Experts' corner

Daniel Altavilla

Diglett Dig - A Trio Trio Trio of New Options

Danny goes over the Shedinja Control deck and his experience with it at CA Regionals.

05/23/2019 by Daniel Altavilla

What’s poppin 60Cards readers, we are sandwiched between two Regionals yet again, having just finished Santa Clara with a couple of weeks to prepare for Madison. There is also the Origins Special Event and NAIC that are all using the Standard Unbroken Bonds format. When you consider how many events are happening so close to each other, you can infer that the meta might just keep countering itself week after week. You could even argue for the sizeable card pool we have now justifying a constant switch in how decks are played. For example, a ReshiZard deck won the event. It feels obvious that ReshiZard with the Green’s engine is the fairest deck for the format and allows enough room to tech for any meta you expect. This means you have limitless options when considering the next meta, and you can just switch cards out based on what you want to lose to. Most decks can do this, with Zoroark-GX switching up the supporting Pokemon, Control and Stall shifting lists around as far as which Pokemon and combos they are utilizing, and the big Tag Team decks cycling through the endless tech options.
 We have a strong chance for the meta to be heavily influenced by the last event’s success and to take it a step further there can be people trying to counter what we just saw being played. There is not much time for League Cups in between to solidify what the more popular decks will be, so we must be as honest as possible about what decks are the easiest to counter and the most likely to be countered so we can follow the meta trends properly and pick the best option. It feels like people were mostly prepared for Vileplume at Santa Clara. There were a ton of random decks and unexpected decks being played, and even those decks were capable of pulling out some big finishes because the meta just wasn’t ready for them.
 That being said, I’d like to argue that a deck so abstract as the Shedinja Control archetype is capable of remaining relevant throughout multiple weekends in the same way. The deck can use plenty of different strategies to reach the same win condition, so it is very easy to adjust based on what you expect at the next event. I’d like to look back at this past weekend in Santa Clara to recount exactly what happened with my own tournament, where I ended up with a 4-3-2 record, and then go into how the Shedinja Control deck can change going into the future. It is important to be constantly updating a deck to work out the issues, and I think I learned a decent bit of the deck during this event.


 Shedinja Control: The Perfectly Imperfect Deck

 Something about a deck that can never lose a game has to be too good to be true, right? There’s no way that a deck is capable of reaching the same abstract win condition every game as consistently as possible using a myriad of tier 2 or worse cards, that can’t be anything more than a gimmick, right? It feels like the deck is pretty good at hitting the win con it offers and that it can get there consistently a decent amount of the time, but there is always a silver bullet with these gimmicks that Pokemon seems to throw into our laps from time to time. The deck is kinda hoping your opponent doesn’t play 4 Guzma and a Blower, while still trying to hit the optimal board state, and can lose it’s win con if even set back for a single turn. This is going to make for a pretty difficult win condition to reach, and it means that peoples lists can be built to just counter the deck with even as much as a Pal Pad or an Oranguru ULP.  
 The deck may be too good to be true, but for the first event of the format we built the deck with Hiker/Trumbeak, making it capable of winning the game by putting even a single Guzma in the Lost Zone, or coming back in games you fell behind if you found a couple Guzma. This strategy was very difficult to pull off and I can’t actually recall using it more than once in the whole event, which was mostly due to Hiker being a Supporter card. Perhaps Chip Chip Ice Axe would have been able to handle the problem a bit better, allowing you to Mars your opponent and still find a Guzma within the top 3 cards to Lost Zone with Trumbeak. This would definitely have made it easier to arrive at our win condition while still speeding up the game state, and maybe even feeding our opponent dead cards in the early stages of the game, because as long as they aren’t drawing a Guzma there are still some in deck to Trumbeak.


 Even with that change, the deck had the issue of some opponents who were clever enough to realize the matchup was an autoloss that would just come up to the table ready to force a tie. Even playing at legal pace, the deck on our end takes a bit much to get going, so it is hard to force the game to end. It’s also hard to use a win condition besides Mars in general just because the lock takes so many cards and you really have to dedicate a lot of your options to fixing the lock when your opponent breaks it. It is also difficult because the lock isn’t really burning up resources for your opponent so you can’t just retreat to a Durant and start swinging away or something, you just have to keep Oranguru active every single turn and keep going for the Mars spam. If your opponent really wants that tie, they can just refuse to ever take a Prize and only hit into your Shedinja’d Pokemon, not allowing you to Mars at all. This will almost always result in a tie because you cannot Mars and Brocks in the same turn, and they are still forcing you to pop another Shedinja to get the lock back going, so you still have to work out your Sprints and your deck shuffles and all of that.
 Does that mean the deck just simply can’t work? It definitely feels like it sometimes, it almost seems like the kind of deck where if your opponent won’t just be kind enough to concede once they recognize your win condition, you aren’t promised to win a single game.

My rounds in Santa Clara were pretty straightforward, and not worth going into a ridiculous amount of detail on, but there were a couple rounds where I could’ve squeaked out a win but made a huge misplay. My misplay was this: I used Hiker when my opponent had a 5 card deck, and a small hand. I was able to confirm through the rest of the cards in deck that there was no way for my opponent to prevent deckout at this point, so I kept going for the combo. They had 3 prizes remaining as Malamar and ran out of energies to keep any actual attacks going. At this point, I should’ve sat back on a single Brock’s, passed 5 turns in a row, and let my opponent just not have enough turns to take enough Prizes to win the game. I didn’t recognize the play, but it can make 5 turns pass in a minute compared to 3 or 4 minutes and can be the difference between a win or a tie.


 To put it bluntly, I don’t think a deck that has to require that kind of perfect knowledge on how to squeeze out your win con is even that good in the first place. Maybe when this happens your opponent compensates for your lack of turn by starting to have more elaborate turns themselves, who knows? This is an uncomfortable situation to knowingly put yourself in, and the main reason I think the deck is going to take some major updates to actually get the job done.  
 Either way, my event consisted of multiple opponents going for the tie, one complete autoloss, and a couple opponents that either never saw the deck’s win con and kept playing draw supporters or just chose to scoop it up early instead of playing to force a tie. Add on the couple of Ties I received due to the misplay from above, and you reach the mediocre 4-3-2 record I achieved. Something else noteworthy is that if you drop a game in Top Cut, you are fully incapable of accelerating 3 games all the way to your full win condition. That is another issue with the deck that is going to hinder its success and it is exactly what happened in Santa Clara to both of my Dead Draw Gaming teammates, Jimmy Pendarvis and Azul GG. They simply dropped a game and then could obviously never match the Zapdos decks in Prize race, which eventually caused them to lose the entire set through time.
 Both of these situations remind me of the Sableye Garb lists from the past that had no real win condition and as a result suffered a similar fate. It is the kind of deck that is really broken in a vacuum, but might not be able to actually get there in a tournament setting. I think I have found a new way to pilot the deck that can fix these issues, and I have been messing around with it a lot to see if it truly works. I will discuss this more later on, though.

 My Santa Clara Regionals: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

 I had a bit of a hard time working through some of the aforementioned situations, but that doesn’t mean it was a completely hopeless day. There was still a bit of the element of surprise on my side, which won’t be there anymore, because for a couple of my wins I had an opponent that would just want to play the game out to fruition before realizing they couldn’t get there. That was something that gave me a couple of wins but it wasn’t going to be the case for the entire event. I had a couple opponents who had enough outs and it came down to whether I could successfully achieve the Hiker/Trumbeak combo, which I was able to do a couple times. Most of my opponents tried to play at a borderline stalling pace, which was a shame because it made it so that if I dead drew I would just not have a chance. I’m pretty sure that I did not end up dead drawing against any fast decks, so I never really had to worry about losing that way.

 One of my rounds was a 60-card mirror against Caleb Gedemer, which ended up being him swinging with Persian and me not being able to hit it fast enough to do my own Persian strategy, and then me throwing by leaving a Brock’s Grit in my deck to get Hiker/Trumbeak’d. This is something I completely forgot about in Game 2, but honestly I never expected to win the series anyways after Caleb ran away with Game 1 and I dragged it on for a couple of extra turns trying to figure out what options I had. This loss was unexpected, and mostly just a toss up.
 My ties were both based on the same misplay, or on my opponent wanting to stall me out from the beginning, and my other loss was from a Slowking deck that autowon me because they played multiple copies of Judge and ran Slowking LOT to Memory Melt away my vital resources. This matchup was a shame to even have to see, but the West Coast was apparently too unpredictable to prepare for this one!


Not a big deal though, I think it was interesting enough to see how the deck worked out and all of the heavy thinking that went into building the list, and I do not regret playing the deck under any circumstance. It was a fun weekend, I had VIP for the weekend, sat next to the homies and played a ridiculous deck, and we even had 2 people in top 8! That sort of proves that when you are surrounded by players who all have to go 4-1 to make Top 8 and ties stop mattering, the deck can succeed because it simply has to do what it was built to do which works in such a large percentage of games.

Enough of the deck’s previous rendition though, it is time to delve into the options we have available to change the deck around a bit.

 Digging These Changes

We have a couple of different builds  of the same deck finding success, with a version running a 1-1-1 Rhyperior line and a Devolution Spray Z to keep milling out 3 and then just being a tank, a version with Giovanni’s Exile and Diglett UNB to sort of create a Trick Shovel loop with Chip Chip Ice Axe, which can discard a Guzma or a Field Blower, and even a version with Durant to accelerate the deck out condition and be a different attacking option every couple of Turns to try and win the game that way. All of these options seem pretty interesting, with the most vulnerable of them being the Rhyperior, but all accomplishing something similar even to the Trumbeak Hiker lock. This means that there are too many ways to possibly change the deck, which means only one thing: The deck is so strong that one of these options will end up being correct, and when that option is discovered, we are going to have a real monster on our hands.


 The deck is probably going to be best off using the Diglett combo, because you want to be able to just accelerate deck out while still using Oranguru every turn as your attacker. This way you can actively look at 3 cards a turn to try and dig out Guzma or Field Blower, and then just keep milling them away. If you hit at least one Field Blower or Guzma, you are probably just going to win that game. Something that comes up from the double top 8 in Santa Clara is the chance for people to just be fed up with the deck and run two Field Blower. This is something that was probably going to happen without Shedinja existing anyways, but it certainly does not hurt the case for double Blower. Some people already ran the count in Santa Clara, including fellow writer Jose Marrero, who bubbled to ninth place.
 Something that can combat the potential 4 Guzma 2 Field Blower is Slowking LOT and switching to Water energies, because you can try to pluck one of those cards out of your opponent’s hand if you are not finding it in the deck. The only issue with this is you need to be able to keep your Ditto Prism alive, which is usually the first target for most decks to Guzma up for a KO. It is still a viable option though, and I think it still autowins Vileplume so it’s an easy cut from Persian into Slowking.

 With these changes, I’m pretty close to just moving from the list we played to a more aggressive and quicker version of the same lock. It has some pretty straightforward answers to the more straightforward counters, and isn’t worried about as many of the same problems as the last iteration of the deck. It is definitely going to be more consistent with 2 copies of all the relevant lock cards in the deck, and you are already pushing the deck to the limit with the 12 Ball cards and 4 Acro Bikes, so we are definitely looking at a monster. The deck is going to win games it is supposed to win and lose games it was going to lose, it is a pretty transparent deck as far as what you win against and what you lose to and if there is a matchup that you can win through Chip Chip Giovanni’s and Slowking, that just comes down to variance and usually with the more copies available for your opponent to access, they can clump a couple at a time in hand for a stronger chance to Slowking into one, and if your opponent isn’t drawing into them and you are Chip Chipping to control their hand this entire time, you can simply just set it up that late game there are a ton of Guzmas and Blowers in deck for you to eventually just Giovanni/Diglett into. The deck is definitely in a better position with these changes, even if it is not as smooth with the +2 draw from Mars, it is a better win condition and a more aggressive deckout option.

 That is going to wrap it up this time around, it was fun talking about Santa Clara and my experience with the deck, because I definitely learned a few things that perhaps would’ve come up in more overall games played or if we had actually timed 50 minutes for our games with the deck to see if it was reasonable, but it was still cool to see how the deck can grow. I’m excited to see how else the deck can grow and if anybody will come up with a way to get the deck so good that Pokemon wants to ban something from the deck. That would be the dream! The deck definitely went through a couple of stages, but you always have to learn to crawl before you can start Sprinting, right? Consistency, more copies of the relevant cards in your deck, and a gameplan that is executable the same way every game is something that you really want out of a deck like this and I have proposed a list that is as close to that as I can see possible right now. Thanks for checking out my article, any feedback or comments would be appreciated and if you ever have questions you can comment here or message me on Facebook. I currently offer coaching and you can comment here or message me on Facebook if you have any coaching inquiries. Check out Dead Draw Gaming’s website for any of your Pokemon needs. You can also check out my stream at Until next time, 

- Danny Altavilla

[+29] okko


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