Experts' corner

Daniel Altavilla

The Szechuan SAUCE - List Dump, Hindsight and Foresight, Morty!

Daniel Altavilla reports on his last two Expanded tournament decks, fixes them and discusses future plays for Expanded with a sprinkle of Standard.

04/15/2017 by Daniel Altavilla

Hey 60Cards readers! Daniel Altavilla here, fresh off of an interesting occurrence in Portland. It seems that the meta was defined in Expanded for once! Our results from St. Louis showed us that M Rayquaza-EX was a great deck in a meta that was mostly blind. Due to the lack of Expanded events, we only had articles, Youtube videos and general knowledge of the history of Expanded to go off of for this tournament. That's why a deck like M Gardevoir-EX was such an attractive choice for the tournament-- when you aren't sure what the meta is, you want to be able to beat as much as possible. These two Mega Pokemon aren't the only ones that received a buff in a blind meta--Volcanion-EX was also able to pick up some steam (pun absolutely intended) and took a 3rd place finish. 

The interesting thing about this tournament is that in blind Expanded fashion, there was a solid presence of each archetype in the room. We even received some new archetypes and some new ways to play old ones, with Aerodactyl/Maxie's or Vileplume/Lurantis and with Vespiquen/Herdier or Yveltal/Maxie's with an Oranguru tech. It goes to show that when you face 2 or less of each deck on a given day, you're bound to have a hot run if your deck allows!

Now, not to throw shots at fellow 60Cards writer Alex Wilson, as I've faced him before and he is a strong player, and definitely not throwing shots at veteran player and HeyTrainer mogul John Kettler,  and lastly not taking a stab at Rahul or John S., but I feel that the top 4 in St. Louis was a fluke. Alex played M Rayquaza to a 27-point finish in day 1, meaning he needed to go 1-3-1 day 2 in order to solidify a spot in top 8. It's pretty hard to not go 1-3-1 with a deck that has half a game plan of just going first and using Hex Maniac. His Day 1 success may have been a result of hitting a field filled with Volcanion, M Gardevoir-EX and other fringe decks that don't often see play. I would say that Rahul had the same amount of success with his Volcanion deck. Nobody was teched for it and nobody had a very strong game plan besides the one known to us in Standard, so he was able to take advantage of this to the fullest extent. John S. admits that he is a fairly new player and that he was just playing Night March. John Kettler took a standard archetype into expanded and had success based on nobody preparing for it (or expecting it) in the room. All these players know how to pilot their decks, and they are all strong forces, but let's face it--Night March is the only deck out of the 4 that has any sort of longevity in the Expanded format.

Fast forward to Portland Regionals and you can see what I mean--Night March was the only of these 4 decks in Day 2. We may not have had the same volume of people running the decks or we may not have had the most skilled players piloting them, and if we did maybe they just had awful luck or fell prey to the one bane they all have in common--Hex Maniac--but the point stands that we had 0 of them in Day 2. This is a rare occurence as I don't remember this happening last year. Crazy decks sneak into day 2 all the time, but some of the crazy decks that reach top 8 status are still piloted by a decent amount of players! When Grafton Roll made Greninja for Florida Regionals last year and brought it to day 2, he essentially brought the archetype to the forefront for everybody. It become a top deck. When Ross Cawthon made two top 8s with Accelgor Wobb, people piloted the deck to success elsewhere. When Kevin Baxter innovated 2 Wobb and 2 copies of Tropical Beach in Vespiquen to combat Archeops and inconsistent draws, the deck took a 2nd place finish on the next weekend.

So why is it that when 3 decks receive so much hype, 0 of them make Day 2? We have to assume that the decks are just too gimmicky to survive when people have adequate time to prepare for them, which drops them into a similar category with Trevenant and Greninja, decks that seem to only receive success when they're under the radar.

Anyways, let's put my incessant rambling to rest and get into a couple tournament reports. I feel that tournament reports are losing their allure and that players are caring less about how one another finishes if not in the top 8 or dangerously close (see: Jon Eng), but as the malleable Expanded format continues to shift it's important to see trends and to know how effectively certain lists play out. I'm going to do this in a what I played/what I should've played/what I would play now format in order to keep the info relevant.

St. Louis: Herdier is kind of like a Meeseeks

For this tournament I had tested M Gardevoir-EX/Max Potion/Dimension Valley for the longest. I fixed the list up more and more with time and eventually I had what I considered to be the perfect list for the deck. I was outplaying people and really piloting it well. The issue I had with it was there were games I didn't get to outplay my opponents--the ones where I bricked so hard I had no hope of catching up! It happened so often that I went to my 2nd pick for the tournament--Vespiquen/Flareon/Herdier.

A 2-2 Herdier line and a Paint Roller along with a Rattata EVO and Oranguru SUM are the only real changes to a traditional Vespiquen deck that the list I ran played. Phinnegan Lynch came up with these changes when he was running the deck in Anaheim, and he brought it into Expanded with Life Dew and Battle Compressor to enhance the deck tenfold. I feel that Herdier is an amazing card and I really don't see Vespiquen being a strong deck without it. The reasoning for the card was explained by Phinn in one of his Cut or Tap articles--it can just get back Battle Compressor when you get hit by Karen and it can retrieve Life Dew to win prize trades and Paint Roller to bump Silent Lab and be able to dig with Shaymin. Most of the time I used the card in St. Louis, I grabbed an Ultra Ball or a VS Seeker (I found myself using Hex Maniac or Teammates often). On paper the card doesn't seem as good as it could be if it were just a 4th VS Seeker and some different Pokemon slots, but in practice it's very relevant most of the time.

In Bees, you often find yourself needing a 2 or 3 card combo to gain board advantage for a turn or two. For example, a Hex Maniac to shut off Archeops but also 2 evolutions for Combee and Eevee; or an AZ for Wobb but a way to also dig out Shaymin-EX and then ultimately a Double Colorless Energy. If you were able to run 6 Battle Compressor, you would have them in your hand always, sure, but would you always need them? Herdier essentially becomes a 4th VS Seeker and 2nd Life Dew or a 5th Ultra Ball and 5th Battle Compressor or even a 2nd and 3rd Paint Roller! When you see the card as leniency towards retrieving your outs instead of just an extra finite resource, it looks way more attractive!

I ended up dropping Oranguru SUM and Rattata EVO for a Tauros GX and a Startling Megaphone. I took out the 2nd N I was playing for a Teammates, and I'm pretty sure I fit an AZ in somewhere. These last minute changes had me feeling comfortable, but I knew after I was able to observe the meta that I would notice my list's imperfections. This is the list I ran for St. Louis:

The list I should've played:

This list essentially had a counter for the entire field. You have 30 Pokemon to keep your numbers up to par with GX Pokemon and Fighting Fury Belt, but you also have Milotic to grab Rattata EVO to keep discarding tools as you see fit. At the cost of setting Darkrai-EX up for stronger Night Spear math, you get even more lenience while playing the game. You have to discard 4 Vespiquen in your opening hand with Sycamore? No worries, I'll just grab one back out for you so you have 4 attackers this game. Oh, you seem to not be able to grab Pokemon Ranger under Quaking Punch lock! No problem, I'll take that right out for you. What's that, you need a Double Colorless Energy in hand rather than 2 in deck? Here you go!

Milotic just makes more sense than Herdier. I understand where Phinn is coming from--rarely do you ever need a card that isn't an item to pull your games out. But in those grindy games where you absolutely can't close it out without having access to the exact precise combos, Milotic will be your best friend. And these games come up way more than you would expect them to! For example, you can Milotic for Parallel, play Parallel on yourself, and randomly discard 3 Pokemon off of your bench (a Milotic and an EX probably) to get a surprise Silver Bangle on the field (essentially!). Or you can Milotic for Unown in situations where you need to dig for one card with Sycamore but you have 9 cards left in deck and you need 2 turns to win. These situations pop up so frequently and unexpectedly that I would often appreciate Milotic over Herdier.

Not to mention that versus Turbo Dark, they don't even have the capability of drawing 6 Prizes against you. I only drop games to it when my attackers are all hiding in the Prizes or when they just out-consistency me. This being said, I'm totally fine letting my Feebas get sniped and having another Pokemon placed into my discard for me, assuming I didn't have the means to do it myself or I just wanted to N them to 1 later in the game. (2 prize turn sets them to an essential 7th prize game)

Another issue in the tournament was the lack of Jolteon. I noticed that against Maxie's that they usually stuck Parallel before me and I didn't have the opportunity to dig for discarded Pokemon due to Wobbuffet being active. All of my Maxie's matchups ended up in ties because I was always an attacker short due to being 10 or so damage off of a KO. Jolteon alleviates this in 2 ways:

1. Jolteon allows you to KO Shaymin-EX with only 4 Pokemon in your discard.
2. Jolteon allows you to KO Yveltal cards with only half the Pokemon, meaning 5 for a baby or a measly 7 for an EX. Getting 7 Pokemon into the discard with Bees is like tying your shoes!

It's pretty understandable that in times of Karen a Pokemon that allows you to KO a Shaymin-EX with such little investment is worth a slot. 'nuff said!

The last real issue the deck needed to resolve for the tournament was adding Pokemon Ranger. I managed to avoid Giratina all day, but it was present in the early rounds at the top tables. It started getting knocked back by some of the crazy archetypes that were winning with it, so as I started winning (instead of tying) it started losing. But assuming I didn't misplay like I did and I was able to go undefeated, I undoubtedly would have faced a Tina deck by round 3 or 4 and taken a huge L. So it's only natural that Ranger take up a spot. You can't really blame me; in Expanded format you never truly know what you're going to face!

The idea behind this build is that Herdier just won't cut it in a Decidueye/Maxie's meta. He's a great card in literally any other matchup, but those two archetypes are too big to allow you any Herdier breathing room. Switching to straight consistency is what we have to do now, and I attempt to achieve this in an unusual way. We all know the power of Gallade/Unown, and now the power of Gallade/Oranguru, so that gives us the option to use Gallade as a reusable resource every turn. This allows the 2 slots committed to Maxie to be stronger than usual in this deck and to be a fine sacrifice over more consistency. We also see a trend in the rise of Turbo Darkrai decks in Expanded and Gallade really helps us hit magic numbers in that matchup.
The safety Herdier brought us is not lost as we incorporate it into the deck through Dowsing Machine. Dowsing is usually a bad card, but because Maxie's is not our main priority, we can afford to run a late game Ace Spec and not regret it. It's wonderful being able to have the option for a 3rd Parallel if we need it as well--and being able to Battle Compressor away a Trainer and then use Dowsing Machine for it is amazing in this deck!

Xerosic is not really played anymore in favor of Startling Megaphone or Rattata, but because of Giratina gaining popularity in Expanded, I wanted some extra protection. Pokemon Ranger is nice and all, but Xerosic is safer because it accomplishes the same thing, and it works in every matchup instead of just a couple. This deck isn't really an amazing play anymore because of how big Decidueye/Plume seems to be getting, but based on the results of Portland Regionals I would definitely run a list very similar to this one in any future Expanded events.

That's the sitch on Bees--there isn't too much we really need to uncover anymore. I know Jeremiah Williams played a list with 4 Wobbuffet, but he was regretful after the tournament so that is more than likely just not going to be a new variant. I think Herdier, Gallade or Consistency are our 3 options and we need to pick one based on the meta. But either way, let me go over Yveltal/Maxie's--a timeless deck that really never falls off of it's pedestal.

Portland: DeciPlume is a Morty, not a Rick

So for Portland I was very interested in a consistent deck due to the small nature of such a tournament. Anything in the PNW is going to be small because driving gets knocked out of the equation for most, so the amount of randoms flooding the tournament drops. Good players are a different story because as they receive their checks they will be able to buy airfare. I expected 350 max, but no less than 290. I'm pretty sure we hit 302, so that number is a pretty solid middle ground.

Upon arrival to Portland, I was immediately greeted by cold weather, fashionable pedestrians and the occasional rain drop. (No drop tops, sadly.) I met up with Phinn Lynch to test extensively in this meeting room he rented for the day. We were able to perfect his Dark Tina list, and though I wasn't able to play the deck due to lack of the proper cards, I'm glad I was able to at least be a part of the amazing list.
For me, I had to fall back on Yveltal/Maxie's and I wasn't really complaining. I spoke to Drew Allen and Israel Sosa for the last couple of weeks leading up to the tournament and we seemed to have had  perfected the list. 

This list was insane. Drew hit some poor matchups and luck and got knocked out of the tournament on day 1, but Israel and I both made day 2, with me finishing dead last I think and Israel taking the 1st place finish and his 5th Regionals win. It's pretty awesome that 2/3 of us were able to pilot the deck to so much success, but the list still needed work. I was running extremely cold and Maxie didn't even see play most of the time. Not sure Israel had the same issues but I'll assume he didn't. He was telling me how much he missed the Delinquent in his list for Groudon, and how much he disliked the Hex Maniac. Taking this into account along with my own tournament, what I should have played would have been:

The same list -1 Hex Maniac +1 Delinquent

With a Delinquent I would have applied extra pressure to Turbo Dark, Groudon and Rayquaza, and I could've received so much more out of my attackers when my opponents are forced to discard extra resources, be it energy they are holding, damage modifiers or anything else of importance. Not sure how many times I could have hit a Delinquent to 0, but I think it came up only when it wasn't too relevant.

After this tournament I've realized that Maxie's may just not be the way to run Dark anymore. It won, yeah, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's up to snuff with the rest of the format. I personally feel it struggles with Groudon, Turbo Dark or Dark Dragons, Vespiquen, Toad/Bats, Rayquaza, Rainbow Road, and even Volcanion! Some of these decks are just tier 1 and I can't see myself accepting a poor matchup to tier 1 with no issue. I would prefer a deck with the ability to steal games it has no business winning and that doesn't rely on a game plan of strictly Random Number Generation. I think the only other viable partner for Yveltal right now is Garbodor.

Come on *burp* Morty, we have to *burp* break the *burp* format, Morty! Yveltal/Maxie won't cut it *burp* anymore, Morty!"

Assuming I've sparked your interest and you would like to mess with the deck, I would run a list like this:

This is a bit of a work in progress, but it is in the beginning stage of something that will blossom into a strong force in the meta. Yveltal/Garb in expanded has existed, but it hasn't been too strong with the existence of tool removal. Tool removal is now scarce, if even played. Garbodor now gains momentum in the current meta with the influx of Ability-abusing decks. The idea was inspired by Phinn Lynch's list on, and it seems to be just a much superior version to Maxie's. We won't know until somebody actually plays it, but let's just see what Maxie's has trouble with right now:
M Rayquaza
Primal Groudon
Night March
Eelektrik (according to Andrew Mahone)
M Gardevoir (Dimension Valley)


Toad Bats

Let me go over these matchups one by one to convince you that they are now fixed:

M Rayquaza - 60/40
This matchup is pretty much the same as it would be in standard with the sole difference of you being more consistent at getting out Garbodor and them having a turn 1 Ghetsis crutch. You play a considerable amount of Supporters and 2 Shaymin-EX, so hopefully you can draw out of the Ghetsis. Fright Night damage when paired with LaserBank really adds up quickly, so you can just find your Garbodor, try and Delinquent or N your opponent out of the option to Lysandre your Trubbish, and just go Garb/BKT on them. Without Parallel they can just KO your garb, but you have Delinquent and 2 Virbank to win the Stadium War and if they have to ko Garb and Yveltal BKT they probably are going to be out of juice and just lose the war of attrition. Still close, but it's better than it was when you played Maxie's.

Primal Groudon - 60/40, 70/30 if you know the matchup
Groudon is never an easy matchup for most decks in Expanded. It has the means of getting around most of your plays, and it also discards your Double Colorless energies all of the time. With Garb the matchup becomes pretty solid. I would try and set up a field of Yveltal BKT with 3 dark, 2 Yveltal EX on bench, and a Garbodor. The idea is that you shut off Fright Night and attach a Fury Belt to BKT. When you get LaserBank off, you now KO Wobb going into your turn and you get to put 60 damage on Primal Groudon. Whenever they drop Beach you Delinquent them and run their resources thin.Meanwhile, you are setting up two Yveltal EX on your bench and distributing the same amount of energy on each. This makes it so when they bring up Groudon and Lysandre an Yveltal EX to ko it, you have a second one ready to hit back. When you get through that first Groudon, you probably just win. They can't keep puzzling for resources and Wobbs, so they have to pick one or the other. And with all the pressure you apply and the Delinquent spam potential they can even just end up running out of resources completely and deck out/lose.

Primal Groudon is a much harder matchup under a time limit than not. If you face it in round, you will not usually get a 3rd game going. I'm not sure if LaserBank makes it less time consuming to finish out a game, but it definitely makes it easier to win. I would advise calling judges on your opponent to monitor pace of play if you ever feel uncomfortable, especially if they wear a watch. Groudon players tend to test how to play the clock, as that is a huge part of winning with the deck. If you only get a game and a half in, you minimalize the chance for variance to screw you up, and you make it harder for your opponents who may not know how to face Groudon to devise a proper strategy. 

I could write an entire article on this matchup, apparently. Let's just move on before this gets any more off topic.

Night March/Vespiquen - 50/50

These matchups are never really easy. You have a couple options at your disposal. You may have thought to yourself, "why Karen if not Seismitoad paired with it?" and I hope you understand that, especially against Vespiquen, Karen/Garb is much more important than Toad/Garb. For the bees matchup, you just Karen/Garb and they can't ever Lysandre garb and get enough Pokemon in the discard at the same time. They can't use abilities so they have to rely on Ultra Ball, Professor Sycamore and Battle Compressor to discard Pokemon. They also can't rely on Jolteon to make it easier to KO a Shaymin. You just have to judge when the right moment would be to Karen and then you surprise them with it. Night march is similar in the sense that you want to Karen after they've used up resources and have Garb in play, but it's much easier for them to KO the garb. you pretty much have to Delinquent them or N them with Garb out first and then Karen the turn after and pray they don't draw out of it. Oblivion Wing and Yveltal BKT along with Darkrai EX are amazing in the matchup in general though, so you might be able to just spam Karen and get down baby Yveltal cards and Darkrai ONLY and just win the prize trade. Choose your route based on how the match plays out.

Eelektrik 70/30

It goes without saying that you just have to get out a Garbodor and a Darkrai. If you get out Garbodor turn 2 after going first, you just win. You get KOs on Raikou with Darkrai now thanks to LaserBank, and they are very supporter heavy (Xerosic over Scrapper is a huge example) so you can't lose your tool and expect them to attack in the same turn every single time. You eventually just stick a tool on Garb all game or they get around Garb but you're too far ahead in prizes to lose. 

M Gardevoir (Dimension Valley) - 70/30

This matchup is pretty darn difficult to play. They can just ignore your Yveltal for Garb most of the time, but you can catch them off guard with good Laser flips. A sleeping Gardy isn't a threat! They're two-shotting your Yveltal-EX, and you're 2-shotting them. So if they whiff an attack they're going to waste an extra Max Potion!  I would just get out 3 Yveltal EX if possible and Y Cyclone and two shot with Laser damage if possible. I would eventually try and set up an OHKO with LaserBank and a big enough Yveltal. If they don't target Garbodor they're going to clunk up and not find a 2nd Gardevoir, and if they do target Garb they're going to have a 7 prize game. A fat Yveltal can go through 2 Gardevoir with LaserBank, so you can fall back on that. The most consistent game plan might also be to just bench two trubbish and sit fright night active, try and get a fat enough Yveltal set up, and the turn you can OHKO gardy you drop down a Garb. This puts them in a position where they need to kill garb or just lose immediately, as they can't 1 shot your Yveltal with Garb out. But even if they target Garb, your fat Yveltal remains untouched and gets 2 more turns of ohko potential. Again, pick a game plan based on your situation. 

Volcanion - 90/10 (ish)

This matchup is similar to Gardevoir except they can't afford to ignore Yveltal for Garbodor. You can just Pitch-Black Spear and set up KOs on volcs with small yveltals while applying pressure to the babies with LaserBank. Eventually they start the game, and then you Garb, N and Evil Ball. In Expanded they usually have to Blacksmith as well, so unless they can Tool Scrapper and then Dowsing Tool Scrapper and then somehow 3rd Scrapper, they just won't draw out of low Ns and they won't get out of Ability Lock. Pretty simple and straightforward matchup just like in Standard, but without the Max Elixir crutch so Lysandre on Garb is rarely a strong option. You also just get Garb out more thanks to Compressor consistency.

Decidueye/Vileplume 70/30 first, 50/50 second 

This matchup is always a 50/50 going second. If they whiff Plume, you can probably just get out Garb. And then you neutralize their threats with LaserBank. If they hit plume and you can't Garb, you just try for Lysandre on Plume plus Pitch-Black Spear to get a 3-prize play. If you can't hit that, you just Y-Cyclone around and see what you can manage. The deck is bad in Expanded though, so I doubt it'll see heavy enough play for you to care.

Toad/Bats - 40/60

This matchup is  as difficult as ever. Just hope to stick a Float Stone on Garbodor long enough to alleviate the Bat damage. Luckily, Seismitoad is waning in popularity.

Those are all of our bad matchups with Yveltal/Maxie, and they all become simplified while cutting variance and RNG down to a minimum. Fringe decks like M Manectric-EX and Rainbow Road probably beat us more often now, but I don't expect to see either of those enough times to go X-3 at any given Regional. Other decks we have a better time against would be Trevenant (if we go first and manage t2 Garb we get at least one extra turn of Items which could be all it takes to get 4 dark on Yveltal and just win), Greninja (Garbodor and Delinquent!) and Zygarde/Carbink (Shut off Carbink BREAK! LaserBank to alleviate the lost damage from their Energy Removal cards.)

I could see our only iffy matchups now being Yveltal/Maxie's (Yveltal mirror is still Yveltal mirror, even with LaserBank to help us hit bigger numbers), Turbo Darkrai (Too much damage too fast--Garbodor doesn't do enough to matter, LaserBank and Pitch-Black Spear might be enough to take games though) and Darkrai/Dragons (no Gallade as a fallback,KOs on Dragons are easier, so early knockouts might help slow down their damage output. But is it enough?).

I'm pretty positive that this is the deck I would play if I was going to Toronto Regionals. I need to test it a bit more, but I know for a fact I won't be messing with Yveltal/Maxie's anymore. It only works if you play flawlessly, manage time perfectly, have the perfect 60 (which is a variable dependent on the 9/14 decks you face that day) and if you RNG well enough. Garbodor is just plain better!

My Deck Choice for Standard

For those who care little about Expanded, or simply have no Expanded Cups, or aren't going to Toronto, I want to skim over a quick Standard play. I feel that Standard hasn't changed in so long that writers have stretched the topic thin, but I still have to appeal to the crowd! If I were going to Brazil Intercontinentals, I would most likely play a list like this:

This list is consistent, streamlined, and just plain good. If you play the game perfectly, you usually have little variance to worry about with Turbo Darkrai. Two Parallel,  1 Lab, and 2 Hex make Volcanion, VD and M Rayquaza solid matchups--and everything else is pretty much an autowin. I don't see Turbo Dark falling off of it's pedestal yet, at least until SM2 comes out. And even then you have Choice Band to hit bigger numbers. But without getting into that, this is definitely the deck I'm going to focus on. This list is perfect in my opinion, and the only drop I can consider is the 4th VS Seeker. Phinn has talked me into messing with 3 now, and with Plume being such a big force in the meta I couldn't complain with a playable card over a VS Seeker that I will most likely discard anyways.


It's been a while, 60Cards readers! I expect to have more time to put out more articles soon, so we'll see if I can start pushing content out more frequently. I expect those who have read the article in depth to gain a better understanding of thought processes in deck building as a whole. These lists are insane, so go try them out! As always, check out Pro-Play Games ( for any of your Pokemon or other TCG needs, and message me or comment if you have any questions. Until next time,

Daniel Altavilla

[+8] okko


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