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Chris Fulop

A Look Towards 2017-2018

With Burning Shadows Legal, and Everything Prior To Breakpoint OUT, Standard Looks To See A Major Shakeup!

08/24/2017 by Chris Fulop

This article brought to you by CCGcastle.com The best place to get your Pokémon singles!

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Hello again everyone! Today I will be writing about two things: the most important cards that will be rotating as Primal Clash through Ancient Origins rotates from Standard, and lists for some of the most exciting and powerful archetypes after this rotation!

 

 

Lets go over the cards that are leaving Standard for the 2017-2018 format!

2017-2018 Rotation

With the upcoming season, the legal sets will become Breakthrough through Burning Shadows. This means we lose Primal Clash, Roaring Skies, Ancient Origins, and Double Crisis.  This removes a lot of key cards from the format. While a lot of attackers are gone...including my precious Mega Rayquaza ( Rest In Peace...or at least Expanded ) the biggest losses worth talking about come from cards which are more ubiquitous among every deck. Losing specific Pokémon lines will remove entire decks from the format, but losing certain cards will force players to re-think their entire approach towards building decks.

Shaymin-EX- With the rotation of Roaring Skies, Shaymin-EX, both a safety net in terms of draw power and consistency and an enabler for totally degenerate engines, leaves with it. Shaymin-EX's popularity had dropped way off with the release of Tapu Lele-GX as an alternative. ( Garbodor's popularity, and ability to easily KO a benched Shaymin-EX for a lone energy didn't exactly make it extra appealing either. ) Still, the loss of Shaymin-EX will prevent totally broken, fast decks from being able to "go off" like they had. While you will still have the safety net function fulfilled by Tapu Lele, there isn't really anything that can replace Shaymin for it's more...unfair, roles.

Trainer‘s Mail/Acro Bike- Both of these Items rotate as well...Shaymin's partners in crime, if you will. This trio of cards is what allowed the "turbo" decks to not only function but flourish. While Acro Bike hasn't seen much play recently...outside of perhaps Vespiquen...Trainer’s Mail still saw recent play in non-degenerate decks just to smooth out draws. Garbodor pushed these cards from many decks, but the cards were still very strong and Garbodor's stranglehold over the metagame was far from a sure thing long- term. Garbodor is a bit of a self-correcting card...if it is well positioned, decks deviate from engines which it preys upon, and if those engines go away, Garbodor becomes a poor play. When Garbodor thus sees less play, players can run back to these cards. The loss of these cards, as well as Shaymin, should certainly slow down the extreme ends of deck construction which I view as a great thing. On top of this, it should make games progress much quicker. Having less non-Supporter draw power in the format makes individual turns shorter, and that is a great thing overall. I've been super critical ( Justly! ) of issues we have had with time limits in this game, and I am optimistic this will fix things to some degree.

VS Seeker- Well this one will be missed. This is going to be the biggest omission from decks, as it will force players to re-evaluate how to approach their Supporter counts. We've been so used to being able to run a mix of Sycamore and N while running a pair of Lysandre. Decks would then run a single copy of any utility Supporters they felt fit their list. On one hand, this won't change drastically. I expect 4 Sycamore and 4 N to be a staple in most lists. Tapu Lele acts as your wildcard placeholder for Supporters. ( until you run out of copies or bench spaces!) Tapu Lele also encourages utility Supporters because they are easy to grab at the right time. On the other hand, without VS Seeker, you only get that one use out of them. The biggest challenge will be determining how this loss will impact Lysandre...er, Guzma. Two copies of Lysandre gave a deck up to 6 uses with a set of VS Seekers, and that made defensive decks or gameplay pretty weak. Are decks still going to just run 2 copies while embracing the fact that they won't have total control over what Pokémon they attack? How often did players use more than 2 Lysandre in a game anyway? Certainly a small percentage of games. How many of those games did a Lysandre come from a VS Seeker though? A much higher amount. My starting point is going with 3 Guzma in lists. I think it is the appropriate adjustment to offset the loss of VS Seeker, and if it isn't correct, it won't be off by much and will play well. Without Shaymin-EX, and without VS Seekers or Trainers‘ Mail, I expect decks will want to up their overall Supporter count from prior seasons. 

 

Lysandre- This is a bit misleading because Lysandre gets a fairly effective replacement in Guzma. Guzma is both a Switch and a Lysandre in one, with neither side optional. This deviation is almost exclusively advantageous though. If you have a free retreater on the bench ( either naturally, or through a Float Stone ) you can always promote the same attacker again. A card like Tapu Koko was already popular, so I expect its value to only raise due to the increased value of its free retreat. If you find yourself without free retreat, but your Pokémon is KOed, you can promote a placeholder and bring up your desired attacker with Guzma. Also, you can just use it to legitimately switch into a new attacker. Finally, if you forced to, you can also just pay the retreat cost of a benched Pokémon.

There is additional upside to Guzma as well. There are a lot of powerful Pokémon with attacks which have negative side effects, such as preventing them from attacking the following turn. ( Lapras-GX and Volcanion-EX come to mind) These are decks that wanted to run a lot of switching effects anyway, and that ate up a lot of deck space. By allowing their new Lysandre to double as a Switch for this purpose, they get to avoid loading up on too many, otherwise narrow in their application, switching cards. Volcanion has to be a front-runner for one of the best decks in the format as it lost very little, and I could see it running a full 4 copies of Guzma.

Worth noting is that both Max Elixir and Aqua Patch only attach to benched Pokémon, so being able to bench an attacker (such as one like Alolan Ninetales-GX which discards energy to attack) and then use one of those two Items on it will come up frequently. Lysandre has been a format-defining card now since it's printing, and I view Guzma as a moderate overall upgrade to it.

Sky Field- While only a few decks (Mega Rayquaza, Mega Gardevoir, and Rainbow Road) really abused this card, and a few dabbled in it  some builds of Volcanion, for example) it is an irreplaceable effect that is no longer legal. Hoopa-EX is still actually in format due to its Promo printing, so I tried to see if I could still build a functional version without Shaymin-EX  (I believe it would have still worked!) and then I realized Sky Field was no longer legal and had to abandon it. I could see Volcanion running the card now, and a card like the new Darkrai-GX wouldn't mind this card staying in format, so I do expect it's loss to resonate.

 

 

Unown- Alright, this has just always been one of my favorite cards, and one that is pretty much unplayed now outside of my personal lists and Vespiquen, but farewell my farewell lettering friend.

Teammates- Teammates had seen a big spike in recent months due to its strength in non-ex decks and synergy alongside the pairing of Tapu Lele-GX and VS Seeker. It has a similar function to Mallow, and I think decks which really abuse this type of effect will be able to make use of Mallow, while decks like Zoroark and Garbodor which just used it for slight value will likely be fine without this type of effect in their builds. Mallow has great synergy with Octillery from Breakthrough, and I expect that engine to be fairly popular going forward.

Hex Maniac- This is a card that I think has gone under the radar a bit, regarding its rotation. It is both great at keeping degenerate decks from being too good, while also oppressing fair decks that wanted to make use of an Ability reliant strategy. Garbodor will continue to fill its void somewhat, but that will not be anywhere near as easily splashed. Metagross, Vikavolt, Volcanion, the new Gardevoir and countless other decks will benefit from its absence.

Double Dragon Energy- This is another card that didn't really light the format on fire, but one that I kind of overlooked as being gone once I started looking at cards. Without it, a lot of Dragon-type attackers are going to be really difficult to use. I don't think there are a lot of great Dragons right now anyway, but its loss will clearly be felt as better ones get printed.

Forest of Giant Plants- Forest was a dumb card, and I am glad to see it rotate ( and get banned in Expanded! ) It wasn't helped by the fact that they decided it would be cool to print really obnoxious Grass-type Pokémon that get a bit TOO good alongside the Forest. Decidueye and Vileplume are both prime offenders. Pokémon like Lurantis-GX are certainly going to get hurt by its loss, but I think it is overall a good thing as a lot of the Pokémon it "nerfs" are still likely to be competitive. I think Decidueye takes a reasonable hit by this, but the key word there is reasonable. I think a Decidueye deck may still be good, even without Vileplume or Forest. If the tail end of this format has shown us anything, it is that Rare Candy stage 2 decks are actually competitive. Some sort of Decidueye Alolan Ninetales deck should be really strong.

Vileplume- Good riddance! I hate these types of cards, which always seem to be Vileplume. I think the game is better off for its exit. Even if you want to argue that it is not too powerful...Decidueye Vileplume was a totally reasonable tier 1 deck. Its results were never oppressive. The problem is, it leads to a ton of non-interactive and dumb games that are just not fun to play for the opponent. I understand that it is not a PLAYER'S responsibility to let their opponent play fun Pokémon, but it is a responsibility of a game designer's. The game should avoid "feel bad" cards when possible. I actually think Pokémon has gotten a lot better with its card design recently, but this is still something they struggle with. Hex lock. Item lock. N. Delinquent. Ghetsis. Archeops. They may not...may not...be broken or imbalanced, but they do provide for a pretty miserable play experience.

Team Magma Base- This card really only saw play with Gyarados, which is rotating, and to power up Drampa-GX. The loss should hurt Drampa, but there were already lists that didn't run any Magma Base as it is, so that shouldn't hurt the card too much. Seeing how the card played almost no "fair" or normal role, I don't expect its absence to be widely felt.

Gyarados- With the loss of Magma Base, the archetype would die whether or not Gyarados itself was gone. Still, it marks the death of what I'd call a tier two archetype, so it is worth noting. 

Rough Seas- Rough Seas has seen a ton of play, but it is actually a Stadium I feel is fairly replaceable. While you will NOT find -better- healing options for Water or Lightning decks, most of these decks were not viable because they had access to healing cards. Rough Seas has always struck me as a very powerful addition to already tier 1 decks that is just a nice bonus. I don't think it makes or breaks a lot of potential decks. I've looked at building Waterbox, Alolan Ninetales, and Greninja decks and while they would all run Rough Seas if they could, but I haven't felt like they are much less playable without it.

Mega Rayquaza- RIP. RIP. RIP. I'm too emotional right now for a proper write-up/eulogy.

Mega Turbo- Mega Pokémon haven't seen a lot of play lately, as that whole gimmick was kind of awful. The mid-mechanic release of Spirit Links being a tell-tale sign that they terribly misevaluated it. I'm not saying they never printed good Mega Pokémon, but the mechanic was clunky and obnoxious and they had to print a bunch of stuff like this to offset how inherently handicapped the mechanic was. There aren't a lot of Mega Pokémon post rotation that seem alluring, but they really take a beating with the loss of Mega Turbo too. Its omission needs to be remembered when considering trying any of the Mega Pokémon though.

Primal Groudon/Primal Kyogre- Neither of these cards have seen successful play in Standard for some time now (even if I did play against two Groudon decks at Virginia Regionals in the first 4 rounds, somehow.) I'm actually a bit surprised by Kyogre's general lack of success overall.

Giratina-EX- Giratina hasn't seen play in awhile either, and I feel like that wouldn't change had it stayed in format. Its Ability gets worse and worse as less Mega Pokémon get printed/see play. There is enough of a power creep going on that its attack is just shy of being where it would need to be anymore. On top of this, Field Blower just undermines so much of the strength of the locking aspect of Chaos Wheel.

Ancient Origins Eeveelutions- All three of these rotate, and that does hurt Stage One decks. Vespiquen really liked them but has rotated. Still, the GX Pokémon are now their proper stages, so they could have seen a reasonable amount of play in this new format. The Eevee GX Pokémon suffer the most from this rotation.

Wally- Wally is another card that didn't see much play, but it is a card I really liked as an option in Greninja, especially with the release of Tapu Lele GX. While Talonflame builds are the de facto approach to the archetype, I could see Wally having seen play if it were still in format.

Now that we've gone over that, let's look at some of the decks I've built to start testing with!

 

 

I'm choosing to run four Volcanion and four Volcanion-EX. This is the meat of the deck, and while I've seen builds running three copies of either card at times, I like the full set of both of them. Volcanion-EX's Steam Up is beneficial in multiple copies, and while I know the most recent benchmark list, Ryan Sabelhaus' list from North American Internationals ran 3 due to recovery and his copies of Brooklet Hill, I like being conservative here and running the full four copies. The baby Volcanion is just a great attacker, and having four copies lets you leverage the fact that it is a non-EX Pokémon. This ends up being more important than usual because we lose VS Seeker. When decks can't spam Lysandre...well, Guzma, as well as before, they end up having to eat through your active more often. I'm trying to force those KOs to be Fury Belted 170 HP that are not EXes if possible.

I want to use this as an opportunity to address a card I think will be extremely popular going forward: Octillery. Octillery's Ability is so powerful, especially in a format almost devoid of non-Supporter draw power. It also works extremely well with Mallow. Without Shaymin, decks are going to struggle more to find themselves free to play Guzma in the late game as KOs and Ns start flying. Octillery, and to a lesser extent Oranguru, offset this. Why is this deck, a deck running Brooklet Hill to get Water basics, not running Octillery? Simply put, there is no bench space. You end up needing multiple Volcanion-EX, plus bench space for Tapu Lele, your other attackers, and a Starmie. Starmie is so good in this deck. In a way, it provides your N protection too. Most of the time what this deck needs as a game progresses is just access to multiple Energy cards. Starmie assures that. There is something else that is great about Starmie...the Staryu. Staryu has a free retreat cost! This is so important to this deck, which is running 4 Guzma. You'll end up using Guzma as a Switch to reset Volcanion EX a lot, and having a Staryu to promote is important.

 

Why four Guzma? Outside of serving the dual purpose of Lysandre and Switch, Guzma is everything this deck wants it to be. You reset Volcanion-EX, and also can bench a Turtonator or Volcanion after using it to put energy into play. You have to Elixir to a Benched Pokémon too, so switching around ends up being important. I'm running two Float Stone and an additional Switch beyond this, if that is any indication as to how important this fluidity is in my eyes. Also, with Starmie, the deck is actually fairly low maintenance as a game progresses. Compared to the average decks, you actually end up having fewer turns, where a Supporter is needed.

To round out the Pokémon, I have two Tapu Lele and a lone Turtonator-GX. Turtonator is so good that MAYBE I want a second copy of it in this deck. It has 190 HP and deals more damage than even a Volcanion-EX. You can only use Nitro Boost once per game, of course, so I have the mentality, at the moment, of planning to use only one copy of the card per game. I am running a Rescue Stretcher as a means of being the second Turtonator, the second Starmie, or less likely, a third Lele, or fifth Volcanion. I think that should cover the demand on Turtonator in most cases. Tapu Lele-GX is a card I want to play three copies of in most decks because I'd rather have too much consistency at the start of a new format with an unfamiliar draw engine than too little. Unfortunately for this deck, it has bench space issues that are so telegraphed I know better than to run the third Lele in here.

Fourteen Fire Energy is me just ripping off of Ryan's list, but I'm pretty sure it's right. Even back when I played lists with closer to twelve Fire Energy, I always felt like I wanted more. I was too nervous to deviate much from the beaten path on that number, but seeing the accepted number rise is a trend I'll happily embrace. You want to be able to dump these in the discard pile as soon as possible to be able to use with Nitro Boost or Power Heater. You also want a high density for Max Elixir, which I am choosing to play 4 copies of. I see lists that don't run a playset of them, even lists from players I consider more experienced with this deck than me, but I'm stubborn about wanting the full set of Elixir.

The four N, four Sycamore and four Ultra Ball are standard fare. I've cut the Brooklet Hill count to two, but have bumped the Field Blowers to three. Brooklet Hill becomes pretty useless as the game progresses, even if it is great in the first few turns. Field Blower helps address any Stadium wars...which I don't expect much of, as most of the powerful Stadiums rotated. Field Blower is just such a good catch all but is mainly being played as a 3 of in order to combat Breakpoint's Garbodor. Without Hex Maniac, it is the only way to turn off this deck's Steam Ups, and I want to be prepared. Garbodor is already one of the most popular decks leaving the old format, and players want to port over safe decks into a new format. I actually think Garbodor is a lot worse going forward. While cards like Acro Bike and Trainers' Mail have already fallen out of favor, simply removing 4fourVS Seekers from every deck is going to add up in reducing the damage of Trashalanche.

Finally, the three Fighting Fury Belts provide both an HP boost and a bit of extra damage. I've considered a split of Belts and Choice Band, but I think Fury Belt works best when you just keep jamming them down and forcing the opponent to Field Blower them away. I've considered a fourth copy for that function, but that may be excessive. All of the Pokémon in this deck have such high HP totals that Fury Belt just works so well in here. With Steam Up providing so much damage to the deck's output, it can afford to take only a ten damage boost off of the Belt and gamble at trying to force the extra HP to pay off.

 

Volcanion is the first deck I wanted to discuss because it basically loses nothing. It is a cheap deck to build, and most players already have the cards. I expect it to be one of the most played decks at the turn of the format and one that needs to be on everyone's radar. This deck has been a tier 1 deck ever since Steam Siege's release. It is streamlined and extremely proactive. It is a great choice to pilot into an unknown field at the start of a new format.

This is another deck that is a pretty simple port over. Gustavo Wada was first seed going into the top 8 of North American Internationals with his Alolan Ninetales deck, and really the only losses the deck takes are VS Seeker and Rough Seas. I mentioned before that I didn't feel Rough Seas hurt that much to lose. Let's look at why this deck is great.

First off, Alolan Vulpix is a stupidly good card. Its free attack lets you grab 2 Pokémon into your hand. This guarantees you set up and works beautifully with Octillery and Tapu Lele. There are a lot of Stage Two decks that just run Vulpix solely to help set up. I actually think that we'll see a lot of decks running a two-one, or three-one "Vulpix" line just because the deck wants Vulpix but will take Ninetales and it's colorless sniping attack as a freebie once it runs the Vulpixs.

Ninetales can OHKO a lot of Pokémon, and for those Pokémon that can't be taken out that easily can be set up easily with Ice Blade or in this deck's case, Tapu Koko. Ninetales can play a grindy game, or be bluntly powerful with Blizzard Edge. I generally try to avoid these types of decks that have to finesse their way to victory, but Ninetales offers up that perfect balance between the raw power that can force wins and a lot of room to maneuver with skill through a game too. With 210 HP and it's obnoxious-GX attack, Ninetales is both difficult to take out in one shot and able to punish a player who is unable to walk that minefield carefully. The deck will miss Rough Seas because the card was just so punishing to players who went too soft with a setup attack to avoid being punished by Ice Path

 

Metagross-GX is one of my favorite decks out of a whole cluster of archetypes revolving around Stage 2 Pokémon that put energy into play, namely itself, Gardevoir-GX and Vikavolt. While they all have their own strengths and weaknesses, the general game plan is similar. These are the kind of decks I actually cut my teeth on back in the mid 2000s (Some of the decks I had the most success with were Blaziken in 2004, LBS in 2006 and Metanite in 2007) because they were decks that if they got to do what they wanted cleanly, they would be favored against almost any deck. The decks had the overall highest power level cap but gave up speed and consistency to do so. As the speed of the game increased, I actually moved away from these types of strategies as my favorite crutch, but it doesn't make them less viable right now. With the exit of Shaymin-EX and a lot of Item based draw power, the average deck is slower and closer to the setup speed of these decks. You still have a lot of clunkiness to fight through, but the payoff is worth it.

Metagross is the first of these decks I want to break down. With 250 HP, it is really difficult to KO, and that is BEFORE the Max Potion spam is taken into account. Once you get a few Metagross-GX in play, you can cycle between them and heal them back to full with Max Potion. Unlike a lot of these decks, Metagross has a lower damage output, doing a natural 150 damage and 180 with Choice Band. (I like how we live in a time where 180 is a "low damage cap" for a deck.) A huge selling point of the deck is how self-sustained it is. Since Metagross rips energy out of the discard pile, you will always have access to energy ( and an abundance of it ) even if you end up hit by an N.

Metagross is in a bit of an odd position in the prospective metagame. It can't ever beat Volcanion, as their damage output plus Weakness is too much for a deck relying on being able to take hits. On the other hand, the deck is the hard counter for Gardevoir decks (another one of the most hyped decks) and it is great against Alolan Ninetales. It should be pretty strong against most decks that either can't OHKO a Metagross, or be aggressive enough to get under it.

 

 

All of these Stage Two acceleration decks rely on Abilities, so Garbodor is a potential problem. As a result, you should run 3 Field Blowers just to make sure you can strip Garbotoxin of its pre-requisite Tool. Three is plenty because you only need a few turns of Ability use usually to actually develop enough of a board presence to win the game. You don't need uncontested access to Abilities, you just need a reasonable amount of play with them. Guzma to KO the Garbodor outright is also an out.

I am running a four-two-four Metagross line because the deck wants to get Metagross out quickly, and in multiples. A four-two-three line is probably defensible, but I like being safe. The draw power overall is weaker now, and I'd much rather not have to exert myself trying to get pieces I'll need every single game. Due to the way the deck asks a lot of your setup, a 3-1 Alolan Ninetales line gets a supporting role in the deck. Mainly you will use Vulpix's free attack to stockpile Pokémon in your hand to accelerate your setup and smooth out some of the deck's clunkiness. From there, the 1 Alolan Ninetales-GX is basically a freebie since 2 of its attacks cost colorless Energy. I actually really like Ninetales in this deck because you end up leaving some stragglers behind that you end up shy of an OHKO on and Ninetales can pick those off, or pre-emptively set them up with damage.

Tapu Lele-GX is a given in any deck, but it is even cuter in here because the deck actually benefit from access to a double "max potion" with its GX attack. Metagross-GX's GX attack often just gets you hit with an N, undoing it entirely, so I try to reserve my GX attack for Tapu Lele in a reasonable number of games. Despite the deck's self-sufficiency, as I touched on before, Octillery is just too good a card not to play as a one-one line here. I love Mallow, and this is a deck that uses her well, and Octillery is instrumental in making that card work.

Energy-wise, the deck runs a nine-one split on Metal and Psychic Energy. The Psychic Energy is basically a freebie if you look at attack costs, and even works with Metagross. It is worth the inclusion for Tapu Lele. Perhaps the deck can trim an energy or two even, just because of the recursion Metagross generates, but again I like being safer with builds at first and willing to trim only after evidence suggests the deck can handle it.

The Trainers aren't anything too fancy since a lot of decks have most of them set in stone. The Skyla and Mallow split make getting Rare Candy easier, which is the hardest piece of the puzzle for the deck to assemble since Vulpix does such a great job compiling everything else. I'm at three Max Potion because if the card is effective in a matchup, odds are three will be enough to enable you to win and the 4th will end up being overkill. The two Float Stone may seem like too few with Guzma and how fat all of the Pokémon are, but Metagross' Ability makes retreating fairly easy, and Skyla and Mallow make getting the Stones pretty easy. 

This is showcasing pretty much my "Stage Two" build, as it ends up being similar to what I am doing with my Metagross build. One of the biggest differences is the swap from Octillery to Starmie. Octillery is the better card in a vacuum, but in this case, Gardevoir differs from Metagross in that while Metagross rips energy out of the discard pile and into play, Gardevoir requires the energy to be in your hand. This makes Starmie's Ability super powerful in this deck. Beyond this, I am also running thirteen energy opposed to the ten I was running in Metagross. Metagross only needs three energy at a time to be able to attack, whereas Gardevoir doesn't really have an upper limit.

I also am running a Xerneas, for Geomancy. Geomancy is just extremely powerful towards this decks game plan. Since I am going with Xerneas in this deck, Alolan Vulpix ends up being a weaker plan, but it is a plan I want to keep included none the less. Still, it is why I am going with a two-one line opposed to a three-one. You won't often end up using Geomancy, but it is a great first turn option, and there will be points mid game where it is worth it to take time off and put some extra energy into play. Since this deck does a majority of it's attacking with GX Pokémon, having a Pokémon which gives up only one prize in the mix is also beneficial.

Max Potion is obviously not what this deck is trying to do, so it got the ax. Instead, I am running a Psychic Energy as a means to use Tapu Lele-GX's Tapu Cure, which can heal two Gardevoir back to full. I'm running a set of Double Colorless Energy to help augment Gardevoir's damage output. I feel like I could be overlooking an easy splash attacker that could be thrown into the deck, but I'm already stretching things quite a bit with how I've got things built as it is.

When Guardians Rising spoilers started to get released, one of the most hyped cards was Aqua Patch. The "Quad Lapras" deck was already a popular archetype at that point, and the idea of abusing Lapras in a deck with both Aqua Patch and Max Elixir got a lot of hype. Unfortunately due to the strength of other decks in the format, the deck never really quite took off. (The biggest success the archetype saw was at the hands of Israel Sosa, who did pilot the deck to a top-eight performance at a Regional)

In general, the new format looks to be slower than it had been. This deck looks to absolutely change that. With 8 Energy acceleration Items, it can dump energy into play at an alarming rate. With all of it's Pokémon being Basics, it ends up being smooth, consistent, fast and extremely aggressive. With a Choice Band and a Professor Kukui, Lapras can hit for 210 damage in one hit. The deck regularly attacks on turn two for huge damage, but it can occasionally pull it off on the first turn with strong draws.

Manaphy-EX gives your Pokémon with a Water Energy attached to it a free retreat cost. This works well with Guzma, even if the deck otherwise lacks a free retreater or any Float Stone. Energy Switch works really well with Manaphy, and as the game progresses, they often act as another Aqua Patch or Max Elixir by being able to power out a Pokémon in one turn.

While the deck often relies on Lapras as the main attacker, you can use Glaceon-EX against Stage 1 Pokémon, and even Manaphy, Oranguru and Tapu Lele provide viable options! Since this deck is extremely aggressive, I liked Oranguru as insurance against N. Beyond this, while it attacks is not great, you can use Max Elixir and Energy Switch to power up Oranguru in a pinch and it ends up being the deck's "seventh prize" since otherwise the whole deck is made up of EX or GX Pokémon.

Most of this deck is streamlined and fairly self-explanatory, so I'd rather actually go over cards that are missing. The deck runs no Stadium cards and no Field Blower. The deck doesn't really benefit that greatly from Stadium cards. It also doesn't fear any of them in particular to the point where it wants to counter anything. Field Blower is a generally reactive card, and that isn't what this deck is about. Even Garbotoxin doesn't scare the deck much, as the deck cares more about using its Items more so than it's Abilities to progress its board state. I'm not saying the deck wouldn't make use of a Stadium, or from Field Blowers, but the deck is chock full of very aggressive, proactive cards, and I like not muddling that.

This build is running two Professor Kukui and three Choice Band, but that isn't the only way to build this deck. The reason I am running two Kukui is that in matchups where 210 damage is strong, you'll often want to take two KOs at that benchmark. The alternative build I wanted to look at replaces Choice Bands with Fighting Fury Belt. Taking Lapras up to 230 HP is really powerful, and you still hit pretty solid numbers without the bigger damage boost. If you play the Fury Belts, I like an Acelora. Acelora is similar to AZ, but it only bounces your Pokémon if it is damaged. For the sake of this deck, I don't see bouncing anything besides a damaged Pokémon. With 230 HP Lapras running around, you can Acelora them and save the Fury Belt for your next attacker as well. With Energy Switch, you can "save" some of your attachments before returning it to your hand. 

Another gimmick I like with the Fury Belts is to run a Ninja Boy and a Tauros-GX. I think people have overlooked Tauros a bit, and it's easy to take a damaged Lapras and convert it into a two Energy OHKO with Tauros's super Rage. Also worth pointing out, with Ninja boy, you can actually Ninja Boy a damaged EX into Oranguru to prevent it from being a two prize liability that may lose a game. It is a fringe case, but it can come up.

This is a deck that, like Volcanion, is just really fast and powerful. While everyone is trying to figure out how to best build all of their new decks, I love embracing a deck that just consistency blitzes out of the gate and steamrolls sub-par builds or decks.

I started looking at Greninja, a deck which didn't lose much of its core and wanted to just play it with Talonflame ( I love what the addition of Talonflame BREAK does to this deck ) and I realized pretty quickly that I was not happy with what I was looking at. You lose VS Seeker, Dive Ball, and Level Ball. I actually didn't mention the two Balls' rotation because they didn't see a tremendous amount of play in the format, beyond this deck. Unfortunately, all of this really messes with Greninja's consistency. One of the major accusations leveled at Greninja was its consistency issues. I felt that had always been slightly exaggerated, and the deck's numerous strong finishes seem to defend that view. That being said, I am very skeptical of taking this big a hit to consistency.

Most of this deck is similar to what we had seen prior to the rotation. The Pokémon, a four-one Talonflame line, and a three-four-four-one Greninja line are pretty much locked in stone by virtue of the Talonflame gimmick. You want to optimize the odds of starting with Talonflame with this deck, thus locking you into only three Froakie as your Basic Pokémon. I've considered doing something really greedy and trying two Froakie and a one-one Octillery line, as the deck really wants additional draw power but cannot add any Basics.

For energy, nine...some split of Splash Energy and Water Energy...had been pretty standard for the deck. With the deck's overall consistency and draw power worsened, I added a tenth just to try and combat that a bit. One cool thing that Guzma does to this deck is it gives it a "Switch" effect. This makes it easier to pull off multiple BREAK Shurikens. Having the energy to discard for the first Ability, retreat, active a second Ability, and still being able to attack is not easy. Alleviating the need to retreat lifts up some of the pressure. Under perfect conditions, you can actually pull off three Shurikens, which is pretty fantastic. As a result, I can see going up to as many as eleven Energy.

The Trainers are a desperate attempt to stem the bleeding from the cards lost in the rotation. Traditionally, we saw a mix of Dive Ball and Level Ball, and now the deck is stuck with Ultra Ball ( It actually dislikes discarding cards, so that shift is painful. ) and a mix of Timer Ball and Nest Balls. I want to keep the overall Ball count at seven, but whether the deck wants more Timer Balls or more Nest Balls I am not sure of yet. A two-one split one way or the other seems ideal. I am leaning with Nest Ball because you really need to get a Froakie into play on the first turn. Getting Evolutions can fall to Talonflame, but you need to see a Froakie prior to attacking with it.

Guzma is again an upgrade over Lysandre, and without VS Seeker to reuse it, I'm running 2 copies of it. This deck is actually super demanding in terms of setup, and most turns will be spent using Supporters for draw power. That is actually a very real problem. Without VS Seeker, and also without Tapu Lele-GX OR Octillery ( or even an Oranguru ) I am really concerned about not having enough draw to keep the deck going over a full game. The choices to pad that number with are really, really poor though. Luckily, this is a deck that is often playing from behind, and it's Ns are going to stay "draw" cards longer than in most decks. With the BREAKs' Abilities, the deck can actually leave potential KOs hanging around to take later while not hindering its own Ns.

Two Fisherman, a pair of Super Rod, and a Rescue Stretcher round out the deck's recovery cards. This deck gives up a lot of KOs early as it sets up, and it also needs to rebuild its "Stage Three" lines, and that puts a reasonable amount of pressure on the deck to have Pokémon recovery. It is also pretty high maintenance with its need for Energy, so Super Rod covers both needs. Fisherman gets you a ton of Energy back, and Rescue Stretcher is a more versatile Item for getting back Pokémon. This provides the deck with enough sustainability going long.

Finally, we have three Choice Band, three Field Blower, and three Max Potion. One of the strengths of this deck is that you use only non-EX Pokémon and force the opponent into taking six actual KOs. Greninja BREAK has a lot of HP, and if it can't be OHKOed, each Max Potion you play just makes it harder for your opponent. Greninja's low energy cost makes this card so synergistic with what the deck is doing. Choice Band brings the deck's damage output up drastically, and the difference this makes with Shadow Stitching is massive. Field Blower is just a great card, but it also specifically answers Garbotoxin, as this deck really suffers under its umbrella.

I've spent a lot of time harping on how Greninja "got worse" as a build...but I actually do like the deck! While it lost some strength in a vacuum, other decks lost a lot as well. The deck is still extremely powerful, and it has a lot of comeback potential and play to it. On top of this, decks, in general, have gotten a lot slower overall. While Talonflame BREAK helps some, the deck is still very poor against Grass decks, and the rotation of Forest of Giant Plants is a HUGE blow to that type universally. Stage two decks are also stronger now, and that should also benefit Greninja. You can pick off low HP basics later in the game, and most of these decks bank on a strong Ability granted by their Stage Two. Greninja offers an Ability lock that can't be broken up by Field Blower. It also has type advantage over Volcanion.

That is all I am going to cover in this article, but there are a ton of potentially viable decks that I didn't get around to discussing this time, such as Vikavolt, Zoroark, Garbodor decks and potentially Turbo Darkrai to say the least. The most fun part of the season is immediately after rotation, so go out and experiment before everything gets stale and obnoxious again! Enjoy! Until next time!

 

Chris

[+11] okko


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