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Orion Craig

Going Rogue

When, why, and how to construct a rogue deck & a close look at two less-than-popular decks to consider. EMP Zone and my personal favorite deck, Princess Toadstool (Aroma+Toad), are examined.

03/26/2015 by Orion Craig

Hello again 60cards reader! I know what you’re probably thinking, “What the heck man? This guy is writing ANOTHER article already? I’M SO EXCITED!” Well, devoted reader, I’m glad you feel that way! Today we will be taking a look at decks that have been unjustly discarded, fallen out of favor, or are just plain unknown. These decks are referred to as rogue decks or rogue ideas. I humbly consider myself to be a devout and successful rogue player, with my greatest accomplishments coming from brand new or undervalued decks. That’s not to say I refuse to play mainstream or meta decks, but whenever viable I tend to veer away from the expected in favor of something new. After a brief discussion of what it means to go rogue and some of the biggest advantages of playing rogue decks, I will take a look at my two favorite rogue decks in the standard format.

What Are Rogue Decks?

By definition, a rogue deck is one that is either brand new or has very little presence in the metagame. It is a deck that no one should reasonably consider playing against when deciding their deck choice for a tournament. For those who don’t know, the metagame is made up of the decks one is most likely to see at a tournament. So-called meta decks are the ones you should be considering when making your deck choice (i.e. If VirGen is really popular in your area, then don’t play Seismitoad. If, however, Flareon scares the VirGens away, consider running Seismitoad, etc). Rogue decks are the opposite of meta. They are either unknown or unpopular decks that have the unique ability to beat your local metagame. Because of this metagame mindset held by the masses, a well-chosen rogue deck has the power to confuse your opponent and put you in the lead. Please do not mix this up by thinking it is always best to go rogue. Keep in mind it takes a very special deck to strike harmony, being both rogue and viable simultaneously.

The Advantages of Going Rogue

“What is this silly rogue stuff? I won’t even consider playing it! #ToadPuff4Lyfe.” Well if that’s really how you feel then please press the back button. If, however, you maintain an open mind and are able to conceive a rogue with the ability to effectively beat the meta, you are at an advantage for several reasons. Let us examine these one by one:

If you chose a good rogue deck, you will have favorable matchups against the most popular decks in your area.

Having favorable matchups is the most obvious advantage to playing a good rogue deck. How does going rogue accomplish this? I’m glad you asked. By definition, a rogue deck is one that takes into account the most popular decks in your area and seeks to beat them. Are Flareon and Seismitoad ruling your metagame? Play Princess Toadstool (detailed below). If Yveltal simply everywhere? Play Fairy Box with Manectric. Of course it’s not always as simple as countering just one deck. You need to make sure you can beat several of the most common decks, not just one. I’ll talk more about how to accomplish this later.

You will avoid being countered by techs and other rogue decks.

Typically, a metagame evolves based on counter decks as described before. If you pilot something fresh, there won’t be anyone seeking to counter you with their deck choice or techs. For instance, going into Florida Regionals I didn’t even consider including a counter for Silver Mirror because I knew nobody would counter Flareon when choosing their deck. At the upcoming State Championhips, however, I would most assuredly consider running a Xerosic were I to play Flareon again. What has changed during the time between Florida Regionals and now? Flareon has been added to the long list of decks in the metagame. With a rogue deck, however, you do not have to worry about counters this because nobody will see it coming.

You opponents will have very little idea how to play against you.

If your opponents doesn’t know what you’re playing, they are more likely to make mistakes. The more mistakes they make, the closer you are to victory. Most players don a devilish grin when you flip over an exeggcute as your active Pokemon, knowing you won’t be able to Propagate for most or all of the game. When that Exeggcute evolves into Exeggutor and shuts down their entire supporter line, do yourself a favor and watch as their grin is replaced by a worried, frantic demeanor. It’s suffice to say playing with a new deck is hard, and, sometimes, playing against a new deck can be even harder

They won’t ever see your moves coming.

At a glance this point looks alarmingly similar to the last. Let me explain further: your opponent may understand that you’re playing Exeggutor, but maybe they won’t expect you to drop Genesect EX+Plasma energy. Or perhaps they understand that you’re playing Tool Drop, but are taken off guard by a Life Dew or Mewtwo EX. While they might understand the basic idea behind your deck, your techs can act as one last layer of surprise.

Rogue Tips

There are a few factors to consider before choosing to play or build a rogue deck. Before going rogue, you need to know your metagame and understand your matchups. Without giving both of these heavy thought you are setting yourself up for failure. Let’s take a close look at each of them.

First and foremost, you must know the metagame you are heading into. This is by far the most important thing to consider when developing a rogue idea. If you do not understand and predict your metagame properly, you will not know what kind of deck to build. For instance, if Toad is really popular, a rogue deck that loses to Toad might be a bad choice. Alternatively, you should start trying to come up with ideas that effectively handle the Seismitoad matchup. In order to learn the metagame, try studying local tournaments and pay attention to which decks are finding success. Additionally, you must consider the common counters to the generally successful decks as part of the meta because they will likely show up as well. Let’s run through a quick, step by step timeline of a recent personal experience:

Flareon wins FL regionals
Most people want to beat Flareon
Most people believe Flareon struggles against Toad
I play a deck that beats both Toad and Flareon, expecting them to be the two most popular decks.

The result? I played against three Toad decks, two Flareon, one Landorus EX/Crobat, and one Empoleon/Magnezone (my roommate D= ). By predicting the meta I was able to prepare for five out of seven of my swiss matchups.  That’s a staggering 71%! This prediction resulted in a solid top 8 finish, granting me the final points I needed to secure an invitation to the World Championships.

Secondly, you must understand your matchups. If you do not have a solid grasp on how the decks in your meta operate, their weakness, and their strengths, it will be impossible to develop a good rogue idea. Ideally, you should know if an idea has merit without needing to test too many games (or none at all), that way you are able to quickly move on to better ideas. The best way develop this sort of Poke-sense is by actually playing with the decks in your meta to get an understanding of what makes them tick. For instance, after using a Seismitoad deck for a few games, you will quickly realize that blocking special conditions, causing paralysis/sleep/confusion/amnesia, healing, and (ironically) trainer lock can really hurt Toad’s ability to perform. With this information in hand, you will be one step closer to finding a deck that stops Toad in his tracks.

One final tip to playing rogue decks is to make sure your deck can handle generic decks you may see in early rounds. Essentially, what you are trying to avoid is gearing your decks solely towards beating the meta. If you’re deck will not function against anything unexpected, it probably isn’t the best choice for an event. Players seem to be inventing new ideas every single tournament right now, so having an adaptable deck is key. In a way, you can prepare yourself for other rogue decks with a couple of straight-forward concepts that don’t really need explanation: make sure your deck is consistent, may utilize but should not require type-advantage to win, any type of lock (trainer, supporter, special condition, or otherwise) is always a sure bet to handling the unexpected, and try not to be a single-minded deck with few options. As you can see, some meta decks break these rules. For instance, Toad is incredibly single-minded, but that’s OK because it heavily utilizes lock and special conditions.

Now that we’ve gone over how to play and develop rogue ideas, let’s take a look at a few rogue decks that you should consider using.

Deck Summary

This deck was piloted to a 5th place finish in AL states by none other than Michael Canaves. The idea was mentioned to me offhand by Zander B, and it really got Mike and I thinking about its potential. The basic idea behind the deck is to swarm attackers such as Miltank and Empoleon while constantly getting back Life Dew with Lysandre’s Trump Card. This strategy proves extremely effective against any non-Toad deck, so final tweaks were used to improve the Seismitoad matchup. Pokemon Center Lady, Xerosic, and Cryogonal were all it took to make this deck a great play. Let’s examine a couple key card choices and go over some matchups you’re likely to see.

Star Players


If you’re anything like me, this card has always seemed extremely interesting and powerful, yet no one seems to have found the gusto to actually perform with it. No one until now, that is. The ability to play two supporters per turn was recently strengthened even further with cards like VS Seeker and the immensely powerful supporters that have been popping up, such as Archie’s Ace in the Hole, Lysandre’s Trump Card, Teammates, and even Pokemon Center Lady. Dual Brains lets you pull off ultra-sick-mcnasty combos such as Trump Card to get back Life Dew, and immediately using Teammates to search Life Dew out. Or possibly Teammates for an Ultra Ball and Archie to shrink your hand size enough to pull off an Ace in the Hole. Oh, and never, ever forget the power of double Juniper to draw 14 cards+Diving Draw for even more madness.


This seriously underrated card is a near perfect fit for this deck. He serves as a triple threat by searching out parts of your Empoleon line, using Cryofreeze to stall or break Toad lock, and getting some amazing “what the heck just happened” expressions to sweep across your opponent’s face. Cryogonal is your main weapon against Seismitoad EX decks, because if you have a chance to set up a couple stage 2’s the game swings heavily in your favor. It is safe to say that without Cryofreeze this deck would be no good.


This happy cow really does have some powerful friends in this deck. The ability to keep your Empoleons and Magnezone safe while swarming Life Dew+Cow is extremely effective early game. Sometimes is can be difficult to swarm Empoleon early game, but Miltank is able to take a hit or two while you set up.


You should definitely play the Piplup with Charm. It’s the best Piplup option to slow down Toad’s rampage against you, hopefully causing them to miss an OHKO.

Pokemon Center Lady

This is a card that sees surprisingly little play. The ability to completely negate the damage and conditions from a Quaking Punch+Laserbank is simply too good to pass up when you can play two supporters per turn. Did that annoying laser put you to sleep, too?! No biggie, just use Dual Brains to heal 120 damage and wipe away both conditions.



Seismitoad EX+Slurpuff 60%-40%

At first, this matchup seems pretty rotten due to how effective Quaking Punch can be at preventing any real setup. If your deck wants two entire stage 2s to maximize its potential, then Toad could spell doom. Fortunately, Cryogonal is commonly able to break the trainer lock just long enough to set up. Additionally, do not underestimate Magnemite and Magneton’s ability to confuse a Seismitoad for only 1 energy each. This can be a key play to setting up and winning the matchup. Lastly, once you start revving up for an attack, Pokemon Center Lady is the fuel that keeps you going. Without her, Toad can make quick work of your Empoleons due to Laserbank. The only thing that makes this matchup particularly difficult is Super Scoop Up or those dreaded hands filled with trainers.

Seismitoad EX+Garbodor 40%-60%

This matchup is pretty darn tough because it has the same persistent trainer lock as Toad+Puff, but stops your Diving Draw and Dual Brain abilities as well. Fortunately, Toad+Garb is a less common version of toad, and for good reason. The overall utility Slurpuff adds is too good for most Toad players to pass up, meaning you shouldn’t expect to see much Toad+Garb.

Flareon 80%-20%

Flareon is no match for his friend and nemesis Empoleon. This matchup is so heavily in your favor you don’t even need Silver Mirror. Simply set up a few Empoleons and spam Life Dew+Trump Card. Flareon will have an extremely hard time knocking out Empoleon after Trump Card, and even if they do succeed in taking a knock out Life Dew means they don’t even take a prize for their efforts. If they fail to OHKO an Empoleon, Pokemon Center Lady will make quick work of any damage they managed to put out.

Yveltal+Seismitoad EX+Garbodor 65%-35%

This matchup is basically a much less threatening version of Toad+Garb. There is a much higher chance of a delayed Quaking Punch due to how many other pokemon this deck plays, and Garbodor tends to be a lower count than the more simplified Toad+Garb deck. For the most part, you’re able to use your go-to strategy of abusing Life Dew+Trump combo because you have extra time to set up. If they do get a Garbodor set up, you’re able to Xerosic the tool away, allowing you to use Dual Brains for a second supporter. Additionally, without the draw support of Slurpuff, Yveltal players will have a hard time maintaining an effective trainer lock, due to how hard it can be to find Hypnotic Laser, Double Colorless Energy, Muscle Band, etc. Without some of these damage boosters they could be looking at a three hit knock out against Empoleons or worse.

Landorus EX+Crobat 80%-20%

This matchup is pretty easy to say the least. Landorus EX is no match for Attack Command due to type advantage and Hawlucha is completely useless due to your lack of EX attackers. Their only real option is to use Lucario EX and hope for a whole bunch of Super Scoop Up heads. Even then, Life Dew streaming will make Lucario’s efforts in vain. However, if you are unable to get an early game Archie’s and Landorus is able to take some early knockouts against your piplups, they do have a small shot at victory.

Night March 70%-30%

This deck proves only slightly more difficult than its brother Flareon. Joltik hitting your Empoleon for weakness makes Trump Card slightly less effective, and their increased speed over Flareon can allow things to get out of hand very quickly. In general, once you get set up you can N+Trump Card+Life Dew swarm and they will have an extremely difficult time winning. Even if they go up three prizes early game, this devastating combo brings the matchup in your favor.

Deck Summary

Princess Toadstool is the very first deck I built after coming back from my 2 year hiatus. I remember reading scans of the upcoming Phantom Forces expansion and thinking “if only there was a good way to move energy off of Malamar while keeping up Quaking Punch…” Aromatisse was the obvious choice, and so the deck was born. After Mike Canaves and I introduced this deck on a whim at the GA marathon, I was startled at the response. My longtime friend Kyle Sablehaus managed to take three city wins and coined the name Mally Mal for the deck. After cities I thought the deck had retired, but just before AL states I decided the meta was perfect for a reappearance due to Flareon most likely pushing the VirGen and Metal decks out of the metagame once and for all.

The basic idea of the deck is to lock with Quaking Punch while using Malamar’s Hyper Hypnosis to repeatedly put your opponent to sleep. Because of trainer lock, there are very few options to remove the sleep condition, meaning your opponents is unable to attack. When you mix this strategy with lasers and Max Potion, your opponent is in for a world of hurt. This deck’s unique ability to completely destroy standard Toad decks makes it an excellent play for the time being. If decks like VG or Metal regain popularity, however, I might suggest a different deck. This deck holds a special place in my heart as my first creation since returning, and has a firm place in my top five favorite decks of all time.

Star Players


Malamar EX

Hyper Hypnosis is incredible for keeping your opponents locked down and out of a game. It allows you Quaking Punch without threat of a response roughly 50% of the time which, combined with Max Potion and Az, makes for some serious tempo in your favor. Additionally, you should never underestimate MAXamar’s ability to finish off a game. This deck has a surprising ability to stockpile energy in play, meaning a late game MAXamar could result in as many as ten coin flips.

Darkrai EX

The inclusion of Virbank City Gym means you can’t effectively run Fairy Garden. Mobility is key in this deck, so Darkrai was an obvious inclusion. If you start with any non-Toad, you can simply attach a Rainbow and free retreat into a Seismitoad. Hopefully you will have Aromatisse or a Double Colorless Energy the following turn to allow for an early Quaking Punch. Lastly, Night Spear+Aromtisse+Max Potion can make for a very threatening mid-late game attacker. Opponents commonly escape to the bench with 30 or less HP, and Night Spear is just the thing to finish out the match.

Keldeo EX

Originally for the Metal matchup to prevent Chronowind from breaking your lock, Keldeo EX has managed to stay in the deck over time due to his surprisingly well-rounded utility. His convenient mid-range damage, ability to OHKO Landorus EX and Hawlucha easily, and effective ability to stall with a quick Rush In make Keldeo a keeper for sure.

Yveltal EX

This card was added in sometime during the GA marathon to deal with mirror match. From what I understand, this deck became extremely popular as the GA marathon developed. Essentially, a Princess Toadstool with Yveltal vs one without is pretty one sided. Similar early game lock attempts utilizing Keldeo to block each other’s Hyper Hypnosis is key, followed by a late game Yveltal EX to take OHKO’s swings the matchup heavily in your favor. Yveltal EX has a place in this deck against Yveltal+Toad decks as well. You’re able to effectively render their Toads useless with Malamar, and counter any energy-heavy Yveltals they build up with an Evil Ball of your own.


Garbodor would give you serious problems without Xerosic. Fortunately, even if they manage to play Trubbish+Float Stone before you begin your Quaking Punch lock, you can simply Xerosic the Float Stone away and they will be prevented from playing another one down due to Quaking Punch. If your opponent rushes to get a tool onto Trubbish and uses a Muscle Band instead, Lysandre+Quaking Punch with surely lock their Garbodor active until he is knocked out by blocking switch cards.

Hypnotoxic Laser

This card has its obvious uses of increasing your meager damage output. However, with the inclusion of Malamar you can effectively lock their active asleep and setup to faint coming into your turn. Let me explain. If you do Quaking Punch for 30, their active will be at 90 coming back into your turn. Another Quaking Punch causes them to reach the magic 180 damage as you start your turn, meaning you get the first hit on whatever they bring out. Normal Toad decks have a harder time doing this due to opponent’s being able to retreat and counter attack, but Malamar has a chance to put a stop to both of those strategies.



Seismitoad+Slurpuff 80%-20%

This is your single favorite matchup to play against. Once you manage your first Quaking Punch, the rest of the game is downhill. As long as they can’t Hammer/Laser you, you will have plenty of time to find and use Malamar to break their lock. In a Toad vs Toad game, if you break the lock and use your Lasers you easily win the game. Factor in Max Potion and Aromatisse and suddenly the game becomes cake. If you are having a hard time breaking their trainer lock, you are still able to utilize Az to keep your frogs coming.

Seismitoad+Garbodor 70%-30%

This matchup is nearly as easy as the last. The only difference is Garbodor shutting down Malamar and Aromatisse. Of course we have Xerosic for the first Garbodor, but on the off chance they are lucky enough to get two Trubbish and two Float Stone before you begin using Quaking Punch, then suddenly the match swings in their favor. Due to the unlikelihood of this happening more than once in a best of three format, this matchup isn’t much of an issue.


Virizion+Genesect 20%-80%

VirGen is certainly the terror of Toadstool’s nightmares. The ability to prevent both Malamar’s sleep and Laser’s poison while simultaneously resisting Seismitoad and hitting for grass weakness makes for an extremely tough match. Your only real option is to use Darkrai+Max potion to apply some pressure while building up for a big Maxamar for late game. Sadly, G-Booster tends to stop this strategy in its tracks. Hopefully G-Booster is prized two out of three games I guess.

Flareon 65%-35%

This deck has several options against Flareon that normal Seismitoad EX decks do not. Namely Malamar, Max Potion, and Darkrai EX. Malamar is extremely good at diminishing Leafeon’s ability to take knockouts, but you must be careful with your energy placement. If you foolishly lay too many energy down, then Energy Crush will make quick work of you. For this reason, try to utilize Max Potion to strategically discard your own energy, leaving you at a maximum of three or four at a time. Additionally, Darkrai EX+Trump Card is a threatening combo against Flareon mid-late game. Whenever you know they cannot get a Flareon going on their next turn, feel free to Night Spear+Muscle Band or Laser to take a quick knock out on a Leafeon. If they play a large number of trainers on the following turn, simply Trump Card and resume your Quaking Punch lock.

Yveltal EX+Seismitoad EX 60%-40%

A tougher matchup for sure, Yveltal brings several threats to the table. Overall, you are very unlikely to lose a best of three to Yveltal, but a tie isn’t too uncommon. If they are able to consistently change attachers with Y Cyclone, your low damage output and reliance on Laser can become a glaring weakness. However, Malamar is typically able to sleep lock enough pokemon to get your six prizes. If they try to build up a large Yveltal EX to OHKO your Seismitoad, simply respond with your own Yveltal to level the playing field. If your Yveltal is prized, you can try to Grenade Hammer+Muscle Band+Laser for 180 damage as well.

Landorus EX+Crobat 50%-50%

This is one of the toughest matchups for Princess Toadstool. While Landorus can apply early pressure to Spritzee, Max Potion helps a lot to get an Aromatisse going. Additionally, Seismitoad EX makes quick work of Landorus so Mr. Mime isn’t very necessary. The main threat of Landorus+Crobat is their dreaded Hawlucha swarm. If you have trouble getting a Muscle Band+Laser+Virbank down, Hawlucha can constantly threaten the two hit KO and cause you to burn through Max Potions very quickly. In this matchup, I try not to bench Malamar, Darkrai, or Jirachi if possible. These are easy knockouts for Landorus and can easily lose you the game. Finally, don’t underestimate Keldeo in this matchup. Sacred Sword slices through Hawlucha and Landorus with ease, and utilizing Max Potion will make sure you stay standing.

Night March 80%-20%

This deck is very similar to Flareon, so I won’t spend too much time here. Your goal is to get the fastest Quaking Punch possible, regardless of the cost. Without trainers, Night March has a hard time dealing heavy damage. If they happen to have a strong start, do not be afraid to Jirachi for your Trump Card and start up a Quaking Punch lock. The only way I see you losing this matchup would be prizing your Trump Card.

Parting Thoughts

Rogue decks have a very powerful place in the current meta. There are so many untested ideas and powerful combinations waiting to be discovered. I do not believe there has been a time in Pokemon history with as many interesting and new decks constantly popping up and performing well. Decks like Princess Toadstool taking the GA marathon by storm, Flareon making it all the way to first place at FL Regionals, and Kyogre EX pulling off an unexpected win in Canada, are clear examples of what a rogue deck has the potential to do for you. If you’re the inventive type who loves to develop new ideas, this is the perfect time to really get you brain working on the game, and I’m excited to see what ideas you will come up with. Best of luck!


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