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Marc Lutz

Item-Lock for Days: A Look at Vileplume

Marc Lutz discusses Vileplume from Ancient Originis and its potential in the Expanded and Standard formats.

09/23/2015 by Marc Lutz

Back to the past

Most players that already played in 2010 had one card in mind when Vileplume from Ancient Origins was released—Vileplume from Undaunted. Back when Vileplume was released, it had a huge impact on the metagame and quickly became the most common counter to decks like Luxchomp. Luxchomp was the best deck in the format and it took a long time before a deck was able to compete with it. It had a few struggles against cards like Spiritomb from Arceus or Machamp and Gyarados from Stormfront, but it still won at least 60% of the time against them. But when HS Undaunted was released Luxchomp and every other deck got a new powerful opponent—Vileplume/Gengar.

I might be giving this deck more credit than it deserves because Luxchomp was still the best deck in the format and most players quickly started to tech Blaziken FB into their lists to beat Vilegar, but it was still a bigger problem than any other deck at this time. I was a Luxchomp player myself, but even I decided to play Vilegar at a few big tournaments because the deck was so strong. But back in the day, Vileplume had an easier time thanks to Supporter-based search like Bebe's Search or even attacking partners like Gengar from Stormfront that were able to abuse Vileplumes Poké-Body to boost its own damage.

Vileplume UD

Keeping this in mind, it just seemed natural that the new Vileplume, which is basically a reprint, would have an impact on current metagame as well.  But can the new Vileplume really live up to the hype? That’s what I will try to answer in this article.

The new Vileplume

Back when Vileplume had an impact, the format was different than it is now. Vileplume was really powerful because it didnt't rely on Trainers as much as decks like Gyarados and Luxchomp did, making Vileplume a very strong counter to these Trainer-based decks, but the format has changed. Almost every deck has to work with a lot of Items to get their setup, even Vileplume. But Vileplume has a big advantage against decks like Vespiquen, Lucario/Bats, etc. Once it's set up, it doesn't need too many resources anymore.

For the moment, the new Vileplume is weaker than its Undaunted brother, but I believe that time will work into his favor and make him a contestant for top finishes at big tournaments, which is why I want to take a look at the card in this article. 

Before we discuss the Standard format, I want to take a look at the Expanded format and how Vileplume may or may not change it. It's really important to take in consideration that every Expanded tournament besides the Arena Cup in Würzburg has been a League Challenge, so for now, I'll just focus on the Arena Cup. This part is going to be very short, since almost nobody played Vileplume, but that doesn't necessarily mean that Vileplume is not good in Expanded. The first few tournaments of any season used to be Battle Roads. These small tournaments allowed people to test out new decks or new strategies. With Arena Cups being introduced a couple years ago, that has changed quite a bit.

Arena Cups have the same CP structure as Regionals here in Europe, and that's the reason why nobody is testing out new strategies, because everyone obviously wants to get these important points at the beginning of the season. Only two of the Top 8 players used decks that weren't already established, or at least hyped up. These decks were Giratina/Seismitoad and Accelgor/Vespiquen; the rest of the Top 8 were Yveltal variants, one Night March, and one Vespiquen/Eeveelutions deck.
Most people tend to not leave their comfort zones and either play decks they have been playing for a long time, or in rare cases, some completely new decks they have been testing. Usually players like to watch the Japanese meta and play what was successful in Japan. The 2nd Place at the Arena Cup even copied a Japanese Yveltal/Archeops decklist card-for-card.

At tournaments like this, new decks usually have a hard time competing with the rest, atl east if they're not well tested, and since we had Worlds just two weeks beforehand, nobody really had enough time to come up with any crazy ideas. This has become a bigger problem in the past few years than ever before. There are not many players that are brave enough to try out new decks at bigger tournaments, even though recent tournaments proved to us that playing rogue isn't that bad, seeing as Wailord almost won U.S. Nationals and Archie's Blastoise won Worlds this year.

But enough talk about the Arena Cup. Let's move on to the important part.

Vileplume variants in the Expanded format

Vanilluxe/Victini/Vileplume

Back in 2011, when we had the HS-On format, Vileplume was a powerful card and this deck made an appearance at the top tables at a lot of Cities and Regionals. Now that we've got a reprint of Vileplume, it just seems logical that this deck could make a comeback since Victini and Vanilluxe remain legal in Expanded. But why has nobody played it so far? Let's take a look at its pros and cons. 

Paralyzing your opponent and blocking their switching cards seems very powerful, and it obviously is. The biggest downside of this deck is its setup. Getting out Vileplume became pretty easy with the reintroduction of Broken Time-Space in the form of Forest of Giant Plants. The problem is the attack cost of Vanillish and Vanilluxe. If they were able to Paralyze the opposing Pokémon for just a Double Colorless Energy, the deck would be so much more powerful, but since they both need a Water and a Colorless Energy, they're very easy targets for Lysandre, and if your opponent is able to KO your ice cream cones before you're able to attack, you're going to have a hard time. The second downside of the deck is the flips. I'm sure everyone has had bad experiences with coin flips that lost them important games, even flips that seemed impossible to miss. It's obviously a lot easier to miss the flip with Vanillish, as you only get to flip two coins, whereas Vanilluxe is able to flip four coins, with only one of them having to be heads, but it's still not guaranteed.

Another problem could be Archeops, which is seeing a lot of play at Expanded tournaments, and if the opponent gets a turn-one Archeops, you basically lose, which is why I would seriously consider playing Wally. And as most people know, we already have a similar deck in Expanded, Trevenant/Accelgor. Trevenant/Accelgor just seems like the better option if you want to lock your opponent with Paralysis while blocking their Item cards. Trevenant still gets countered by Lysandre, and you can still miss your Accelgor, but I still think that this version is better than Vanilluxe/Vileplume, since Trevenant doesn't block your own Items. Still, Vanilluxe/Victini/Vileplume might still be worth a try and I think could very well see play at future Expanded tournaments.

Vileplume/Exeggutor

I'm just including this deck because a lot of players started complaining about it when TPCi first announced that we were going to keep the Expanded format. A lot of players said that this deck would just be too powerful since you're able to lock your opponent's Items and Supporters, forcing them to just to play Pokémon, attach Energy, and play Stadium cards. The sad truth (at least sad for the deck itself) is that you will more than likely deck out before you're ever able to win on Prizes. The deck has so many things it loses to, for example, decks that can OHKO your Exeggutor, since you can't play cards like Crushing Hammer to prevent it. You also lose to Lysandres on your Vileplume unless you've got an AZ in your hand. And you obviously lose against everything that plays Virizion since you won't even be able to Poison your opponent with Ariados, leaving you at just 10 damage each turn with Blockade. I don´t think it´s even worth trying to play the deck, but I´m sure there are some crazy people that will still try to play it.

Vileplume/Accelgor

Vileplume Accelgor is based around the same strategy as Vanilluxe/Victini/Vileplume—lock your opponent's Active Pokémon with Paralysis while also blocking them from playing any Item cards. The difficult part about playing this deck is the difficulty of getting out your Accelgor every turn, and thats why you're playing a lot of cards to thin out your deck, as well as Musharna to search for the cards you need. Your goal is to burn through your deck on the first turn and discard as many useless cards as you can, while setting up your board. If you manage to get out your Vileplume on the first turn while discarding at least half of your deck, you should actually be fine. The deck list below almost looks like a speed variant of some kind, taking the high Item and Shaymin/Unown count into consideration, but as I mentoined before, it's necessary to build up your board position and be able to get your Mew/Accelgor and Double Colorless Energy every turn.

One big advantage of Accelgor decks is that you almost can't deck out, because you shuffle your attacker back into your deck. The only real option to deck you out is with Bunnelby or Durant, but you should win these matchups anyways because you can KO those Pokémon in one hit, or even lock their Durant perfectly by using Accelgor. I don't think that this version is as good as Trevenant/Accelgor, but it's still worth a try, especiually because your opponent can't use Lysandre to get around Vileplume's Ability, unlike Trevenant's.

Giratina/Vileplume

Last but definitely not least, I want to talk about the most hyped Vileplume variant.
Vileplume/Giratina is better than the Exeggutor variant for a couple of reasons. The biggest upside is the damage. Instead of hitting for lousy 10 damage plus Poison, Giratina hits for 100 damage, which is usually enough to KO every Pokémon-EX in two hits (except Megas). And that gets us to the second big thing you get when using Giratina: its Ability. Giratina's Ability prevents all damage from your opponent's Megas.

I already talked about the damage of Giratinas attack, but the important part is the effect, which prevents your opponent from playing any Special Energy cards, Stadium cards, or Pokémon Tools (the last of which is already blocked by Vileplume). In a perfect world, you'll be able to use Giratina's attack on the second turn, and Vileplume on your first, preventing you opponent from doing anything except playing Pokémon, attaching Basic Energy, and using Supporters. This shuts down a lot of decks almost completely.

You may ask yourself why nobody played this deck at the Arena Cup even though it seems so powerful. The reason is pretty simple: Yveltal. Yveltal is able to deal at least 140 damage to a Giratina because you always have at least four Energy attached to it, and it's a lot easier for the Yveltal player to get out new Yveltal than for the Giratina player to swarm Giratina. If the Yveltal player gets to Oblivion Wing your Giratina once, it's even enough to load up an Yveltal with two Energy to Knock Out Giratina. I think Giratina/Vileplume is a very powerful deck, but it'll have to wait until we get big tournaments in Standard where Yveltal isn't as relevant.

 

Giratina/Vileplume

I already talked about this deck in Expanded and almost everything stays the same, but there are still some things I want to focus on for Standard. In my opinion, Giratina/Seismitoad remains the better deck in Expanded, but with the loss of cards like Hypnotoxic Laser and Virbank City Gym, I feel like it makes a lot of sense to cut the disruption cards out of the deck and include Vileplume instead. The combination of two cards that synergize that well just seems logical and will definitely be used by a lot of players. There is not really much more to talk about than just saying that I think Giratina/Vileplume will be a strong deck in Standard to watch out for.

Vespiquen/Vileplume

This deck combines two of the most hyped cards from Ancient Origins, the Bee Revenge Vespiquen and the Item-locking Vileplume, to create a powerful deck that locks down your opponent and allows your to hit hard in the meantime. Vespiquen/Vileplume takes advantage of the most significant parts of Vespiquen variants: its need to get a lot of Pokémon into the discard pile, while burning trough your deck quickly. With the use of cards like Unown, Acro Bike, Trainers' Mail and Battle Compressor, it's actually very likely to get your turn-one Vileplume and if you don't go first, you can even attack with Vespiquen on your first turn, thanks to Forest of Giant Plants.

But for every deck that has it upsides, there has to be a downside. And Vespiquen/Vileplume has one very big downside in form of its speed. Once you get out your Vileplume, every single Item card in your deck becomes useless. Every single Acro Bike, Trainers' Mail, Battle Compressor, Level Ball, and Ultra Ball that you didn't use will be stuck in your hand. It's pretty important that you plan out your turns and don't blindly rush through your deck. You have to be sure what to discard with Battle Compressor even before playing it or you might want to take a few more seconds to think about which card you want to take with Acro Bike or Trainers' Mail, just to be sure to get the maximum potential from your deck. Yveltal is a very good addition in my opinion, as it allows you to attack with other cards than Vespiquen. It can also turn the bad matchup against Aegislash-EX into a good one, thanks to the addition of Basic Darkness Energy. Vespiquen/Vileplume might not be one of the top contenders for big tournaments, but I still think that a few players will test it, so be sure to prepare for it.

Vileplume/Regice

Regice

Most people remember Hippowdon from Primal Clash, which had a very good run at U.S. Nationals and Day 1 of Worlds 2015, and Regice basically does the same thing, but as a Basic Pokémon. Hippowdon's advantage was its surprise factor—no one really expected it and just a few players were testing the deck for Worlds. For Day 2 of Worlds, a lot of players, especially from Europe, started picking up the deck, despite the fact that it would definatily be expected and they would lose their surprise factor. For Day 1, most players played Manectric, Seismitoad, or other EX-heavy decks, which Hippowdon completely took apart, but for Day 2, the metagame shifted to a more Night March-heavy metagame and every Hippowdon player left the day with a bad score. The only Hippowdon that almost made it into the top cut was the tech in Jason Klaczynski's Seismitoad deck, but you can't really count this as a Hippowdon deck.

For now, it seems like the Standard format is building into a metagame that favors Regice, with the only real threat being Night March, which gets shut down by Vileplume, or at least struggles against it. I'm still not entirely sure what would be a good partner for Regice, but I think you can either try out Pyroar as a Night March counter, or Giratina, thereby building this deck as Giratina/Vileplume deck with less focus on Giratina. For now, I'll just show you a straight-Regice list because I think that this is a version that's going to work well as long as you don't get paired against some weird rogue deck. And that's exactly the downside I want to talk about.

As you might know, Regice's second attack, Resistance Blizzard, deals 70 damage and blocks damage from your opponent's Pokémon-EX during their next turn. But what happens if you play against decks like Vespiquen that don't use any Pokémon-EX besides Shaymin? All you can hope for is that they keep whiffing their attackers or Energy thanks to Vileplume. Vespiquen might be an attacker that people definitely expect to be played, but there are also a lot of possible rogue Stage 1 and Stage 2 Pokémon, for example, the new Gyarados or Golurk from Ancient Origins. These cards might not seem very strong, but there are always some people that like to play fun decks, and you will have a hard time winning against them.

I still think that Vileplume/Regice has a huge potential to be a strong deck once you find the list that helps you beat some of those "struggle decks" I mentioned above. And you won't really have to worry about decks like that after the first few rounds of a tournament anyway. A very important addition to the deck is Silent Lab, at least if you're playing the straight version, because you won't be able to damage cards like Aegislash-EX without it. Pyroar is still going to be a problem, but I don't really think that it's going to see much play and you can still swap out your Silent Lab for a Hex Maniac (though I don't recommend it since you'll also block your Vileplume's Ability). Another nice card in this deck is Articuno, which can either be used as a second attacker, or just to finish off your opponent's Pokémon-EX after you've locked them with Regice. Using this strategy will allow you to win the game by Knocking Out just two Pokémon-EX. Overall, this deck seems like a pretty cool idea and it's at least worth a try.

Metal/Vileplume

The general idea of this deck is almost the same as the Regice variant.
You want to start using Dialga's Crono Wind as soon as possible to prevent your opponent's Pokémon-EX from attacking you, or even use Aegislash to limit their attacking options by blocking attackers that require Special Energy. The whole deck is a lot more consistent than the Regice variant once it's set up, but it also requires a lot to work to get that setup. You'll have to get out your Bronzong while your Items are locked, and your hand could possibly get very clunky considering the high amount of Pokémon this deck is using.

But decks that are clunky also have lot of options to react to different problems, and this deck covers almost everything pretty well. You have a lot of options to minimize your opponent's options by using Dialga-EX and Aegislash-EX, both of which can be set up very quickly with Bronzong and Double Colorless Energy. Both of them are also able to hit very hard, especially Dialga-EX. Aegislash-EX is theoretically able to one-shot every Pokémon except Megas (or Wailord) by using its Slash Blast attack, and on top of these very strong EX attackers, you also get a very strong non-EX attacker in Heatran. This list also trys to reduce the possibility of your Vileplume getting stuck in the Active spot, by playing a very high count of AZ, which can be used both to pick up damaged Pokémon or just to Retreat if you don't have any Energy attached to your Active Pokémon to Retreat it manually. This deck seems like a very good way to use Vileplume and once you get set up, most decks will have a hard time beating you.

Conclusion

Vileplume seems like a very strong card, especially now that so many decks rely on heavy Item lines to get set up, but that's also the problem you're going to face when playing Vileplume: you're limiting your deck to a very heavy Supporter-based list, which makes it impossible to have a high impact in the early game. Some of the decks don't rely on Items that much, but the Vespiquen and Accelgor versions won't work properly without using Item cards. But as I already mentioned, everyone can just theorize at the moment and we will have to wait until Regionals to see if Vileplume can live up to the hopes of some players, or if it will end up being a failure. Regardless, I think it's safe to say that Vileplume is worth a try and even if you don't win all of your games, just don´t give up, and work on your list to get the deck going.

                             Vileplume

Marc

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