Experts' corner

Daniel Altavilla

Gaia Bleeds: Anti-Groudon EX Strategies and Preparation for Nationals

Daniel talks Anti-Groudon-EX strategies and how to prepare mentally/physically for Nationals.

06/25/2015 by Daniel Altavilla


Hello, 60Cards readers! In my last article, I brought up decks for a card that not too many other people have touched on yet, M Latios-EX. After the Lysandre's Trump Card ban, which came out of left field, M Latios lost some of it's flare. (Literally!) But now, after what feels like the quickest shift of format in years, I'm back! I, just like some of you, am starting to get tired of only seeing Groudon-EX decks at League and in local tournaments. One thing we can all agree on is that one of the most widely seen decks leading up to and during the last week of Spring Regionals was Groudon-EX/Wobbuffet, and that is because it feels to many that Groudon is the safest play, which in turn is causing a cluster of netdecked lists to pop up everywhere. And even after the ban, the deck is still strong and widely seen in the format. The main problem with that is that playing Groudon against Groudon forces a stalemate, where one player must knock out a Wobbuffet first before any of the Groudons start being attacked, and now that Focus Sash is a prominent card in many lists, it makes for a very long, boring game. Aside from this issue, the deck is also just absolutely boring to play against, with Wobbuffet taking the early blows and then you either having the answer to beat your opponent's Groudon, or not, and losing in 3-4 turns. But I am here today to provide the panacea for Groudon; the be-all end-all of Gaia Volcano; the- well, you get my point.

Another issue that is to be addressed is the U.S. National Championship, which is inching closer to us by the day. With the amount of online players that use the Facebook group Virbank City as a medium to share their experiences and seek out advice, among other things, my eyes have been opened as to how many players will be attending this Nationals as their first ever Nationals. That being said, it seems appropriate to touch on the notion of preparing for Nationals in more ways than just building a deck. 
In this article, I've decided to provide you all with what I personally feel to be some of the best ways to go about playing against the monster of a deck that is Groudon. I'll also be sharing and discussing three decks that have at least a 60/40 matchup against Primal Groudon, and I'll recall one of my Nationals experiences as well as provide a bit of insight on how to reassure yourself that you're in the right mental and physical state for such a long, grueling tournament.

Now let's go into some things we can do to ease our pain within the Groudon matchup:

Basic Strategies to Best Groudon-EX

 Now, Groudon-EX has a very linear strategy. Wall with Wobbuffet, set up Primal Groudon as quickly as possible with a Focus Sash attached to it, get a stadium into play, and keep one there turn after turn. One thing Groudon decks tend to do is wait until their opponent knocks out Wobbuffet and then use Teammates, or Switch Wobbuffet out of the active position after setting up one Groudon and then using Lysandre to knock out whatever their opponent is building up. Essentially, playing Groudon is playing Solitaire. "Can I draw into the cards I need consistently?" "Can I manage to get off my Scorched Earth/Mega Turbo combo?"

The best way to fend off this autopilot deck is to diverge from what they want you to do. In Super Smash Bros.,a competitive fighting game, when you can't land a certain attack anymore because your opponent knows what to expect from you, a good way to psych them out is to switch up your attacks to ones you feel they wouldn't expect, while pretending to set up for the same attack you've been using. This rule holds true in the Groudon matchup as well. If your opponent expects you to leave up your baby Yveltal and pound away at Wobbuffet, hiding a Yveltal-EX behind the baby, then you've made yourself predictable and as a result you've made their game a ton easier. But if you decide instead to Lysandre the Groudon-EX while it's still a regular Groudon and wail on it with Hypnotoxic Laser and Evil Ball, you've then caused your opponent the trouble of needing to switch out, you've made Focus Sash almost useless on that Groudon, and you've most likely caused your opponent to want to search out Max Potion, which, if the Groudon had energy on it, will set your opponent back a turn or two. That is a beautiful thing to consider when facing any Groudon deck.

Another thing you'd best consider is running an Escape Rope in any deck you play, whether you "need" a switch card, or not. Usually, your opponent's field will consist of a P Groudon-Ex on the bench, a Wobbuffet active, and not much else, if anything else. This is the perfect time for you to get some damage on said P Groudon-EX, by using Escape Rope and then attacking it while it's vulnerable. If you take the heavy offensive and end up knocking out the only Groudon your opponent has set up, then you've pretty much won the game, or at least made it an uphill battle for your opponent.

One option, that isn't the best option but that can be rewarding if the opportunity presents itself, is to spam Lysandre to send up Groudon-EX early game and hit it, until your opponent can evolve it, and forcing them to either switch out or take a hit. Then, late game, force them to waste the rest of their switches by using Lysandre to send up their Wobbuffets, potentially causing them to deck out once they've used their last switch and they can't retreat Wobbuffet, what with most energies being attached to Groudon-EX, being discarded by Scorched Earth, or simply being Strong Energies, which are unattachable to Wobbuffet.

You can even just go on the offensive early and just play N each turn that you feel it'll be necessary, in hopes of running your opponent out of a playable hand for a turn or two. This may cause your opponent to retreat Groudon, scared of being stuck without a plan after it gets knocked out, which buys you a good 2 or 3 turns. This strat requires an incredible amount of luck, but with the natural inconsistencies a deck faces after being shuffled over and over, such as clumping energies, this can really cripple your opponent's plan.

Now that we've discussed how to defeat Groudon-EX decks, I'll share three plays that I feel shouldn't lose to Groudon very much, if at all.

3 Decks With Good Groudon Matchups

The decks I'm going to share with you all are ones that have the ability to whittle Groudon-EX down slowly and eventually knock it out before it can do too much, or that can OHKO a Groudon in one turn without worrying about Focus Sash. So without further adieu, here's the first deck:

Donphan here is one of the most awesome decks for Nationals. Not only does it have a great Groudon matchup, but it's also solid against Night March, Rayquaza, Raichu, and Metal! In testing, this deck has many an answer for the Groudon matchup. It boasts 4 Robo Substitutes, which cause Donphan to be untouchable unless the Groudon player can spam Lysandre. And you can make them discard their own stadiums knocking out your Donphan in one hit, meaning that you don't have to worry about them getting OHKO's on Donphan near the end of the game, unless they have 2 strong energies attached and can do 140 damage. Dodging and weaving all of this monstrosity's attacks is one of the unique things that truly gives Donphan an edge in this matchup. Oh, and you have Hawlucha too.



 4-4 Donphan

This is obviously the safest amount of Donphan to run. In the past, this deck never really needed more than a 4-3, but now it seems if you're forced to Juniper away a Donphan or something earlier on, you have only Sacred Ash to get it back. Also, a 4-4 is important so that your chance of getting 2 or more Phanpy out on your first turn is greater. If your opponent knocks out a Phanpy and you only have a Robo or a Hawlucha left, you can't do much.

1 Landorus

The Landorus is important to make Focus Sash worthless. Normally, you can hannerhead Groudon ~ 4 times, and then you'll have knocked out Wobbuffet and set up a Donphan or two that are ready to Wreck. And if your opponent doesn't want you to do this, and they start attacking with Groudon ASAP, then you simply get some damage off with Donphan and you probably win anyways! Landy is also useful against raichu, fairies, metal, and sometimes Night March.

3 Hawlucha

These babies are meant to slam down on your opponent's EX's without much consequence. Usually, when you Spinning Turn for 60-80, Hawlucha could come out the next turn and finish the job up quick. Your opponent also tends to forget about Hawlucha, due to worrying so much about how to get through to the pesky Donphans - especially if you don't bench it until you need it! This can be a pretty big sneak attack.

2 Shaymin-EX

Shaymin is really awesome in this deck. When you Korrina for Comp Search or Ultra Ball, and you discard important things for, say, a second Phanpy or your first Donphan, your turn would typically end right after, maybe with a Spinning Turn. But Shaymin essentially allows you to play Korrina AND Bianca on the same turn, meaning your turn is a bit longer. This in general is something Donphan has always lacked - speed. With a taste of speed in this deck, it seems to cover all of it's bases well, and that's why I'm an advocate for Shaymin-EX in Donphan.

3 Professor Juniper

3 Juniper is one of the better changes of this deck. One thing I've always disliked is having to Juniper away precious Strong Energies or Double Colorless energies simply because I've attached and now all I need is Donphan. Fitting a 2nd Shaymin-EX gives you an inch that Juniper can't, and with this, you'll definitely take a mile.

3 Korrina

I've seen Donphan decks run 4 of these and I've seen them run 2, but usually 3 is just the magic number for supporters like this one. It's simple - grab any fighting Pokemon your heart desires, and then grab an Item that you need. This card also gives you the freedom to run 1-of items such as Pokemon Catcher or Focus Sash, because they're so simple to grab out of your deck.

4 N 

The reason N is the only 4-of Supporter in this deck is because of the nature of Donphan. It has so many cards that you really want to use but that you can't always use because you have to Juniper them away or discard them by other means, but with N you pretty much preserve your resources while drawing into other cards - hopefully the ones you need!

3 VS Seeker

VS Seeker is normally a 4-of, but I have it here as a 3-of because in Donphan, you don't need VS Seeker most of the time. You often have a turn consisting of attaching an energy or setting up another Donphan and Spinning Turn-ing into a Robo Sub.

4 Robo Substitute

This metallic Clefairy Doll is the bread and butter of Donphan, and why he's such a good play nowadays. Hitting for 40-100 each turn, and then switching out to a card that can't be knocked out for a Prize? That's just too good. Also, these babies cause the game to take a very long time, considering your opponent must obtain ~10 knockouts a game. This is already tough as is, and in 50 Minute best of 3, you can win game one after maybe 25 or 30 minutes, and then spend a while on game two, and win just off time and one game. That's the beauty of Donphan's "Float like a Beautifly, sting like a Beedrill" mentality!

2 Ultra Ball/1 Repeat Ball

Two Ultra Ball and one Repeat is beautiful in this deck. You can Korrina for Phanpy and Repeat Ball, grabbing another Phanpy, or for Ultra Ball and Donphan, grabbing Landorus or something - endless options with these two different Balls. One thing you could consider is running a 2nd Repeat Ball or a third Ultra, but I'm not sure about the whole discarding two cards thing, because you really need your resources with Donphan.

2 Enhanced Hammer

 When building this list, I was thinking about Rayquaza-EX over and over again. "How do we beat something so crazy fast that has resistance to us?" And the answer came to me in the form of energy removal. If Rayquaza's speed is compromised, it has to be an easier matchup, granted it's still a bad one. Enhanced also works against Raichu, because when you knock out the Active Raichu and take a DCE off of the benched one, the Raichu player is pretty much out of options. Although, we weren't worried too much about Raichu in the first place. This strategy can work against Night March too, which is one matchup where Enhanced Hammer can make or break a game for you.

1 Head Ringer

Team Flare's Party Hat is necessary in this deck for the same reason as Enhanced Hammer - slowing Rayquaza. If you go first, and your opponent has Rayquaza on the bench, and you Korrina for a Phanpy and a Head Ringer, you can just slow your opponent down GUARANTEED by at least one turn. If you're opposed to this card, you can go ahead and switch it out with any one-of item, but this is the one that I chose for this list.

1 Computer Search

You can use Scramble or Dowsing in this deck as well, but I felt Comp Search is best because of Shaymin. If you REALLY need a card, you can Comp Search and then grab it out. And then Set Up for 6. And then proceed to explode.

1 Magnetic Storm

[Insert Throw-Up Emoji here] "MAGNETIC STORM? WHY?!" Here's why - Trevenant/Gengar is a top deck right now. With Magnetic Storm, you're letting yourself knock Trev out quicker, which is an issue you have with this deck. Against an EX deck that is resistant to you, it makes no difference, as Fighting Stadium gives you the extra 20 regardless, but against a non-EX such as Trevenant or Pumpkaboo, this card is so beautiful.

2 Double Colorless

Not sure if this even needs explanation, but I included it anyways just to explain the fact that you can use Shaymin's Sky Return to pick it back up and reuse it your next turn. This also allows you to prevent your opponent from using Lysandre to KO Shaymin for two prizes. With fighting energy, this strategy is kind of tough to pull off, as it takes two turns to - no pun intended - set up, so it's a blessing that Donphan runs two DCE.

Now that I've explained this deck, let's move along to the deck that European players blew our minds with these last couple of weekends:

This deck is one that really has a wonderful amount of synergy and that gained playability from the release of Shaymin-EX. Although this deck is scarier to use now that Trump is R.I.P., it's still a contender and will probably be seen quite a bit at Canadian and U.S. Nationals. Rather than explain this self-explanatory deck card by card, I'll go over some of the techs and then I'll run over some of the math that this deck has.


1 Kecleon 

Kecleon is a standout card in this deck. When lists were posted all over Virbank City, half the comments on the lists were "What does Kecleon do?". Well, faithful readers, the secret of Kecleon is to either attack a Raichu without losing one of your Raichus, getting the same job done; attack Mewtwo-EX for an OHKO if one showed up; Quaking Punch if you see it necessary to waste a turn doing that over attacking with Raichu; OHKO Rayquaza with it's own attack, and not lose Raichu - basically he's just a pawn so that you can hide a Raichu behind him and essentially have a fifth Raichu. Also, considering Rayquaza-EX gets cheeky sometimes and plays Altaria ROS to prevent Raichu from getting the OHKO, Kecleon is a solid answer to this, as he can hit the 240 with ease.

1 Ditto

Ditto is good because he can either become Raichu in a single turn or he can become Golbat in a single turn, and he takes up a bench space. He's more or less a Wally that adds 20 damage to your attack, and he is an amazing tech in this deck. Be wary of Garbodor though, as they'll make it impossible to Transform. But also don't forget that 20 damage is 20 damage, so even though he's a waste of a bench space, he's also important to the main strategy of the deck.

1 Scoop Up Cyclone

SUC is very useful. Pick up Crobat, pick up Raichu if it's asleep so that you aren't stuck for a turn, pick up a Shaymin and use Set Up, etc. No other Ace Spec is as good in this deck, which I've found in my testing. 

Other cards you can choose:

  • Ninetales PRC, to lock Sky Field into place.
  • Empoleon DEX/Archie's Ace in the Hole, to maintain steady draw under Item Lock.
  • Landorus EX/Fighting/Strong, to take the place of Virizion and maintain aggression instead of trying to protect yourself from Special Conditions.


Now let's get into the math behind the deck in regards to our main issue, Groudon, and some of the other decks we'll expect at Nationals.

Mew should have a Mu Alpha Trait!

 A deck such as Raichu/Crobat takes pride in it's ability to get knockouts left and right, which is what makes the deck such a top contender. The relentless aggression of this deck is very attractive, and the versatility of the deck is just a huge plus. Here's some math to give you an idea of exactly how boundless this deck's power is. 

P Groudon-EX: 20 from Golbat (shutting off Focus Sash), 30 from a Crobat, 8 Benched Pokemon and a Silver Bangle attached to Raichu = 240.

M Rayquaza-EX: 40 from 2 Golbats, 3 Benched Pokemon and a Silver Bangle = 220.

Raichu XY: 30 from Crobat, 20 from Golbat, 2 Benched Pokemon, no tool = 90.

Seismitoad-EX: Golbat, 4 Benched Pokemon, attacking twice = 100+80 = 180.

Joltik/Pumpkaboo: 30 from Crobat, 3 Benched Pokemon = 2 Prizes in one turn.

So as you can see, this deck doesn't need very much to plow through the heavily played Pokemon of this format, and it scoffs at Groudon, which is wonderful. The issue we have, though, is Landorus. If Landorus is around in flocks, due to Night March being such a threat, it would be almost impossible for this deck to thrive. Landy has the ability to take 2 knockouts in one turn, due to Hammerhead, so he can keep the prize trade even, and when paired with bats, he's pretty much unstoppable versus this deck.

Speaking of Landorus/Crobat, here's our next and final Giant Slayer:

Hereeeeeeee's Landy! If you didn't like the other two decks, you'll love this one. Landorus/Crobat has been a beloved deck ever since Winter Regionals, and it's been getting better with each set that's been released. This deck is the kind of deck that has an answer to pretty much anything that runs EX's. And the Public Enemy #1 of this article, Groudon, stands a slight chance against this deck. If you think about it, you're hitting a really solid 30 on Groudon first time you attack with Landorus-EX, which already shuts off Focus Sash. After this, you can add maybe 20-40 bat damage and another 30 and that's already 100. Another bat and a fully powered Hawlucha does the trick at this point, even on P Groudon-EX. Talk about spreading the joy!

Just as above, there isn't too much to explain with this deck, but I'll go over what's important.

3 Landorus-EX/2 Lucario-EX

My reasoning behind this line of EX attackers is the threat of Trevenant/Gengar. That deck has a pretty nice time smashing Landorus-EX/Crobat, as you can't play your important items down starting turn one. BUT, if it's possible for you to play them, and you manage to get out a Lucario-EX, you're starting to hit for 30/50/70, and going through resistance. Afterwards, you're hitting 40/60/80, applying resistance, but drawing until you have 6 in hand, so you can pretty much still get out what you need. 3 Landorus is extremely important now with Night March and Raichu being so prominent, and I feel that that shouldn't go down to two, but it's also important to keep your Lucarios at least at 2. You never want to be stuck doing 10/30/50 to Trevenant per turn while your opponent hits you for 60 and Poison, it's just a horribly slow loss for you.

4/3/3 Crobat

This thicker line of Crobat is due also to the heavy amount of low-HP Pokemon in the format. The more KO's per turn, the better off you'll be against these decks. Also, Bats go HAM against Groudon-EX, and making sure you have a supply of them is imperative.

1 Shaymin-EX

Shaymin is in here for the same reason as Donphan - getting a bunch of cards after burning your hand, and still being able to play Korrina or something. With the heavy Scoop Up line this deck has, more than 1 Shaymin isn't necessary, and not running one at all is just a wasted oppurtunity.

1 Focus Sash

This card is very helpful against M Rayquaza-EX and P Groudon-EX. If they can't OHKO you, there's a good chance you'll manage to KO them the next turn. And if you're damaged but not KO'd, simply Scoop Up, drop the Pokemon back down with the Focus Sash, and try again! This card is way too good to pass up right now in a format of OHKOs.

3 Ultra Ball/2 Repeat Ball

The 3/2 line is the one I used at Florida Regionals, and it never let me down. Granted, sometimes I'd have preferred an Ultra over a Repeat Ball, but Repeat Ball saved my skin more than once.

1 Escape Rope

If you refer back to the Anti-Groudon Strategies part of my article, you'll notice that I mentioned Escape Rope as a means of getting through Omega Barrier. The importance of Escape Rope in this deck is the ability to hit the Active for 90 with your whole board of Pokemon. If you can get at least one hit on a Groudon-EX, or any other EX for that matter, of 90 Damage, you'll have a very easy time finishing the job up with Bats and snipe damage. Escape Rope also can sometimes force up a Shaymin-EX or a Jirachi-EX, and deal enough damage to obtain an OHKO for 2 easy prizes.

While the deck may be one that people are expecting going into Nationals, it definitely will not be one that they can stop easily. The one thing Landy/Bats has always flaunted is the ability to pummel through to see the Top 8 in many Seismitoad-EX infested tournaments, and a good Landy/Bats player will NOT lose to "techs", such as Beartic FFI. I'd heavily reccomend this deck if you're having trouble with Groudon-EX in your League, and I'd 100% reccomend this deck for Nationals.

Wide-Angle Lens -

If you're expecting a bunch of Raichu decks in whatever Tournament you're entering, play. this. card. You can OHKO a Pikachu on the bench AND one in the active position first turn, meaning your opponent can do absolutely nothing on their next turn. This card is a 1-of tech that is very worthwhile against Raichu, and I feel that some people forget it exists.

Getting Ready for U.S. Nationals

Here we go, newer players! For those of you who have never been to a Nationals before, or for anybody who isn't exactly sure how to calm your nerves, I'll share an anecdote with you of my first year as a Master playing the National Championship with something to prove, and then I'll go into some detail on how to make sure you're calm and ready from the moment you turn that decklist in, to the car ride back home. 

Nationals 2012 - A Memoir

So it's Nationals and this guy walks up to your Girlfriend - what do you do?


 Sorry for the horrible quality, but that's pretty much me a couple years before 2012 Nationals. I was a kid with nothing to worry about except Pikachu, and I didn't know how it felt to pretty much trade fun for the heat of competition. Years pass, and now I'm a Master. I came out of Seniors boasting a Top 8 finish in Nats and a Top 32 finish in Worlds, and I was scared to be a Master, no doubt. All year, I was getting kicked around by the big guys, and I didn't have any fun anymore, I was too upset with my performance. So now comes Nationals 2012, and I had a sick Eelektrik/Terrakion list. I was ready to kick some tail and I was extremely nervous, because I wanted all the Masters back home to know that I'm not just "Danny, the aged up Senior", but instead "Danny, the respected Master". With all that on my plate, I was sweating before I even started Round 1.

Once Round 1 started, I faced an Empoleon/Terrakion deck. Just great! Empoleon was a horrible matchup for my deck, because I could KO them, but then they came back and hit me for heavy numbers, and I couldn't consistently trade prizes. After losing, I was extremely bummed. 

Our flashback takes us down to table 147 or so. I was still bummed, and I didn't expect to have fun. And then I had the time of my life. I beat my opponent, but he and I had a back and forth conversation that was absolutely hilarious and it really lifted me up. The rest of the day, my nerves were vanquished and I was feeling incredible. Needless to say, I performed better, and I felt better. And I realized the problem with a big tournament like Nationals is the trophy. You see it once, and it never leaves your mind. The glory, the amazing feeling in your gut when you hold it up, we all crave it. My 6th grade band teacher once told me, "Daniel, you can't be afraid to mess up, because that alone will cause you to do so. If you're confident and you tell yourself 'I've got this', then you most certainly will perform better". Paraphrasing, of course, but the message is still the same. I took the tournament a game at a time, and realized that at the end of the day, Pokemon is still just that - a game!

I managed to make top 64 at the end of it all, and I pretty much proved to my Florida competition that I'm as much of a threat as the rest of Florida, which was my only goal in the first place. And what made all that happen? My mindset after the fun time I had at table 147.

With all of this being said, let's discuss some of the things that await us and what we can do to make sure we're performing our best and that we're feeling our best.

Nerve-tional Championships

Two flights of Masters. 500 players a flight. And you, you are but one competitor in the biggest battleground of the year. But remember what my band teacher said, and hold that in your mind all day long. You'll be fine if you think you'll be fine! But just in case that's not enough to get you through your day, here's the 4 most important things to do:

  1. Have your deck and list ready the night before. If you don't, you'll be scrambling in the morning. Picture yourself with only one pant leg on, stuffing French Toast into your mouth, writing your Decklist out. Is it worth the hassle? In the end, it'll just make you more nervous.
  2. Get sufficient rest. If you don't feel that winning Nationals is more important than happy hour at Steak n Shake, be my guest and stay out until 4 A.M. But if you'd like to be a serious, well rested competitor, I'd advise getting your 8 hours! Just ask the 2011 National Champion, Justin Sanchez. In every interview I've seen him in, he mentions how he was well rested, and the results are there to prove that this is a factor.
  3. Eat a nice breakfast, and have a light lunch. Bringing a water bottle would be wise, too. If you're hungry during your match, you'll likely misplay. Don't lose a game over a rumbly stomach. Alternatively, if you eat too much, you're gonna have to use the bathroom and you'll be sidetracked with that, too. Just be wise with your decisions as far as food goes. Trust me!
  4. Keep your chin up. It's okay if you find yourself at table 147 for the first couple of rounds. Never give up until you have 4 losses, or too many ties, etc. You could always drop when you know you can't make it, but you should never drop when you're 0-2 and starting to feel unconfident, we all have a little bad luck sometimes.

If we all keep these small things in mind, they'll do a great thing for us on the big day. I wish everybody the best of luck with Nationals, and I hope you readers have a great time in Indy!

Closing Thoughts

I'd like to thank everybody who read my first article and gave me feedback, as well as Martin for giving me the chance to spread my word to all of you. I hope to leave a lasting mark on my readers, whether it be through a list that gets them through a tournament, or an idea that they keep in mind. And I wish a happy hunting to all of you who are going to finish this article, build one of the three decks above, and go smash every Groudon-EX deck you see. Good luck to everybody at Nationals, and as always, please make sure to give me feedback! Until next time, 60Cards readers!



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