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Alexander McNeill

Sweet Baby Ray

The Rise of Rayquaza

05/15/2015 by Alexander McNeill

Hey trainer! I’ve been involved within the competitive circle for 7 years however most of you are probably not familiar with me. My name is Alex McNeill. I have been playing competitively in the Northwest since 2009. As of now I have about half a dozen City Championship wins, more City Championship top cuts than I can count, multiple Battle Roads and League Challenge wins, and a handful of State Championship and Regional Championship top cuts, most significantly a top 8 performance at the Oregon Regional Championships in 2011. This season is my return from a two year tournament hiatus I took from playing Pokémon to pursue other life goals. Now that I am back I am looking forward to getting out there and hitting the tables.

 

Introduction

Now, I’m not one to stand in line to buy a ticket for the hype train. Sure, I get excited when a new set comes out that offers some unique cards or fresh new mechanics but after I allow myself a day to get that all out of my system I maintain a skeptical stance. For me Pokémon is somewhat of a science. I don’t like to base my judgment of new cards on anecdotal evidence or on the bountiful online chatter; that is not to say that I ignore said chatter but simply take it with a grain of salt.

This time around after getting all of my pre release jitters out I find myself still enamored with a particular combination of cards coming out in our next set, Roaring Skies. After wracking my brain and writing myself pages of notes I still find myself drawn to one card in particular. In just a short couple of weeks we will be seeing a new jefe in town and I genuinely think this one is going to make an impact. That card is Rayquaza-EX. 

The Jolly Green Giant 

In order to clarify things there are multiple Rayquaza-EX in Roaring Skies, each with different attacks and typing. Specifically the Rayquaza-EX I will be referring to throughout this article is Rayquaza-EX ROS 75.

The reason this particular Rayquaza stands out is simply that it has colorless typing and decent attacks. Intensifying Burn in particular is effective. Ten damage is pittance but up against an opposing EX Pokémon the damage is increased to 60 for the cost of one colorless, allowing it to be splashable into almost any deck. Combined with Hypnotoxic Laser and Virbank City Gym Rayquaza can be very aggressive and maintain significant early game pressure. Although Rayquaza has a second attack I would not personally use it often. A cost of three colorless for 100 damage is decent but the painful drawback is that the player must discard the top three cards of their deck; often a risky move.

What makes this card particularly impactful and allows Rayquaza EX its most potential is Mega Rayquaza-EX. Again there are multiple Mega Rayquaza-EX cards in this set and although 300 damage is pretty sweet I am discussing the Mega Rayquaza with the Emerald Break attack, numbers 76 and 105 respectively. With a full bench Mega Rayquaza-EX can attack for 150 damage for three colorless energies. Mega Rayquaza also has the Delta Evolve ability allowing it to evolve on the same turn Rayquaza-EX comes into play, including your first turn.

 

Rayquaza Deck Variants

Vanilla Rayquaza/Shaymin

Below is a very basic Rayquaza-EX list. It has been tuned with consistency in mind with very little focus on techs or meta context. The goal of this list is to simply get Rayquaza on board as fast as possible and maintain consistent OHKO’s. It is a great preliminary list but would need to be adapted to personal preference.

 

Rayquaza/Virizion

This particular list is intended to counter a meta with a heavy concentration of Seismitoad-EX by utilizing Virizion-EX both as a type counter and for energy acceleration in the early game. Special condition immunity and Red Signal are an added benefit.

 

It should also be noted that G-Booster can be a viable option in some circumstances. Personally I believe that given the high damage output of M-Rayquaza-EX it is not a necessary inclusion.

 

Dark Types

I am not particularly fond of this combination, however it has been frequently discussed among players online. While both M-Rayquaza-EX and Yveltal-EX based decks are simply better combinations to include with Rayquaza-EX. Consistent free retreat is the one saving grace this list has going for it, which in a speed based deck is less necessary. Recovering from poison will likely be the only need to retreat. Seismitoad players will take advantage of this fact by locking your Keldeo-EX in the active spot and removing the dark energy attached to it. Yveltal XY can accelerate energy attachments to M-Rayquaza-EX but it is not worth an attack for your turn with the use of Mega Turbo. Overall the verdict for the addition of dark type support in Rayquaza decks is that it simply is not necessary.

A huge attraction to Rayquaza-EX decks is that your strongest attacker utilizes a colorless attack cost, meaning Rayquaza decks have an incredibly wide range of flexible structure as far as typing goes. You could build the deck around Aromatisse XY’s ability Fairy Transfer, or go another route and play Seismitoad-EX in the deck. With the Delta Evolve ability and Rayquaza Spirit Link you can even choose to use Super Scoop Up to return a damaged Rayquaza to your hand and evolving it in the same turn. You even choose to use disruption cards like Crushing Hammer, Enhanced Hammer, and Head Ringer. It is up to you, trainer!

 

Supporting Players

Rayquaza-EX and Mega Rayquaza-EX are both powerful cards together but I want to discuss other cards released along side them in Roaring Skies that will make it a potential top tier deck. As I have said before I am pretty skeptical when it comes to new cards, if it were not for the synergy Rayquaza has with these cards I believe it would have just missed the mark.

Skyfield - Roaring Skies

Skyfield is the bread and butter of this deck and allow it to reach its full potential. While Skyfield is in play it allows both players to increase their bench size to eight, an additional three spaces. This allows Mega Rayquaza-EX to increase the damage potential of Emerald Break from 150 to 240 with a full bench, enough damage to comfortably knock out everything but the likes of Wailord-EX in one hit without the use of any damage modifiers for the cost of only three colorless energy.

Shaymin-EX - Roaring Skies

This card is nostalgic for me personally, however at the same time it brings grievous pain to my wallet. When I began playing competitively in 2009 I was scrambling to get my hands on Uxie LA, a card with an incredible similarity to the new Shaymin-EX. It is especially significant because it means that ability based draw power is back, allowing players to rely less on Supporters to access resources. I sincerely expect to see this card played in nearly every deck next season.

Altaria - Roaring Skies

Both Rayquaza and Mega Rayquaza are weak to lightning. Pokémon like Manectric-EX and Raichu are huge threats, Altaria ROS takes care of that problem. Altaria’s ability Clear Humming protects all of your colorless Pokémon in play from weakness. Combined with the Delta Evolve ability allowing Altaria to be evolved on the same turn Swablu comes into play covering weakness for your Pokémon is easy.

Winona - Roaring Skies

Winona allows you to search your deck for three Colorless Pokémon and put them into your hand. Meaning you can search your deck for three in any combination of Rayquaza-EX, Mega Rayquaza-EX, Shaymin-EX, Swablu, and Altaria. It is not unreasonable to use this combination to fully set up a Mega Rayquaza and use a Shaymin-EX as draw power for the turn. Winona is also a great card for filling your bench when Skyfield is in play.

Mega Turbo - Roaring Skies

Mega Turbo allows the player to attach one basic energy from the discard to a mega evolved Pokémon. With one single Mega Turbo and a Double Colorless Energy Mega Rayquaza can be fully powered to attack and since Mega Rayquaza-EX can evolve on your first turn it is entirely possible to attack with it on your first turn using Rayquaza Spirit Link.

Colress - Plasma Storm

is already a staple in most meta decks but it gets a boost thanks to Skyfield. When Skyfield is in play and both players have a full bench Colress allows the player to draw 16 cards! The likelihood of this being a common occurrence is not huge but I believe we will be seeing 10-12 draws fairly often.

Raichu-XY

Raichu XY is by no means new to the current meta but it gets a huge boost thanks to Skyfield that may make it more popular. Aside from being able to attack for a single Double Colorless Energy and hit Rayquaza-EX and Mega Rayquaza-EX for weakness Raichu XY gets the added benefit of being able to do a base of 160 damage with a full bench when Skyfield is in play. Raichu will be big trouble for any Rayquaza player that doesn’t include Altaria ROS in their deck.

 

Rayquaza's Weaknesses

Rayquaza’s weaknesses are manageable and can for the most part be avoided with careful decision-making:

Stadium War

Because the damage from Emerald Break is contingent on keeping your bench well stocked having Skyfield replaced by a different stadium is detrimental to this deck’s success. If Skyfield is removed Rayquaza’s damage potential is maxed just outside of the necessary range needed for consecutive one hit knockouts. Maintaining a bench size of 7-8 Pokémon during a stadium war throughout an entire game may become very taxing. Lysandre’s Last Resort helps in returning discarded Pokémon from the replacement of a Skyfield but consistently getting the Pokémon back onto the bench may be this decks biggest fault. High quantities of basic Pokémon will be necessary to quickly recover lost bench spaces. I imagine Rayquaza lists will be especially tight as players need to find the balance between high quantities of Pokémon and necessary trainers.

Lightning

Lightning type Pokémon like Raichu and Manectric-EX are huge threats to Rayquaza because they can both score one hit knock outs for very little energy attachment. Altaria ROS is a direct solution to Rayquaza’s weakness but variants that do not run Altaria will have players walking on thin ice. I would not be surprised to see several different lightning types used in Rayquaza decks to counter the mirror match.

Ninetales PCL

Ninetales PCL is a double-edged sword for M-Rayquaza-EX. With an ability that can lock the current active stadium in play it can be worked both to your advantage or to permanently restrain M-Rayquaza-EX by reducing your damage output just below the threshold of a OHKO. On the other hand the Rayquaza player can also run a Ninetales of their own in order to lock Skyfield in play forcing the bench size to remain a consistent eight maximum spaces for the remainder of the game, or until the Ninetales is knocked out. Some clever planning will need to go into executing the correct outcome in a situation where both players are running Ninetales. Setting up a Ninetales will need to take priority of M-Rayquaza-EX with the risk that the Rayquaza player could potentially lose the game before it begins. One could also forgo the ordeal of Ninetales entirely by running Garbodor. Garbotoxin disables the use on Ninetales’ stadium locking ability but also Altaria’s ability to protect Rayquaza from lightning damage. I believe as players are beginning to get used to this deck and a variety of list begin to surface that many players will get caught off guard.

Seismitoad-EX

We just cannot get past this card, can we? Although the Rayquaza player has a significant damage advantage and the ability to land multiple consecutive OHKO’s against Seismitoad-EX one should be careful and not allow them to get too cocky. There is a combination of threats that Seismitoad decks present. First of all, the ability for them to remove your energy with relative ease. Since Rayquaza decks run Double Colorless Energy and require three energy to attack the Rayquaza player will need two turns of energy attachments minimum under trainer lock without the use of Mega Turbo. In this time it is very probable that the Seismitoad player will remove some or all of the energy attached to your active Rayquaza-EX. The second major threat is their use of stadiums. If the Seismitoad player is running Ninetales, prepare for a tough fight. Regardless, if Skyfield is not in play there is not a single Pokémon in a basic Rayquaza deck that can hit for a knock out. Even with a high damage threshold if the Seismitoad-EX can be removed through the use of Super Scoop Up, Scoop Up Cyclone, or Cassius, you will need to start all over again. Aside from running grass type Pokémon in your Rayquaza deck there are a few ways you can outplay a Seismitoad deck. If you begin by attaching your energy to a benched Rayquaza-EX Team Flare Grunt cannot target you. When possible it is advisable in this situation to also attach basic energy before Double Colorless Energy lest you run the risk of being targeted by Xerosic or Enhanced Hammer. Keep in mind that Crushing Hammer will have an effect regardless of the energy on your Pokémon or their position on your board. Your best chance is to get your energy on the field as fast as possible in order to outrun their chance of flipping heads. M-Rayquaza does have a few things going for it in this matchup. A high HP makes prize taking difficult for the Seismitoad player and the speed of Rayquaza from Delta Evolve makes it entirely possible that you could outrun your opponent’s slow setup, taking the game in a few short turns. In desperate situations I would not recommend turning to Rayquaza-EX’s first attack, Intensifying Burn in order to do 60 for a one turn energy attachment. A Seismitoad player can easily remove the Seismitoad-EX from play, wasting several of your turns and irreparably damaging your Rayquaza-EX in the process.

Exeggutor ROS

Against my personal judgment I have decided to include Exeggutor ROS, however I do love the connection to Taylor Swift. For a single colorless energy this Pokémon can do 20 damage times the number of colorless Pokémon on your opponents field. Again, this Pokémon gets a damage boost from Skyfield. With a full bench of eight colorless Pokémon AND a colorless Pokémon in the opponent’s active spot Exeggutor can swing for 180 damage, enough to knock out an un-evolved Rayquaza-EX or a non-EX Pokémon. With careful decision making when benching your Pokémon the Rayquaza player should be able to avoid suffering a one hit knock out at the hands of Exeggutor. It is for these reasons that I feel highly skeptical about the viability of Exeggutor as a worthwhile counter to Rayquaza-EX and Mega Rayquaza-EX.

 

Conclusion

There you have it, the dragon is back and it is making itself at home with a fast and aggressive deck and relatively understated weaknesses. The complementary card pool for Rayquaza-EX is vast. It will take a more than reasonable amount of deck building skill to include every necessary tool to successfully pilot. From a creative perspective I am excited to see what the community builds with Rayquaza. Because of its diverse typing any Pokémon can be played along side it and with a healthy collection of support cards even a mirror match can be unpredictable. My honest critique of this deck is that it will more than likely reach full potential next season after our annual rotation, especially under the assumption we lose cards like Hypnotoxic Laser, which will in turn put Seismitoad-EX in check. Expect to see many variants of this deck in tournament play at the Regional Championships this Fall. Thank you for your time readers, and good luck in the 2015 Spring Regional Championships.

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