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Brandon Flowers

Going the Distance in Standard

Brandon goes over all things Standard, going into League Cups and Dallas Regionals!

27. 12. 2016 by Brandon Flowers

At a Pokemon tournament, everyone wants to go the distance. No one wants to spend a day playing Pokemon only to bubble out. To help you prepare for Dallas Regionals, I’ll discuss the three decks that I think have the best chance at going the distance in Standard at any major event - Yveltal, Rainbow Road, and Volcanion. All 3 decks are fueled by Max Elixir and consistency. 

Table of contents

 Given that Yveltal has won all American standard Regionals (and London Internationals), it's clear Yveltal can go the  distance. In my opinion, it has the highest skill ceiling of any deck in the format, and as a result makes for some thrilling mirror matches. Given Yveltal's success, many techs in Yveltal have become techs for the mirror - in London lists, we saw things such as Team Flare Grunt, Enhanced Hammer, and Pokemon Center Lady. Each of these techs also have use in other major matchups. Flare Grunt and Enhanced Hammer in combination give strong options against Rainbow Road, M Mewtwo, Yveltal, and even Greninja to get rid of Splash Energy and cut off part of their recursion. While Enhanced Hammer ends up being a completely dead card in the Volcanion and M Gardevoir match ups, it pulls enough weight otherwise to still be worth the inclusion. Center Lady is a bit more niche of a card, but can swing both the Yveltal and Greninja. It basically halves the amount of damage Fright Night can put out, and in combination with Garbodor against Greninja, makes Greninja’s damage cap 20 damage if you can reliably use it.

And without further ado, this is the Yveltal list I have put together and tested recently:

This list has heavy influence from both Masters finalist lists from London Internationals, going for a slightly techy approach while staying consistent overall. In my testing, this list shores up the mirror match as much as it can without being overly techy. The only thing you can’t really prepare directly for is a stray Vespiquen/Zebstrika- and even that can be overcome through well placed Parallel Cities, quickly knocking out Blitzles before they evolve, and the disruptive power of N.  Some notable things that could be teched in and out would be Delinquent, Trainers’ Mai; (for added consistency), or a second Escape Rope if you’re particularly worried about Jolteon EX, Burst Balloons, or Fright Night Yveltal (both your opponents’, and your own in some situations).

Against Rainbow Road, it’s very easy to disrupt them just enough to offset their pace for the rest of the game. Just let them build up their field in preparation to take down a Fury Belted Yveltal EX, and once they place any more than 4-5 benched Pokemon with the assistance of Sky Field, Parallel their bench away and play N. Being able to get a Garbodor in conjunction with this as well can help stop Shaymin EX or even Dragonite EX from giving them a fast recovery route.  With the fast, heavy-hitting style Rainbow Road usually utilizes, any small disruption can set them back just enough to win the game.

   

Volcanion can hit hard if not prepared for – most of the games I’ve seen and experienced Volcanion pull out the win against Yveltal involved the Yveltal player too readily giving up Trubbish in the early game, Yveltal having a slow start, Yveltal drawing dead, or a combination of any or all of these. Sacrificing your Trubbish to avoid giving up 2 prizes is the exact opposite you should be doing - getting up 2 Garbodor against Volcanion tends to be the road to victory. It's simply too easy for Volcanion decks to KO only one Garbodor. Well timed Parallel City plays help as well, picking the side that suits the situation best. If they’ve already played Hoopa EX down, limiting their bench to 3 does next to nothing; while limiting them to 3 before Hoopa hits the field can be pretty devastating. As they can build a Volcanion EX with Max Elixirs in 1-2 turns and hit 200+ with Steam Up early on, the first few turns are crucial to stabilize your board state. Without their abilities, Volcanion won’t be able to do more than 140 damage (if a Fighting Fury Belt is attached).

Greninja can get tricky, but Garbodor is here to save the day yet again. Garbodor and Pokemon Center Lady put a huge damper on Greninja’s strategy, as their damage output can at best 3HKO Yveltal EX without abilities, while Pokemon Center Lady turns that into a 4+HKO. Surprise techs from their side can prove tricky - conserve your tools in anticipation of a Beedril EX taking down your Garbodor. Escape Rope also helps you to avoid any potential Bursting Balloons as well.

Most other decks such as M Mewtwo, M Gardevoir, and anything else overly reliant on tools can be dramatically slowed by leading Fright Night Yveltal to shut off their early game, giving yourself extra turns to set up prizes for Yveltal EX by splashing damage on their attackers with Pitch Black Spear. Never underestimate the power of BKT Yveltal against Megas.

Moving onto the next contender on the list, Rainbow Force Xerneas creates the glue for which Rainbow Road revolves around. An extremely powerful non-EX, BKT Xerneas dishes out 10+ 30 for each type on its bench, and with dual types floating around, it reaches One Hit Knock Out potential easily. The build I’ve been looking at revolves around a predominately EX based strategy, simplifying the typing combinations and ideally making it prone to drawing better. In all my testing, Rainbow Road’s worst enemy is itself - it has the potential to draw dead just like any deck in the format, but unfortunately does not have the ability to recover from it quite as easily. My list tries to alleviate this as much as possible, going for a minimalist approach with few tech cards:

 

This build was made with influence from Mehdi Hafi’s list from Liverpool Regionals, as well as some influence from Chris Siakala and Bryan Hunter - Chris was one win off top 8 placement at Ft Wayne Regionals. This build doesn’t allow for too many options, with the only alternate attackers being Umbreon EX, Beedrill EX, and Shaymin EX- but that doesn’t limit its ability too much. Umbreon EX and Beedrill EX give interesting utility in 1 energy colorless attacks that can either get you out of a dead hand, and slow down your opponents’ tool usage respectively. They both contribute additional types while only having 1 retreat cost as well, which is huge. Volcanion EX is the only Pokemon in this list that doesn’t have some added bonus outside of adding typing, but has the added bonus of two types- which secures its spot alone. Genesect EX gives you the option of saving tools in the event of a potentially harmful Sycamore, Jolteon EX has free retreat, Shaymin gets you going, and Dragonite gets you back up out of a Parallel.

The trainer lineup doesn’t take too many risks, outside of the one outlier – Great Ball. Great Ball by itself without Ultra Ball has a reputation as being awful; which it is, as it’s no replacement. In conjunction with Ultra Ball and the high Basic Pokemon count however, it gives easy search options and unexpected outs to Xerneas where Ultra Ball occasionally would hard to play due to the two cards to discard. In my testing, I would often find myself with hands that could be fully played out to a Sycamore, except I didn’t have targets I wanted to get rid of with Ultra Ball. These hands would then be played out, Ultra Ball would get discarded uselessly, and I would be without an added Pokemon or type. With Ultra Ball and Hoopa EX, getting types out quickly tends not to be a big problem, but mid-game getting more Xerneas or another typing on your bench can be tricky. Great Ball adds an option to alleviate this, while giving an added option to a new typing or additional Xerneas. Looking at the top 7 and grabbing a Pokemon there almost always gives you either another type or Xerneas, and with most of the 10 support Pokemon, the added typing is all you need. From here, it all adds to consistency. The only thing I often feel lacking of is an additional search card in the form of Escape Rope, and perhaps a Xerneas BREAK. If I were to add these in, I would likely drop the 2 Great Ball and the third Trainers’ Mail, add another Ultra Ball, the Escape Rope, and the BREAK. Having the BREAK does increase Great Ball chances, but with that sort of tech card you would rather have more exact chances to search it out, rather than Great Ball's inherent randomness.

The only other thing worth noting in the trainer section is EXP. Share – the EXP. Share vs Fury Belt argument is endless, but in my opinion and experience, EXP. Share makes for more stable games. More stable games are something Rainbow Road needs and often wins off of, and EXP Share contributes to this by making Xerneas easier to stream while conserving your energy. The previously mentioned Xerneas BREAK option would also provide close to the same added HP while giving you a Jolteon EX out, and still giving EXP Share use.

While Xerneas can have some tricky match ups, most games are won off of outspeeding your opponent and targeting the threats they attempt to build, as often playsarevery choreographed. Against Yveltal, this means taking out Fright Night if it hits the field (as your limited switch options and high EX count can prove to be the end if they utilize it to its strengths), targeting the bulk of the energy against Volcanion, and simply outspeeding and taking quick prizes against Greninja. Against Volcanion in particular, they need either 4 Volcanion EX or 3 with a Fury Belt to use non-EX Volcanion to keep the prize exchange in their favor early on, which can be very difficult to do, especially if you take out 1-2 of their EXs via Lysandre. Most Mega decks, outside of M Mewtwo, also have a reliance on Sky Field, resulting in both an easy stadium war and easy prize exchange in these cases. Against decks that play both Garbodor and Parallel you’re clearly at a disadvantage if they get both of these together, as your ability to recover is limited by your lack of abilities. Taking out the Garbodor if they haven’t hit Parallel City yet can give you the option of using Dragonite and Shaymin EX to recover when they do get Parallel out. Careful use of EXP Shares and Energy against other non-EX based decks, in combination with faster and more powerful attacks, tends to get you the win more often than not.

 Volcanion has been a pet deck of mine throughout the entire format so far, and while it is generally the same at the core, it seems to have the most tech and variation options of any deck in the format (perhaps in contention by Rainbow Road at times). I’ve played many variations, but this is the list I’ve ended up at recently with help from my friend Connor Lavelle. I started with a more slow and steady variation, focusing on attacking with Volcanion to build up more Volcanion EX and steamroll from there. This proves to be lacking in options against any deck that plays Garbodor, which resulted in a much heavier Max Elixir based build that gives fast and hard hitting options against everything in the format. This list looks something like this:

This Pokemon line is the best tried and tested count I’ve played the whole season – with Super Rod and Max Elixir, there isn’t a heavy need to rely on non-EX Volcanion in any situation. The only thing I’ve considered trying here is a Dragonite EX, but I like Super Rod and Parallel City as better options in this case, despite Dragonite also having some use as a niche attacker via Power Heater to diversify weakness in your attackers. Dragonite does have the ability to OHKO Greninja before it BREAK evolves, as well as Gyarados in the event you were to run into Gyarados still. One other non-EX tech option would be the inclusion of Omega Double Entei AOR - while it does not accelerate energy like its other non-EX companion Volcanion, it does have the ability to more readily take down Xerneas and even out the prize exchange in the Rainbow Road match up. Without Fury Belt it does lose some utility, so taking out some of the multitude of switch cards and adding in Entei, Fury Belt, and Dragonite EX can give you a few more options against most of the meta. The last niche tech option I noticed in one of the London International lists is the promo card Salamence EX - which can help swing decks that rely on EXs in the event you can’t take out the Garbodor fast enough.

The trainer line is one of the biggest variables in this deck – the major things of note here are the Fisherman and Delinquent, 7 switch cards in the form of 3 Float Stone, 2 Switch, 1 Escape Rope and Olympia, and the Parallel City. Fisherman and Delinquent are both great cards for a deck that can often just rotate between Float Stone’d Volcanion EX, taking knock outs while using tons of Steam Ups or using an opponent’s lapse of judgment to do away with their hand. The high count of switch cards in combination with 4 Max Elixir make it very easy to build up a quick EX and start hitting fast OHKOs on your opponent’s Pokemon. Max Elixir in combination with Lysandre also allow you to take out opponent’s Garbodor and Trubbish before they can become too much of an issue. Parallel City is a strange card for many people here – you never want it played on you when you’re unprepared, but being able to play one on yourself to limit your bench to 3 after playing Hoopa EX for 2 Volcanion EX and Shaymin EX gives you the option to drop off said Shaymin EX and Hoopa EX, keep your Volcanions, and prevent your opponent from being able to use their own Parallel unsuspectingly. Delinquent gives you an option to both take out your opponent’s hand in certain situations, as well as open up the field and give you an option to play your own Parallel. One thing that isn’t here due to this strategy is Starmie – Starmie does give you the option to get energy back at your own ease, but taking up a precious bench space and still being a liability against Garbodor takes away my willingness to use it in the current meta. I also opt for Super Rod instead of the 12th Energy, which gives you often needed mid-late game recovery at the expense of diminishing Max Elixir odds. Other cards of note here are Weakness Policy and Pokemon Ranger, neither of which I’ve opted to play in favor of more switching and consistency cards, but can easily sway the Greninja and mirror match ups. Dropping 1 Float Stone, 1 Switch, and 1 Super Rod for 2 Weakness Policy and a Ranger gives you better odds against said decks, but unfortunately at the expense of several other match ups, especially Yveltal.

   

One of your worst matchups in the format, woefully, is the Yveltal/Garb match up. Yveltal has the ability to one shot powered up Volcanion EX, and with Garbodor on the field, you don’t have the option to return the favor. The best way to sway this match up is to build fast and efficiently, gunning down their Garbodor quickly and giving yourself the option to OHKO everything else afterward. The sheer number of switching cards in the list makes Fright Night Yveltal significantly less frightening, giving you piece of mind to deal with the more dominating threats they have in way of Yveltal EX and Garbodor.

Greninja also isn’t a great match up, especially without Pokemon Ranger, but Volcanion’s sheer consistency and speed can often turn it right around. As long as you’re taking a knock out every turn you can, as fast as you can, Greninja will find it tough to keep up, and any misstep or slowness on their part can push them out of the game entirely. Ranger and Weakness Policy, previously noted techs, can be quite helpful as well. Volcanion needs to punish Greninja for not setting up optimally.

Rainbow Road is one of the most variable matchups, due to the variance in build and options you both have. Against Rainbow Road decks that go the Galvantula route, using Parallel City to keep your own Shaymins off the board gives them less easy targets and a harder road to victory. In general, using Max Elixir to build up a quick attacker (especially non-EX Volcanion) to take their energy off the board as fast as they can get it, while timing Parallel to have the greatest damaging effect can handily pull this out for Volcanion.

Other decks that are also over reliant on Sky Field, such as M Gardevoir and M Rayquaza, can also easily be thrown on tilt by a well timed Parallel City and your ability to OHKO their attackers. Well timed N with the ability to also OHKO their M Gardevoir spells disaster for Gardevoir even without Parallel coming into play. Volcanion’s sheer strength combined with the power to hit high numbers when not held back by Garbodor makes it a continually strong contender for the Standard format.

While there are other decent and competitive decks in the format, I don’t think any of them have as good of a chance of going the distance as these three decks do. Having the most power and general consistency in the format goes a long way, as all of these decks have shown time and time again through their dominance in way of repeat top cut placements. Thanks for reading, and hopefully this helps out for any upcoming Standard League Cups, Regionals, and beyond!

Good luck and goodbye for now,

Brandon Flowers 

[+8] okko


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