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Martin Janouš

"Run away!" A Mienshao deck analysis

A look at one of the most promising new decks of the Standard format, Mienshao.

09/22/2015 by Martin Janouš

Today I will talk about one of the best decks at the moment in the Standard format. It is Mienshao/Hawlucha/Focus Sash, with other stuff like Robo Substitute and Eco Arm. People from North America don't care about Standard format since they will have their Regionals in Expanded format. However, the situation in Europe is different because Europe will have Regionals in the Standard format. This is the first time that the U.S. and Europe will have different metagames and if nothing will change in Europe, maybe European tournament results will have an influence on the results of U.S. State Championships in the future. 

Many players compare this deck to the old Donphan deck. It has many similar aspects. Both are non-EX, Fighting decks, and both focus on hit-and-run attackers and Prize denial. Before getting into a deeper analysis, let's look at a list:

What is the key to success?

The deck works by using Mienshao's Aero Turn attack, doing some damage and returning Mienshao to the hand, then promoting a Robo Substitute or a Fighting Pokémon with a Focus Sash. The current metagame make this deck hard to beat. In the last format, you had Hypnotoxic Laser for bypassing Focus Sash, and Crobat was better and could be played more often. Now the metagame is different. Vespiquen is dominating and decks like Manectric/Regice and Metal Rayquaza are also earning their place in the metagame. Thanks to this metagame, Mienshao can succeed. Not many decks have a relevant answer to Mienshao right now, making it a good meta call.

You have to cycle Mienschao for Robo Substitutes and when you have no other choice, you have Fighting Pokémon with Focus Sash ready. With Eco Arms, you can reuse your Focus Sash many times in one game. Maybe you might think that playing Mienshao is too risky because it returns to your hand after each attack, but since N is not in format anymore, the only hand disruption to fear is Ace Trainer. Even then, you will get a guaranteed four cards (after drawing for your turn) and with lot of Supporters, you are relatively safe. Of course, your luck can leave you in a critical situation, but that is Pokémon, and if you want high rewards, you must take some risks. 

For Mienshao, it's good that Startling Megaphone is so unpopular now, since it mostly just saw play as a counter to Garbotoxin. Without it, only Xerosic can break your Focus Sash.  Because of this, if you have just one other Mienfoo with a Focus Sash after attacking, don't promote it if you can avoid it. One smart Xerosic play from the opponent can really hurt you. In general, you'll want to avoid playing down too many Pokémon without Focus Sash.  You need to have as many Mienfoo on the Bench as you can to ensure you can keep attacking, but don't put down too many Hawlucha. They can be free Prizes for your opponent and it can cost you the game in the end. Even if your opponent plays Startling Megaphone, you should not be afraid to put down more Focus Sashes. You have four Eco Arms while the opponent probably has at most two Startling Megaphones, so you should play aggressively and without fear.

Mienshao has problems with just two things: Item-lock and Crobat. However, we have an autowin against so many decks that having an autoloss to just one is acceptable in my opinion. Item-lock currently just comes from the Giratina/Vileplume lock deck. (Seismitoad is out thanks to Vespiquen's domination and the loss of Hypnotoxic Laser.) Giratina/Vileplume is a bad matchup on paper, but it's one of the inconsistent decks in the format and can dead-draw often, so it's still possible to steal wins in this matchup. 

This deck has advantages and disadvantages in time. You can be surprised how long your games take. Your damage output is relatively low and your opponent can't take prizes, so all in all, you can easily play a game lasting over thirty minutes. If you play best-of-three at a tournament, then you basically just have to rely on winning the first game, because there will often be no time to win a second game. If you win first game, you will be probably able to (legally) stall until time because your opponent will not be able to take six Prizes in ten or fifteen minutes. On the other hand, If you lose a close first game, you will not be able to win a second game thanks to the low base damage of your attack. So, knowing when to scoop is important because scooping early enough can save you enough time to play for a tie.

For a deeper analysis, let's look at the deck, card for card.

4-4 Mienshao/4 Hawlucha/4 Robo Substitute
Since you return your Mienshao line to your hand every game, you need to have a full line of it. Maybe you can experiment with playing a 4-3 Mienshao line. Theoretically, it should be enough, but you can struggle with drawing into Mienshao in time, especially if you have some of them Prized or you discard them to Sycamore. But one copy of Mienshao is a card that you can replace for something if necessary.

Four Hawlucha is standard. You want to start with Hawlucha. It has free Retreat and can do big damage on the first turn. Again, you can play just three, but as I saw, this deck can mulligan a lot sometimes, so I wanted to have more Basics to open with. Don't forget that Hawlucha can one-shot Shaymin-EX from nowhere, or Manectric-EX with a Silent lab.

Robo Substitutes have only one job: denying your opponent Prizes.

3 Korrina/4 Professor Sycamore/1 Shauna/1 Tierno
I am not a fan of playing Korrina in Fighting decks. In the past, I didn't get why people played Korrina in decks like Donphan or Landorus/Crobat. It just slowed these decks down. However, now you need do play Korrina because there is no other valid Supporter to play. On the other hand, you have so much time to set up with your Focus Sash and Robots that Korrina actually fits perfectly here. 

Four Professor Sycamore is standard now. Just be careful. I've been noticing that a new trend in tournaments is deckout by overly aggressive draw. Many players just draw and draw every turn and then find that they have everything on the table, probably would've won the match, but have just a couple cards left in the deck with no way to get them back, so they lose. You have many cards that can return cards to the deck, like Eco Arm and Sacred Ash, but still think carefully before you play Sycamore. Shauna is one of the reasons that you can be safe against decking out. In the late game, you have a big hand with ten or more cards sometimes. If you are running out of cards, you can just use Shauna to put some cards back and buy yourself a few turns.

The one Tierno is added to have more options for VS Seekers.  Sometimes you don't want to discard your whole hand with a Sycamore but don't want to shuffle your whole hand in and draw just five cards either. 

4 Focus Sash/2 Muscle Band/4 Eco Arm
Playing four copies of Focus Sash is necessary because your success really depends on this card. I saw some discussions about how playing four Eco Arms is too much. Well, it can look like it at first sight. However, playing four Eco Arms gives you more comfortable plays. If you play just two, you will have to save them and then you will not be able to play Sycamore as freely. Or you will play Sycamore, discard your Eco Arm (one of two) and than you'd have just one left, which isn't enough. So, I think playing four is good. It lets you play your Sycamores without fear. As I said before, your tactic is to use Focus Sash, so you really need to stay on this tactic. If not, you lose.

Two Muscle Bands are there for the damage bonus. For example, if you leave an Active Mienfoo with Focus Sash and your opponent attacks it, it will survive and you will be able to Evolve to Mienshao, attach Muscle Band (because Focus Sash was discarded) and do more damage. Maybe you could play just one Muscle Band because it will return to your hand after each attack and if your opponent discards it, you still have your Eco Arms to return it. So, one Muscle Band could be another card subject to change.

1 Professor's Letter/1 Sacred Ash/1 Xerosic/1 Silent Lab
These are the tech cards. With your relatively low number of Energy cards, you might find Professor's Letter very useful because you can search it with Korrina easily. If you draw it in the late game, you can just play it to thin your deck. 

Sacred Ash is another "safe" card in this deck. You never know what you might draw in your opening hand or in the early turns, so you can sometimes face situations where you will have to discard many Mienshao to your Sycamore, or in the late game after your opponent's Xerosic's plays, you might have some Mienfoo in the discard pile as well, and it is nice to return them to the deck. As I said before, you need at least two Mienfoo on your Bench before each attack and Sacred Ash will help you to keep this number on the table.

Xerosic is an optional card, as is Silent Lab. Xerosic is really strong right now, and having one copy of it in the deck is good. In this deck, it can help you in mirror matches. If Mienshao decks start to become popular, you will need to add at least one copy of Xerosic to your deck. Smart Xerosic plays can be crucial, especially if your opponent is surprised by it or if your opponent makes a risky move like putting their only Mienfoo with a Focus Sash Active after they attack. With Xerosic, you can punish that play and swing the match into your favor. If you have time and many cards in hand, you can also slow down decks like Rayquaza or Vespiquen becasue discarding Double Colorless Energy could be problem for these decks.

Silent Lab can be a surprise for your opponent and your opponent can have a bad time with Silent Lab in play. You personally don't care about Abilities because you simply don't rely on them to set up, so Silent Lab doesn't hurt you, but it can be a big problem for some decks. You can stop your opponent from using Shaymin's Ability, bypass Aegislash-EX if necessary, or Knock Out (in one hit) Manectric-EX with your Hawlucha. Silent Lab can help you in a lot of ways, so the one copy is very useful.

In the end, I can say that this deck is currently one of the top decks in the format. I saw some versions where people included Enhanced Hammers in it, which could be another interesting choice in the deck. I think people will invent some new variants of this deck, but the basic tactic will be still same.  Just some "tech" cards would be changed. 

Well, I hope you liked my article and I recommend playing this deck at your League Challenges because you can win Championship Points so easily with this deck. You have many autowins and few bad matchups in the current metagame, so this deck seems like the perfect deck to play. On top of that, this deck is super cheap, so if you are a new player, you can buy this deck for just a few dollars and you don't even have to buy Shaymin.

Until next time!

Martin "Onix" Janouš

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