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Caleb Gedemer

"Grandma Got Run Over by a Rain(bow)deer" — Rainbow Road for Texas Regionals

Learn just about all there is to know about the Rainbow Road Xerneas deck...

12/20/2016 by Caleb Gedemer

Learn just about all there is to know about the Rainbow Road Xerneas deck: card explanations, deck lists, matchups and more! Catch it all in Caleb Gedemer's latest article, this time focusing on the Standard format versions of this colorful deck.


Hello all, and welcome to my latest piece. With the Expanded format having no major tournaments for some time, it is important for us to focus on the devious Standard format. Now, much of this format has already been made crystal clear for us, with three major tournaments having been conducted in what was virtually the same format (Florida and Indiana Regionals, as well as London Internationals).

Today, I will be discussing my personal favorite deck for standard, Rainbow Road, in context of what we know about the format. 


The Summary

This deck is definitely my forte when it comes to the Standard format. I recently played it to a Top 4 finish at the IndianaRegional Championship, which had 635 players - the largest standard tournament this year. I feel extremely qualified to spill the beans on everything about this pretty deck.

Rainbow Road's strength is its ability to knock out every opposing Pokemon in one-hit. If it is not hitting for big knockouts, Xerneas is much too fragile to withstand more than one hit in most cases, which ruins the other main advantage of the deck, 2 for 1 trading with EX-centric decks thanks to Xerneas' non-EX status. In the Standard format, the main tools to help stream Xerneas are Max Elixir and EXP. Share. They enable Xerneas to attack early and often, allowing the deck to maximize the non-EX status of Xerneas to trade 2 for 1 from Turn 1 or 2.

Max Elixir helps to increase the speed of the deck, which is vital in a format where Yveltal can deal mass amounts of damage on turn 1 or 2 extremely easily, and Volcanion can easily KO Xerneas on the first attack. In such a fast format, it is vital to set-up as many Xerneas as quickly as possible. EXP. Share helps this goal - by preserving energy on the board after a KO, it helps to transition you from your first Xerneas into additional Xerneas without having to hit another Max Elixir, since Xerneas' attack cost is FCC - two turns of energy attachements.

There are a few ways to play this deck. Today I will explore the two most popular variants - the EX centric variant that priotizes ease of set-up by utilizing mostly basic Pokemon, and the Stage 1 variants, which utilizes dual-type pokemon to create more flexibility and increase damage numbers extremely rapidly.

Xerneas/Basic Deck List

Card Explanations

2 Shaymin-EX - Two Shaymin EX is perfect for this deck. Ideally, you don't want to play more than 1 on our bench at a time, as that would limit Xerneas' damage output by duplicating types. However, setting up is the first priority, so having two Shaymin EX helps to prevent situations where Shaymin EX is prized, preventing us from starting the game strong. It also allows the deck to utilizing Shaymin EX after the first one is discarding via Parallel City or Sky Field being replaced.

4 Xerneas - As the main attacker, 4 copies is ideal for Xerneas. With Super Rod, it is  reasonable that you will attack with 5-6 different Xerneas' per game if the game is particularly drawn out. Without a Xerneas around, you will lose, so there's no reason to cut one.

1 Xerneas BREAK - This was probably one of my most valuable cards throughout my Regionals run. It helps to provide flexibility to the deck by creating a way to KO Jolteon EX out of nowhere, and the HP boost can be instrumental to surviving a key return attack from a bulky Yveltal EX.

1 Carbink - This version of the deck has a lot of empty space to fill with tech cards and Pokemon. Carbink's ability prevents basic energy from being discarded off basic Pokemon. This helps to shore up the matchup against M Scizor. It prevents Crushing Hammers from picking on benched Xerneas.

1 Beedrill-EX -  This tech slot could be used for either Beedrill EX or Flygon EX. I like Beedrill for its ability to remove Fighting Fury Belts and to combat the ever present Garbodor threat.

1 Jolteon-EX - In addition to his cool attack locking some decks, Jolteon EX is able to utilize his free retreat to allow us to Max Elixir to a benched Xerneas after a KO to ensure the onslaught of the Rainbow Forces continues. 

1 Genesect-EX - Genesect EX is our closet. Whenever it is required to toss out our junk with Professor Sycamore, we can throw our tools such as Float Stone or EXP. Share on Genesect to keep them safe. After an optimal use for the tool is determined, Genesect can Drive Change so that the tool is utilized in a more efficient way. 

1 Hoopa-EX - In this deck, playing Hoopa EX onto the bench basically reads "Do 120 more damage with Rainbow Force". A no brainer play.

1 Volcanion-EX - As a dual-typed basic Pokemon, Volcanion EX allows us to be more  efficient with our bench space. I've flirted with playing two to mitigate prizing issues.

4 Max Elixir - Keeping up a swarm of Xerneas is always our top priority, and Max Elixir gives us a chance to keep that engine going. Elixir is not always going to hit an attachable Energy, though, and that is why we should always max this out to a count of four. It is key to our success.

2 Super Rod -  many players decide to just play one of these, but that is a mistake. Running a single copy of the Rod leaves it vulnerable to it forcibly getting pitched with a Professor Sycamore or an Ultra Ball, and besides that, the recovery of just three Pokemon and Basic Energy is just not enough. Getting six Pokemon back is a much more healthy number and leaves room for shuffling back in Fairy Energy so that we can increase our Max Elixir odds in the later stages of the game.

2 Trainers’ Mail - As my associates and I have continued to delve into standard, it seems that Trainers' Mail counts have steadily decreased. We often start at 4, but settle at 2 for our final lists. In Rainbow Road, there are simply so many things that need to be fit before Mails, and a two count is the only reasonable option that makes sense once the necessities find space.

1 Hex Maniac - Since this version of the deck has a bit more room, Hex Maniac can be played to help against opposing Yveltal BKTs, Greninja BREAKs, and Volcanion EXs. This greatly increases the deck's flexability.

2 Lysandre - Lysandre is key to continuing to control the prize trade. Playing more than one copy helps to gurantee that you will always be trading favorably with EXs, rather than being forced into the 7 prize game.

3 N - While N is a very lackluster card in a deck that takes prizes quickly such as this, playing a higher count like three helps to mitigate awkward starting hands. With plenty of Energy and useful resources, you cannot always afford to pitch them with a Professor Sycamore. In short, there simply is not a better Supporter choice and playing three N ensures a more consistent approach to a sometimes clunky deck.

1 Olympia - Yveltal BKT is very frightening for this deck. With high Retreat cost Pokemon like Volcanion-EX, Yveltal players can Lysandre up the big boys and lock them in place. Olympia can save us in those instances and serve as a switching card that can be reused by VS Seeker. More than one copy is superfluous.

4 Professor Sycamore; Sycamore is the best Supporter card in the game right now, and even though I personally dislike it sometimes, there is no way around playing a full set of four. It will draw us the most cards, no matter what. Having four provides extra outs to late game Ns and boosts our consistency in the long game.

4 Sky Field- Using four Sky Fields means that we will have an abundance of “damage increasing” Stadiums, which is our means of keeping our offensive tempo. Without always having a follow-up Sky Field, we can easily fall behind and our setup will be crippled. What's the point of playing an OHKO deck that doesn't OHKO? Without Sky Field, you might have to find out.

1 Exp. Share - As discussed above, EXP. Share helps to provide consistent attacking pressure. Despite this, I have found myself unable to adequately use more than one EXP. Share per game, so I have cut my list down to just one. It can be gamebreaking when used properly.

1 Fighting Fury Belt - Another luxury of playing an all basic verison of this deck, Fighting Fury Belt can keep our Xerneas alive for an extra turn to move a matchup from hard to impossible  for the opponent to recover. The extra 10 damage can also help hit some random KOs (such as Magearna if you only have 5 types in play), but Fighting Fury Belt is best used to preserve a Xerneas from a KO.

2 Float Stone - While more switching options besides Olympia and 2 Float stone would be nice, because Float stone is reusable, 2 is adequate to complement Olympia and VS Seeker.

8 Fairy Energy - This is a highly debatable count. I have gone as low as seven on these Basic Energy, and as high as ten. Eight is a very happy medium, and while I have occasionally played nine and enjoyed the luxury of slightly increased Max Elixir odds, the choice to play eight frees a crucial spot to many other needed cards in the list.

Xerneas/Stage 1 Deck List

Card Explanations

1 Flygon-EX - As mentioned earlier, in the Basic variant, Jolteon-EX is a better option for this slot. However, in a deck that is running Galvantula, Flygon-EX is a splendid card in this deck. Its Ability Voice of the Sands, however hard to say, is quite good. It serves as an “Escape Rope”, but just for our opponent. This Ability is especially useful in situations where we can force up an unfavorable Pokemon into the opponent’s Active position. This can sometimes give a crucial knockout on either an attacker or a Pokemon-EX to get us ahead on Prize cards. One is all we want, since Flygon-EX’s inclusion is primarily to have a different Pokemon type in the deck.

2-2 Galvantula -  In addition to being dual type, Galvantula is actually a fantastic attacker. Double Thread on two Shaymin-EX is very strong. Against Vileplume toolbox decks, Galvantula is one of the best attackers we can ask for. Spreadable damage can help to hit key KOs

1 Parallel City - Parallel City is a very neat addition to counter some of Xerneas' weaknesses. Against Yveltal for instance, we can play the Parallel City with the blue side facing the opponent so that they cannot play their own Parallel City to limit our own Bench size. This is extremely oppressive for the opponent, and makes Parallel City a great choice in this deck.

3 Sky Field - In order to fit the addition of Parallel City, we have to cut somewhere. Our other stadium is the obvious choice.


Garbodor/Darkrai-EX/Giratina-EX/Salamence-EX: Favorable

Some players are quick to judge this matchup and write it off as an unfavorable one because of Giratina-EX. That's foolish. Since Giratina EX is weak to fairy and cannot OHKO a Xerneas, as soon as Xerneas is capable of doing 90 damage, that Xerneas is able to potentially trade 4 prizes for 1 prize. Even under Chaos Wheel lock, establishing one Xerneas with three energy is hardly difficult, and it immediately creates an unfavorable scenario for Giratina EX. If the opponent were to try and attack with just Darkrai-EX, our deck functions as designed, and Darkrai EX cannot OHKO Xerneas unless 7 Dark energy are in play - and again, as a non-EX, Xerneas will trade very well in the OHKO battle.

Garbodor/Pidgeot-EX: Favorable

Dean Nezam had great success with this rogue deck at Indiana Regionals. Surprisingly enough, no one seemed to pick it up for the London Internationals. It would have been a decent play. The Jolteon variant (rather than the metal variant) is much better against Rainbow Road, but the matchup is still ultimatley favorable for us, as every Pidgeot they play is a dead card (as Mirror Move is useless against OHKOs), and once  a Xerneas BREAK hits the field, Rainbow Force is guranteed to knock out two Jolteons - and that's enough to win.

Garbodor/Vespiquen/Zebstrika: Even

This is a weird one since both decks run non-EX attackers. This will undoubtedly become a trade of these non-EX Pokemon as a result. Anyways, Vespiquen is a more efficient attacker with a Double Colorless Energy cost for Bee Revenge, but at the same time, the Vespiquen decks have a tougher time acquiring the necessary Pokemon in the discard to actually churn out one-hit knockouts. Since they may struggle early on, we have ample opportunity to capitalize on that and take as many knockouts as possible. If we can score two Prize knockouts on Shaymin-EXs, we will be in even better shape. Also, since they take a bit longer to set up, we will get more time to build up multiple Xerneas attackers, as well. If we play it, Galvantula can also serve a dual purpose in this game with attacking capabilities for knockouts on low-HP Pokemon like Blitzle, Combee, and such, as well as for a Double Thread on two Shaymin-EXs to swing the Prize race even more in our favor.

Garbodor/Yveltal/Yveltal-EX: Even

In ideal situations this is an even matchup, but that is very tenuous. If you have a slow start or a poor opening hand, that can flip this matchup. Regardless, on paper, they have a hard time knocking Xerneas out - but Xerneas does not have an issues doing damage. If we have a Parallel City in our build, that significantly changes the dynamic of this matchup and playing Galvantula is a big deal due to Yveltal's lightning weakness. While Yveltal BKT is good against our fat Pokemon-EX, Olympia can get around it. Hex Maniac and Lysandre are other outs against Yveltal BKT. The only true threat they have is Yveltal-EX. Yveltal-EX requires three Energy cards attached to knock out an attacking Xerneas without a BREAK Evolution or Fighting Fury Belt attached. If we are able to pressure them from the very start, the dominoes start to fall quickly and we can overwhelm them and stop them from continually returning knockouts. This matchup is somewhat of a toss up depending on how our cards fall and if our opponent is able to keep trading with us effectively. Because Xerneas is slightly less consistent than Yveltal, the matchup can swing either way.

Greninja BREAK: Even

I have played this matchup quite a few times and it may even be arguable to say Xerneas has a favorable matchup. Regardless, they are going to do their thing with Frogadier’s Water Duplicates and try to get as many Greninja BREAK into play as possible. While they are occupied with this, you will be attempting to pressure them as much as possible and try to get two knockouts out of your first Xerneas. If we can do this, that will leave them with two possible Greninja BREAKs. However, if you have a less than ideal start and miss the knockout on the Frogadier that uses Water Duplicates, then we can fall victim to too many Giant Water Shurikens and the game will become a messy disaster. Late game Ns can really hurt this deck as well, so it is important to maintain a solid board state with multiple Xerneas attackers. Galvantula is an underrated card in this matchup. While it may not exactly “pressure” the opponent, it most certainly can get you into a winning prize race situation when we can Double Thread two Froakies for two knockouts after weakness. If you have a Hex Maniac, it can be a great way to get ahead on prizes and stop the onslaught of Giant Water Shurikens. However, this is not always possible since you generally need to find more Energy cards with other Supporters to keep building up Xerneas to attack with.

Gyarados: Slightly Unfavorable

This deck has really returned back to the abyss after a modest showing at Florida Regionals back in October. While it did have moderate success there, not too many players have been eager to pick it up for another go at it. This match is similar to that of the Vespiquen one, but Gyarados can actually take knockouts much more efficiently. Most Gyarados lists should be playing a Mr. Mime now for protection against silly techs like Spinda, or the more prominent inclusion of Galvantula, like in this deck. The only problem is that Mr. Mime will stop the use of Galvantula, and you will need to find space in our deck for a Hex Maniac to counter it if Gyarados is expected. This is more than likely not worth the inclusion, as Gyarados is not a very popular deck by any means.

M Gardevoir-EX (79): Very Favorable

This deck uses a similar strategy, but a main attacker that is a Pokemon-EX. It basically plays right into our stretegy.

M Mewtwo-EX (64): Even

A nearly textbook definition of a fifty-fifty matchup. This one relies heavily on you finding your own copy of Parallel City (if we play it). M Mewtwo-EX is a very linear deck that stacks a lot of Energy on an attacker and tries to run you over. They do have defensive capabilities with Shrine of Memories and use of Damage Change, though, so that makes our use of Shaymin-EX’s Sky Return very potent to set up knockouts that we otherwise would not achieve. Mewtwo with a single Double Colorless Energy will knock us out with Psychic Infinity, unless we have the BREAK out or a Fighting Fury Belt on Xerneas. Xerneas has the advantage of achieving a lower maintainence OHKO. Needing a Spirit Link, Evolution line, and some way to attach two energy can be very difficult.

M Rayquaza-EX (76): Favorable

This matchup is extremely similar to the M Gardevoir-EX one, but M Rayquaza is usually more consistent. But, M Rayquaza EX is still worth two prizes compared to Xerneas' 1.

M Scizor-EX/Raticate: Even

Too many people hyped this crummy deck up for the past Regional Championship in Indiana. In theory, it seemed decent, but in reality, it was just another inconsistent M Pokemon-EX deck that does not do enough damage to truly be a contender (see M Audino-EX, M Blastoise-EX, M Manectric-EX, M Sceptile-EX, etc.). To begin, though, Xerneas may be taken out from one use of M Scizor-EX’s Iron Crusher attack, but we can avenge the fallen Xerneas with a one-hit knockout from Rainbow Force. This matchup is quite similar to the M Mewtwo-EX one, where you just both trade potential one-hit knockouts. M Scizor-EX, though, requires two Basic Metal Energy to attack, and can be stopped right in its tracks with a timely knockout and no backup attacker. 

Raichu/Golbat: Slightly Unfavorable

This deck, like Gyarados, has sunk way below the tier of “popular” decks. However, it does have a great Xerneas matchup. In fact, it’s matchup is likely better than that of both Gyarados and Vespiquen decks. Raichu’s Circle Circuit hits hard for just a Double Colorless Energy and they will only need six Pokemon on their Bench to achieve an OHKO. Since both decks play Sky Field, that is no problem. Galvantula is key. He has the ability to take knockouts on both Shaymin-EXs and Zubats, it can swing this matchup over to a win. They will outtrade us on paper with a Raichu for Xerneas exchange, but you can use some tricky plays to pull the match back.

Vileplume Toolbox: Slightly Favorable

Everyone seems to get scared the minute they see Vileplume. They like to jump to conclusions and the deck seems to just have some kind of aura that just says “everything is bad against me”. This is absolutely false, and with this matchup, I was even tempted to place it under the “Slightly Favorable” category. I had a very memorable match against a Vileplume deck in Indiana where I did nothing more than pass for around five turns and in those five turns I found everything I needed to mount an offensive front that eventually won me the game. Even under Item lock, since our opponent’s attacks to not hit very hard, we can slowly operate and find Energy as well as attackers. Galvantula is a key component in this battle, since it can Double Thread on Manaphy-EX and Shaymin-EX. Nothing in their deck can even take a one-hit knockout on it, besides perhaps a Lugia-EX, Magearna, or Magearna-EX, all of which are not always popular inclusions to Bench in this matchup, let alone use in the deck at all. Xerneas BREAK is also extremely clutch since it can knockout Jolteon-EXs and the opponent needs to attack into it a whopping three times to deal a knockout, barring use of any of the fringe attackers I just mentioned in the previous thought. Anyways, this one is definitely winnable, but Item lock can occasionally give us such a bad hand that we still can lose, even though our opponent does not pressure us very much as far as attacks go.

Volcanion/Volcanion-EX: Slightly Unfavorable

This was a matchup that I had not rigorously tested going into Indiana Regionals, and that was a mistake. I ended up facing this deck multiple times, and even though I pulled away with a positive record, I definitely got lucky. At the time, I had figured this was an even matchup. It really depends on if you can hit your Max Elixirs consistently and keep trading well with the Volcanion deck. They are so fast that they can have multiple attackers ready in a matter of two turns, so that we need to hit Elixirs right away and attack right from the start. The reason this is slightly unfavorable is that if you miss even a single Max Elixir early, they can get such a dominant board position that there is no coming back from it. You could easily be facing off with two baby Volcanions along with two Volcanion-EXs, fully loaded with Energy. That is a game that has more than likely been lost. EXP. Share use is crucial as well. This is still winnable, but Volcanion has more efficient means to both charge attackers and OHKO, making the matchup an uphill climb.

Xerneas: Even

The mirror match can be a crapshoot, but Galvantula can help to take additional, otherwise impossible, KOs. The minute a player does not have a return knockout of some kind, the game usually ends. Parallel City can be useful, but generally only against the Xerneas decks with a Basic focus, with no Galvantula. A player may become overzealous and discard all of their Sky Field Stadiums at will, allowing you to punish the misplay.

Zygarde-EX/Carbink BREAK: Slightly Favorable

While very lowly played, I am basing most of my thoughts on this matchup off of the Zygarde-EX deck that made the Top Eight in Indiana, which I faced on the first day of play. Their Enhanced Hammers can make up for an occasional inability to take one-hit knockouts, but when they start dealing big damage, it can be overwhelming. With their own Parallel City inclusions, you must find your own to prevent a huge loss of Benched Pokemon. Galvantula can be a worthy attacker since both Carbink and Zygarde-EX are weak to the Grass typing. The biggest threat in this matchup is Zygarde-EX with a Fighting Fury Belt. At 230 HP, it can be extremely hard to actually take a knockout on it. This being said, we can be forced to use Shaymin-EX’s Sky Return and leave ourselves vulnerable to a “free turn” from our opponent. This is still a favorable matchup, but it is hardly straightforward.


If you haven't noticed, I believe the Rainbow Road deck with Galvantula is by and far the better deck overall. It allows for use of Parallel City, an amazing inclusion in this deck, that completely changes the dynamic and improves many matchups that were otherwise unfavorable. Galvantula in of itself is a fantastic card with lots of utility and it has won me many games in my day. Having access to two different dual type Pokemon increases damage output and makes us more consistent as a deck that relies on different types of Pokemon.

Rainbow Road is an incredibly strong deck with a great array of matchups, most of which are positive in nature. I highly recommend it in a metagame where Yveltal decks are running wild, because contrary to popular belief, with enough practice, the matchup can be won with ease. I think that this deck has the biggest upside of any build out there, and should be played with a trophy in mind. I am generally inclined to pick something that gives me the best chance to win, and that is why I chose this deck for the last Standard format tournament I participated in. 

Practice makes perfect, Trainers, so get out there and play until you cannot play anymore. Take care everyone and good luck at any upcoming events. Thanks for reading!

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