. Night March is much more fluid and wants to run Zoroark-GX. There’s many more cards you have to fit in a Gyarados deck like Team Magma’s Secret Base and a whole set of Dive Ball to make things run right. I don’t like Gyarados at all, but I think that Night March on the other hand is hands down the best deck in the Expanded format; it can beat anything!

Sableye, Seismitoad-EX, Trevenant BREAK and Wailord-EX decks all rely on disruption to some extent. While this is normally a strong tactic, with many of the top tier decks in the format running Puzzles of Time and other Energy recovery cards like Special Charge, these decks are a little easier to write off than they have been in the past. Of the four, I think Trevenant BREAK and Wailord-EX have the best chance of seeing any kind of success at upcoming Expanded format events. There have been Trevenant BREAK lists circulating with four Enhanced Hammer to address the Zoroark-GX matchup, but from my testing, that doesn’t seem to do quite enough.

As for Wailord-EX, the deck actually took a Top Eight finish at San Jose, California Regionals, which quite frankly I think was a fluke. Michael Pramawat absolutely dismantled the deck in under twenty minutes in the Top Eight, showing how bad of a deck it really is. There must have been enough inexperienced players going up against the deck to not know how to approach the matchup, and because of that, they lost mightily. I expect most people to have some sort of preparation against the deck going into Dallas, Texas Regionals, and don’t foresee Wailord-EX to have any sort of success. Sableye and Seismitoad-EX are quickly becoming massive outliers, and they should stay that way. Sableye, of the two, is better, but it loses to Zoroark-GX decks since they have so many Puzzle of Time and ways to blaze through the deck. Zoroark-GX decks playing the Zoroark from Black & White with Foul Play can simply copy Junk Hunt, recover two Puzzles of Time, and then get back whatever they want! The matchup is a wash, and Seismitoad-EX in a similar fashion gets crushed by Zoroark-GX as well. No amount of Energy disruption can stop the onslaught that is Trade coupled with a one-shotting attack like Riotous Beating when Sky Field is in play with a full Bench. I would know how to approach these matchups going into an event, but I wouldn’t tech for them or spend too much time worrying about your odds against any of them.

Turbo Darkrai-EX and Turbo Turtonator-GX get handed some “Turbo” losses almost everywhere you look. Be it Night March with a copy of Marshadow-GX to prey on the Fighting Weakness of Darkrai-EX, or Zoroark-GX with a full Sky Field Bench and a Choice Band to blow a Turtonator-GX out of the water. No matter which way you look at it, these decks are simply outclassed in today’s metagame. It’s unfortunate considering their past successes, but anyone playing either of these is asking to do poorly at an event. I would play a deck that has a good matchup against the both of these because they are past fan-favorites, but I wouldn’t expect to face one, or either, in a tournament. Most decks can beat them nowadays, so they will need to do some massive changing to function better in the future.

Zoroark-GX decks are all the rage in the Expanded format. You need to beat them if you’re going to go with the deck that you choose for the event. If you can’t, then move onto something else. There is such a slim chance of you going far in an Expanded tournament with literally anything if you’re not beating Zoroark-GX decks. Sudowoodo needs to be included in your deck if you’re using something other than Zoroark-GX, or even in Zoroark-GX itself, as a full Sky Field Bench will doom you to one-hit Knockout oblivion if you don’t play your cards right. Almost nothing can stand up to the 210 damage output of a Riotous Beating with a Choice Band attached. Zoroark-GX was what I played for my last Expanded tournament, and going forward I have it ranked highly on my deck choices as well. I love the deck; it’s the most consistent one out there, and it can beat anything due to the combination of power and speed.

Choosing a Deck

So how do you pick a deck from here? It’s a bit simpler than you might think. You can figure than over half of your games will be up against Night March or Zoroark-GX decks, so you obviously want to be beating those matchups a good percent of the time. Aside from those two juggernauts, you need to just pick from the rest of the mix: what are you okay with losing to? Is there anything that’s getting hyped at the last minute? What seems likely to be played, perhaps to counter the aforementioned Night March and Zoroark-GX decks? If you can come to a happy medium between all of these factors, of course while beating Night March and Zoroark-GX, then you’ve found a rock-solid deck choice that should do you well if consistency is in your favor.

Scare Options

Beating Night March and Zoroark-GX decks is a tall task. What options exist that can do that? In my testing so far, Greninja BREAK decks absolutely body the two juggernauts of Expanded. Fighting Pokemon with Crobat have been faring well, too! Aside from those two, there isn’t much else that can do it on the daily. If you’re not playing Night March or Zoroark-GX yourself, I would invest some testing into either of the aforementioned options! Aside from that, Turbo Darkrai-EX could possibly have an opening with Guzzlord-GX. I haven’t tested it at all, but it seems like you could get ahead in the Prize race against a Night March deck by using Glutton GX on a Night March Pokemon, and then just finish off the game with three more Knockouts. It might still be close, and difficult to pull off, but that’s something to think about as well. A Fighting deck with Crobat is well positioned now as well, provided fringe decks like Greninja BREAK and Trevenant BREAK don’t resurface. It can deal effectively with both Night March and Zoroark-GX decks, which could make it a great play.

Openings for Special Energy Lock

Night March and Zoroark-GX outright lose to Special Energy lock without a counter like Pokemon Ranger. I’ve heard talk from some of the United States’ best players that they will be playing a Pokemon Ranger in their Night March deck in Dallas to combat any potential uprisings of Giratina-EX, Noivern-GX, or Mismagius. Of those three, Giratina-EX is certainly the strongest. In the past, it’s been paired with Seismitoad-EX, and that deck could possibly pop up in the event as it did in Toronto last season unexpectedly. I think ever since that, though, people have been more aware of the deck’s presence, and while it hasn’t been played in ages, just remember that it’s there and could shake things up if the meta is right for it.

Playing Night March

If you play Night March for an Expanded event, you need to know what you’re doing in the mirror match. You need to be prepared for the oodles of counters that will pop up and ready to play around them. Night March is a difficult deck to play. In the past, sure, I can agree that the deck was braindead. Now, you need to play around Item lock, Oricorio and Supernatural Dance, as well as Karen! That’s a lot to put on your plate, and that doesn’t even cover the obvious fact that you need to still win rounds against decks that aren’t playing counters like that. The deck is super difficult to pilot well, and while Zoroark-GX solves some of its problems, it’s not a foolproof system for success.

Most of your opponents are going to be prepared to play against Night March. Perhaps foolishly, but most will think they have a good matchup against the deck. If you’re confident in your play with the deck, you will be fine as it is such a strong deck on its own. Night March in a vacuum is the easiest deck to play but the hardest to play well. Its strategy is linear, but rough around the edges if you’re not as fluent in what you’re doing.

Most top players have been playing Night March these days and doing well with it at that. If you’re comfortable with the deck to any degree, I would highly recommend using it as you should do decently well if you play it right. Otherwise, you need to be playing to beat the deck at this point with it being so strong and so potentially popular.

The Zoroark-GX Mirror Match

This is going to take some explaining. I hope I can do a nice job of doing so, too! Starting off, both players are going to want to play a Brigette. With that Brigette, it is wise to grab your Sudowoodo and two Zorua. If your opponent isn’t playing Sudowoodo and you are, the game should pretty much be over as you can fill your Bench at will and take one-hit Knockouts on Zoroark-GX. Alolan Muk makes things interesting, since you can shut off Roadblock and continue filling your Bench up. If your opponent gets Sudowoodo, then you won’t want to put down your own in many cases as you would rather go for an Alolan Grimer to stop the opposing Sudowoodo.

Alolan Muk is incredible in the late game as well, since you can make your N drops more devastating for your opponent. While Trade can still draw a ton of cards, Shaymin-EX and Tapu Lele-GX will be turned off and will hinder your opponent’s setup. If you’re playing Lycanroc-GX in your Zoroark-GX, it’s a good idea to start powering it up and focusing on that. The only downside is that if you have four Pokemon your Bench, your opponent can use the Foul Play Zoroark to copy Dangerous Rogue for a one-hit Knockout.

Mind Jack is also a valuable tool to your arsenal. I don’t really like Sudowoodo in Zoroark-GX decks, personally. My teammate Rukan Shao convinced me recently, as he says, “if your opponent is playing Sudowoodo, then you’re not going to want your own down”. By not playing one at all, you leave your opponent able to run wild and fill his or her Bench. In doing that, you can then punish him or her with a Mind Jack for maximum damage and a Knockout. This matchup is all about being smart. Don’t overextend, and be as safe and conservative as possible.

Beginning to Test

We have almost a whole month before Dallas, Texas Regionals. That’s a whole lot of time! Many of us are done with school for the semester, myself included, and for those youngsters in the community, things should be winding down school-wise as well with winter break! This means we have a lot of time on our hands to be grinding out games and giving it our all for what should be an amazing event.

All of us have a comfort deck, maybe it’s Gardevoir-GX, maybe it’s Greninja BREAK. Whatever the case may be, you need to see if that translates over to what’s expected to be the Expanded format metagame. If your deck can compete with Night March and Zoroark-GX, then maybe it’s a good play. If it’s not, then you might want to look at Night March or Zoroark-GX for yourself. Both are decks that anyone can play, but Zoroark-GX has a bit of a lower skill cap. If you’re afraid to play Night March, then I would pick up Zoroark-GX and have at it. If you play three games a day from here until Dallas, you’ll be in fine shape to have a great grasp on the deck that you ultimately decide to use.

Right now, I feel that I am decently equipped to play Night March or Zoroark-GX myself. Those are my fallback options. I’m digging right in to find a deck that can perhaps beat the both of those, and as I said earlier, that deck could be Greninja BREAK, as it has been performing very well in all of my testing. I’ve been fiddling with Crobat / Fighting decks too, and I think I should be doing a deck profile on both of those in upcoming articles to break them down for you as a reader.

Logbook

I’ve been keeping track of every game I’ve played since Memphis Regionals in the Expanded format so that I can have a better idea of the decks that I’ve had success with. I’m hoping that it can be a nice guide for me to pick a deck for Dallas, and weed out things that might have a bad matchup against a popular deck. I keep saying it, but if you’re in doubt, then pick Night March or Zoroark-GX and get cracking on some games. The time is there, so it’s all a matter of how effectively you can use it and be better prepared to play a deck that could be challenging.

Till We Meet Again

All right everybody, with that, I’ll be taking off! I have a huge series of Expanded articles that I’ll be putting out of 60cards in the coming weeks before Dallas Regionals, so stay tuned for that. Hopefully this piece can serve as a primer before I get into some of the decks that I’m considering for the event. Take care everyone, thank you so much for reading. See you later!

~Caleb

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