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Steven  Mao

Rolling Elephants and Y-shaped Birds

In this article Steven sums up the current metagame of the Standard-Format.

01/12/2015 by Steven Mao


With Fall Regionals having ended, and City Championships still in progress; I feel it’s a good time to write a metagame summary, cataloging the most dominant decks over the past few months.


The release of Phantom Forces brought with it many new, and powerful cards, which are influencing the success of many decks; some old archetypes which are re-emerging, and others born with the mechanics offered in Phantom Forces. So if you want to know what the most popular decks are, and also what might be played in the near future - don’t go anywhere!





1. Most influential cards from Phantom Forces

2. Rolling Elephants and Y-shaped Birds

3. Other potential contenders

4. Conclusion

The most Influential cards from Phantom Forces:



1) VS Seeker

This card is by far the most played and influential card since the release of Phantom Forces. It doesn't only help with consistency issues during the deck-building process; before there were some issues with playing the right supporters if you didn't want to play Skyla or Bicycle, but also helps improve the flexibility of your situational supporters. Cards like Lysandre or Team Flare Grunt would often be discarded early in the game, with only Dowsing Machine to retrieve them. With the return of VS Seeker we are granted more virtual copies of these cards; given the opportunity to play situational supporters…situationally! The ability to play several Lysandre and Ns during the course of the game at as many times as you feel necessary has heavily impacted the way games play out, and also the viability of certain decks.

Jirachi EX aligns well with VS Seeker as you’re less likely to draw dead hands that contain only VS Seeker, and allows you to craft a game-plan as early as possible; it also allows you to grab specific supporters later in the game. Battle Compressor also becomes more versatile the more VS Seeker you play in the same build, because if you have both cards in your hand at the beginning of the game without an actual supporter, you can choose to play any supporter card you want, as long as it is not prized!


2) Manectric EX & Mega Manectric EX


Starting with the Phantom Forces era onward, Mega-Evolutions will see a lot more play; this is largely because of the Spirit-Link Tools which allow you to mega-evolve without ending your turn. Having Pokemon with 210+ HP and no real disadvantage is extremely strong with the current best example of this being Manectric EX. Manectric itself is already a pretty versatile card; able to deal with a format mainstay in Yveltal EX due to weakness; sniping the last bit of damage with Overrun, and taking advantage of 120 damage for just 2 energy on a tool’d Pokemon is pretty big game (all in one card). Though, the main star is arguably just Mega Manectric EX, which does 110 damage for 2 whilst accelerating energies from your discard pile. This card is the personification of pressure; it is able to do significant damage whilst preparing your next attacker, to insure you don’t lose any tempo if the Mega Manectric EX is knocked out. The 110 damage is also really relevant against Pyroar, which is one of the main reasons that archetype has been on the decline.

Add to all of this, zero retreat cost, and we have the total package, pretty much. In a nutshell, its simply the best best Mega-Evolution we have had until this point! (though, I am really looking forward to Mega Gardevoir!)


3) Robo Substitute

This little guy became best friends with Donphan as soon as it was spoiled. It makes the already hard to beat Donphan Deck with only Non-EX Pokemon even more evasive, as your opponent doesn't get a prize card from knocking out a Robo Substitute. This essentially gives Donphan additional turns to attack or setup for a large 'Wreck'. As your opponent has limited access to Lysandres, the Robo Substitutes WILL reward you with an extra turn, which is really a force to be reckoned with. It also helps slightly with the basic count during the early to mid-game, which increases the mileage on our Colress. Another advantage is that you don't need to start with Robo Substitute if it is in your starting hand without other basics. If Donphan is played, Robo Subistitute will almost always be paired with it. Truly a force to be reckoned with.


4) Head Ringer

Team Flare Tools can only be attached to opponent's Pokemon, and are helpful at restricting their options. Head Ringer increases the attack costs by one colorless, and Jamming Net lowers their damage output by 20. Head Ringer is (most of the time) superior to Jamming Net, as one turn of a missing attack is often just better than a lowered damage output. Head Ringer is especially strong against Virizion/Genesect decks as their main core is made out of Pokemon EXs. They can also forget to attach their own tools, and no Muscle Band attached to an opposing Pokemon means less damage for us. In the Standard format, getting rid of Team Flare Tools is particularly difficult as we don't have access to Tool Scrapper, which is far superior to Tool Retriever and Xerosic.

The sole existence of this card leads to different deck choices which are safer, and not as heavily affected by it. Decks with less or no Pokemon EX are often preferred as you don't need to worry about Head Ringer on your own Pokemon. For example, playing Virizion/Genesect is now much more risky, and if you want to counter it you need to include cards, which get rid of it, which in turn worsen your consistency.

5) Bronzong + Metal Type Pokemon


Since Eelektrik a few years ago, no reliable Stage 1 energy-accelerating Pokemon has been released. Bronzong is almost identical to Eelektrik except for the energy type it retrieves. Steel isn't a particularly bad type, but its attackers are not as powerful as Rayquaza EX and Raikou EX, in my opinion. Nonetheless Dialga EX is great at one-shotting 170HP EXs with a Muscle Band attached, and Aegislash EX is a really good metagame counter as it cannot be damaged by Pokemon with Special Energy attached to them. Cobalion EX is strong against decks relying heavily on Special energies and can also KO Safeguard Pokemon with its 'Steel Bullet' attack. The new Heatran is also a reasonable answer to Donphan doing 130 for two metal and two colorless energies, while being impossible to OHKO for the Donphan deck (outside of Wreck). There are of course many options of attackers with only colorless requirements for their energy cost, such as Mewtwo EX and Seismitoad EX.

This set definitely takes metal up in the tier list, and having a Pokemon with an ability to accelerate energy will only be positive while Garbodor seems to be on the decline. The auto-loss to Pyroar should be accepted though; especially given its dip in popularity.



Rolling Elephants and Y-shaped Birds:

Looking at US City Championship results, we can conclude that Donphan and Yveltal Decks are by far the most popular and successful decks in the current metagame. During Week 1 of CC’s Donphan was comfortably the most successful deck at most tournaments. Yveltal was only about half as successful as the rolling elephant. This quickly changed during Week 2 and 3 of Cities, where Yveltal decks gained more popularity, and in week 3 finally passed Donphan decks with overall 5 more Top 4 or higher placings.*

So we can clearly see a shift in the meta where the dominating elephant slowly gets countered out by his strongest contender, Yveltal. I'm sure this won't become a permanent state, but Donphan decks will start finding ways to outmaneuver the Yveltal by teching several different options. As these two decks are played so often, teching against them is usually a reasonable sacrifice; one that is unlikely to yield too many dead cards throughout the day.


Let us start off with a sample Donphan deck-list with my preferred choices.


This list is already adapted to the current metagame. Against Donphan, a copy of Kyurem can help aid us in baiting out other attackers, and is damaged, it often leads into their Donphan/Phanpy being brought up and knocked out. This is especially strong as Donphan has no way to OHKO Kyurem outside of a big Wreck. Simply ignoring Kyurem is a tough strategy for your opponent, as you can simply start chipping away with Outrage, and they are left with few other options.

We also have one Dedenne in this deck to prevent your opponent tanking up Yveltal EX and knocking out all our Donphans in one hit. Dedenne is especially dangerous with Silver Bangle, as it can OHKO a Yveltal with 3 energies for only a 1 energy investment! This can really throw your opponent off-guard, but its mere existence leads to a more conservative approach from Yveltal players, which increases Donphan's chances to win.

Hawlucha is also a really powerful card, which shines ever so brightly against Yveltal (as it ignores the resistance) and also against the mighty Seismitoad EX. Very handy that it can be searched for with Korrina and with a single energy you can hit for 60-100 damage if you have a strong energy and a Fighting Stadium in play.

Otherwise this is a fairly standard list with its core built around consistency. In my opinion, consistency is the most important factor players like to throw away in place of more convenient items or techs, which can be dead cards in other match-ups. Especially during best-of-one matches consistency is even more important, so sometimes luxury goods, should be replaced by more supporter cards which are never bad to have, or risk dead drawing with random tech in your hand.

Donphan is an extremely strong deck, with many strengths. It has endurance, consistency and versatility thanks to Korrina. I think you can almost describe the archetype as being unfair. Phanpy has 80 HP and Donphan has a whooping 130 HP, which is pretty unprecedented for a stage one. Combined with the Fighting Support from Furious Fists and the new Robo Substitute, Donphan really is rolling from City to City and winning a respectable amount of top placings.
It's only weak point is that it is very predictable and linear in how it functions. The problem however, is that with our current card pool, not many cards can deal as efficiently with Donphan as it can with the large majority of its opposition, obviously leading to its huge success.




Here is a sample Yveltal decklist with some personal preferences how I would play it: 

Same as the Donphan list, this is slightly adapted to the current metagame and has some strange cards, which I’ll explain in more detail.

The first unusual card which you’ll notice is Keldeo EX. Keldeo EX was almost a staple in most Yveltal and Darkrai Decks before the rotation. The reason for this is the popularity of Accelgor lock decks, and it helping you Dark Patch a Pokemon you started with, without the need of a switching card.

In this deck Keldeo EX acts mainly as a soft Donphan counter, as it can OHKO a Donphan with a Muscle Band or with Laser and Virbank. It sounds strange but it’s a little easier to pull off than with Yveltal (3 energies, Muscle Band and Laser or Laser + Virbank). It will also not get revenge KO'd by Dedenne if you have to Evil Ball to KO it. Keldeo's second job is to get out of status conditions, mainly Hypnotoxic Laser and more recently Malamar's ability which will attempt to keep you asleep. It helps a lot against Seismitoad EX when you are under Quaking Punch's item lock + Hypnotoxic Laser, too.

Secondly we play a single copy of Spiritomb, mainly against the Virizion/Genesect decks. Without Spiritomb it would be very difficult to win in a normal manner, given that we have already dropped the Garbodor Line. It can also be placed on the bench after we have used our Computer Search and helps with our Colress draw counts. If we really are fortunate enough to start with it, whilst being unfortunate enough to have no supporter, then we can use its attack to draw as many cards as our opponent has.

Most lists also don't play 3 copies of the the regular Yveltal, which I think is personal preference. I love how efficient Yveltal’s attacks are whilst being difficult to knock out; similar to Donphan. and ironically whilst facing Donphan. As we don't have Dark Patch anymore, Yveltal is our only way of energy acceleration/recovery and a great starter if you play second! Mid to late-game, it is not unusual to see swarms of it building up a Darkness Blade and doing 100 damage! It can KO Safeguard Pokemon efficiently and also Donphans with the help of Muscle Bands and Hypnotoxic Lasers. As we also play 4 Ultra Ball, 1 Computer Search and 9 Basic Darkness Energies the probability of getting energies into the discard pile is relatively high and can smoothen up the way we start the game.

The last unusual inclusion is that of Pokemon Center Lady. Pokemon Center Lady is a useful addition in the current metagame, especially if you can play multiple copies with VS Seeker. You are also able to search it out at the correct time as each Ultra Ball can search us our Jirachi EX from our deck. Most effective against Seismitoad EX + Hypnotoxic Laser locks, and also nice to have against decks, which can't OHKO our Pokemon (like Donphan, if it is not already wrecking havoc). It’s also reasonable against Mega Manectric EX, which is the worst match-up for this deck, as Darkrai can survive two hits from Turbo Bolt with the help of our good lady (180-110+60-110 = 20HP left).

Otherwise, it’s a fairly standard list with a clear focus on consistency. It has an auto-loss to Pyroar, but playing Garbodor is not really justifiable anymore as abilities aren't as dominant as before.

Other contenders waiting for the right time:


Looking at only two decks wouldn't be reasonable even though they're really dominating, and the margin between those two and the other decks is quite large. Staying rather consistently in third place, is the deck that took this year's World Championship in the Masters Division. Virizion EX/Genesect EX.



Virizion EX/Genesect EX

Virizion/Genesect is still considered one of the most consistent decks in the current metagame, but was weakened by the loss of Skyarrow Bridge and Super Rod. The modern Virizion/Genesect in the standard format plays Deoxys EX to handle Donphan better and the possible inclusion of Drifblim and Enhanced Hammers to profit from the huge amount of special energies played at the moment. Despite that, it has problems against Head Ringer, as it slows down what is already a pretty slow and fair deck; playing Tool Retrievers is simply not ideal, both lowering consistency and situationally viable.

Other than that, this deck does a pretty good job against Yveltal decks, and is okay against Donphan decks. It also has a very favorable Seismitoad match-up and is usually a safe choice if you expect a decent amount of Yveltal.


Seismitoad decks are similar to Donphan decks in that they both have a rather linear strategy. The deck still does well, but may falter against opponents that are more experienced in the matchup, as it’s actions are very foreseeable. Of course trainer lock is a force to be reckoned with, and certain decks struggle heavily against it. Though, at the moment almost every top deck has an option against Seismitoad ex, even under item lock.

Donphan can use Hawlucha and Korrina.
Yveltal EX is easily set up and can deal very well with Seismitoad (especially with Y-Cyclone).
Virizion/Genesect is pretty much a built in hard counter for Seismitoad decks. Close to an autowin, in my opinion.

Seismitoad is really a strong deck, but is dependent on your local metagame. I don't see it doing well on a constant basis - especially if people begin teching for the matchup.

Manectric Variants

Mega Manectric EX is one of the most versatile cards; almost splashable in any deck. It also has great damage output as well as a built-in energy acceleration.
Most popular partners for it are Kyurems and Fighting Type Pokemon. I personally prefer the Fighting Version much more as it is not as reliant on Manectric as the Kyurem version is. The Fighting version also has access to the strongest supporter (again, in my opinion) in Korrina, which is a major boost in consistency and increases the success rate of the deck very much. A huge bonus is the extremely favorable match-up against Yveltal as well as Virizion/Genesect.

Downside of the Manectric Variants are the Fighting weakness, which in this place and time can't be worse (rolling elephants everywhere).

I wouldn't say that Mega Manectric is a dead card against Donphan as it has 210 HP and Donphan needs at least a Silver Bangle or two strong energy to efficiently KO it. Still the trade off is really unfavorable.


Fairy decks recently have seen more play as it handles Donphan fairly well due to Aromatisse and Max Potion. It boils down to a test of endurance in which the fairy deck has the advantage in its flexibility.
Malamaar EX is also a new inclusion in the deck to make every energy drop a 50% chance that the opponent's active Pokemon stays asleep. Malamar can also act as an attacker but preferably the last one, due to the high energy requirement to justify the gamble.

The presence of Garbodor is also not as prevalent, which lets you safely Fairy Transfer throughout the tournament. Other than Donphan, any deck is able to KO Aromatisse easily with the help of Lysandre. The core of the deck is Aromatisse and without Fairy Transfer you're practically playing a simple and exploitable game with your basic Pokemon. It doesn't have great match-ups beside Donphan, but I won't deny that the right list can overcome that. Still, relying on Rainbow energies is rather risky due to the popularity of Enhanced Hammer.

Not a deck I would usually play, except when I expect a considerable amount of Donphan. One bad match-up may influence your tournament record and can lead to you missing out on top cut.




In conclusion, my opinion on our current metagame is that it’s very diverse. Despite two dominating decks there is plenty of room for rogues, and different variants of the top archetypes. We can observe a weakness triangle where Deck A wins against Deck B, but loses against Deck C (for example Manectric is good against Yveltal, but struggles with Donphan). The only exception to the weakness triangle would be Donphan, as it doesn't have very unfavorable match-ups due to its simple yet efficient strategy. Even a deck with a favorable match-up against Donphan can still lose to it, because of the difference in consistency and the weakness triangle syndrome.

Donphan with its powerful Fighting Engine and Robo Substitute not giving up any prizes means that it is a very hard to beat deck, which in turn does not seem to face any auto-losses.

This explains why decks built to counter Donphan can do well and should be considered when choosing your deck for a tournament. Yveltal and Fairy Decks are an example of this.

Nonetheless, I observe a slight change in the metagame. Recently, Donphan hasn’t been the deck to beat, but Yveltal has made a powerful entrance. Manectric-based decks and Virizion/Genesect may be more common at the upcoming City Championships and will definitely influence the metagame.

Regardless, I still believe that Donphan will return and remain in our metagame until it rotates. The deck is simple, powerful and effective which is why Donphan is clearly the deck to beat (even though the recent success of Yveltal). The reason for this is that Yveltal has some tough match-ups, while, as explained above, Donphan doesn't really.


Steven's advice


- Don't play a deck with a bad match-up against Donphan

- Make your list as consistent as possible

- Never overtech your Deck and keep a straight strategy visible

- Avoid auto-losses if possible


Even though these tips are obvious, they're so important that I decided to add them to this article. They're basic, but really have an impact on your overall performance, so please take some time and think about it. This concludes my meta-game summary, I hope this helped you in your deck-choice, while also in the understanding of the actual state of the game. If you liked my article remember to hit the thumbs-up button below and of course comment on the article itself!




*These information are taken from





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