Experts' corner

Chris Fulop

Shedding Some Light On Forbidden Light

Chris Covers The Two Newest Decks To Come From Forbidden Light: Beast Ring Buzzwole and Malamar! Plus, TREES!

05/21/2018 by Chris Fulop

Hello again everyone!

Today I want to go over the impact that Forbidden Light is looking to have on the Standard format. In addition to this, I want to go over my choice for a deck in Expanded: Trevenant (XY; 55) . I would have played it in Utah, and I would play it again in Virginia, and not just because the deck got a sizeable upgrade in Mysterious Treasure. In fact, lets look at Trevenant first!

Trevenant (XY; 55)  offers a lot of selling points, and one possible "issue", which is its hypothetical issue against Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  decks. I'm not going to tell you that the deck is favorable against Zoroark decks -- I don't feel it is. I do feel that the deck is surprisingly competitive against a deck with a 210 HP Stage 1 Pokemon that OHKOs your deck for one attachment that has built in draw power against your disruptive deck. I do feel as if the matchup settles around a 45% win rate for Trevenant (XY; 55)  though, and for a "worst matchup" this is not that bad at all. I feel that this winrate actually inches closer to 50% or above against average or subpar Zoroark players, too. Players who may write off the Zoroark/Trevanant matchup as lopsided and therefore do not test against it will realize they lose a lot of edges. When a large portion of Zoroark players are on the deck because they do not actively play Expanded and are bandwagoning the "best deck", you will get paired against these players more often.

On top of this, with the release of Forbidden Light, the Fighting decks centered around Buzzwole GX (CIN; 57)  get a LOT better. This deck has felt extremely powerful, to the point where, in a vacuum, I think it may be the most powerful in Expanded. It is also, of course, really well-positioned against Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  builds. Zoroark proved to be able to weather most archetypes, including attempted counter decks, fairly well over the months. While Buzzwole has yet to be put through that gauntlet and may end up less resilient with a target on it's head, the current bullseye is on the current "best deck" -- Zoroark. Zoroark made up a massive percentage of the field of events headed into Utah. It failed to convert very well into a day 2 and top 8 performance, meaning it was already losing momentum. With Buzzwole on the horizon, you have to assume that even less people will be on Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) . I don't even think Zoroark is that poorly positioned: The deck is still very good. In the context of thinking about Trevenant (XY; 55)  though, the deck is not expected to make up over a third of the field as was expected at events roughly a month ago.

What makes Trevenant (XY; 55)  such a powerful deck choice right now? Well, for once, it is a very disruptive deck. One-sided Item lock is extremely powerful, and always has been. Going second, this deck is able to use Phantump's Ascension to reliably have a turn-one Trevenant active. Going first is even sillier with Wally to cut off Items before the opponent is even able to play a single cad. Many of the most powerful engines in Expanded rely heavily on Items, and decks wind up embracing greedy builds to take advantage of this; many are really prone to collapsing to Item lock.

Trevenant also benefits from having an exceptional Buzzwole matchup. A lot of Buzzwole's strength comes from Max Elixir and Beast Ring -- Items which are cut off. On top of this, Trevenant (XY; 55)  has type advantage over Buzzwole. Not only does it deal double damage, but Trevenant, being it's usual ghostly self, resists Fighting.

One of the trends we saw with the rise of Zoroark decks was a shift in players embracing disruptive- and mill-based strategies to prey on them. These decks include Durant, Wailord, and Sabeleye/Garbodor. Sabeleye and Durant really, really struggle against Trevenant (XY; 55) . Wailord is not bad either, but it is closer because of Rough Seas and the fact that a lot of the deck's disruption stems from Supporters opposed to Items. It is not impossible for them to actually run you out of Energy entirely some games. A second Super Rod does a lot to shore up this matchup, even though it is already around a coin flip.

Trevenant (XY; 55)  is a great choice for Regionals, as well, because its games are fairly quick. It can play a kind of grindy game, but its turns are very quick and its game plan is surprisingly linear. On top of this, it really limits the number of plays an opponent can make on their turns. Couple this with the amount of "cheap" wins where the opponent fails to set up at all, and you should reliably complete your rounds. Trevenant is a huge pain to play AGAINST, but in general is fairly easy to play. This makes for a less grueling tournament mentally. With how long a Regionals tournament is, this isn't negligible.

Lets break down this specific list!

4-4/3 Trevenant BREAK: This is a pretty standard line. You are clearly going to run the maximum number of Phantumps and Trvenant. Due to Super Rod and 4 Rescue Scarf, you don't really need more than 3 of the BREAK. While you do really want to get the BREAK out, the deck can function without it in a pinch, so the 4th is overkill.

2 Tapu Lele-GX: The deck has no Pokemon based draw, and doesn't really have any sort of complex or powerful Item based engine either. Since it relies on a very "fair" Supporter game plan, it needs Tapu Lele GX to be able to smooth out it's draws. Also, the deck wants to play Wally on turn one. With 2 Lele, the Wally, 4 Mysterious Treasure and 2 Ultra Ball, this is fairly reliable. To address the elephant in the room...the deck's optimal board consists solely of Trevenant. One of the ways for decks to break Item lock is with Guzma or Lysandre on a non-Tree. You don't WANT to have targets for this if you don't have to, but you usually wind up with Leles or at the very least un-evolved Phantumps. Tapu Lele offers too much of a safety net, while also enabling the Wally plan of the deck not to run a couple of copies of it anyways. You want to open Phantump as often as possible, so you don't want to run too many additional Basics, therefore 2 feels perfect. Previous builds ran a split of 1 Tapu Lele GX and 1 Jirachi EX because the deck used to run Level Ball. With the release of Mysterious Treasure, a card that can grab any card in the deck, the otherwise inferior Jirachi gets the upgrade to a second Lele.

1 Espeon-EX: Espeon is a huge weapon in this deck that works really, really well against any deck playing evolutions. It is a major part of how you beat Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) , Greninja and Gardevoir. You only need 2 attacks with a BREAK to leave Zoroark's vulnerable to devolution KOs. Trying to actually deal with Zoroark's 210 HP the hard way is just not a functional strategy. You have to fall back on Espeon.

4 Psychic Energy/4 Mystery Energy/2 Counter Energy: The correct number of Energy in this deck is between 9 and 10 Energy. I'm a bit partial towards 10, particularly because I really like Counter Energy. Mystery Energy is superior to Psychic in most cases, offering a reduced retreat cost. With Item lock, you don't really have to worry much about Enhanced Hammer as an issue.

Counter Energy is nice because this deck is a spread deck. You fall behind in prizes almost every game, and while ideally a Trevenant BREAK (BKP; 66)  attacks with a lone Energy and Dimension Valley, Counter Energy is another attacking out for games where you don't have access to Valley ( Decks run a lot of Stadiums at the moment so getting them countered is a real threat. ) or in games where you want to do your 60/20/20 spread. One of the other big issues the deck faces besides Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  is Giratina ( Promo ) as it shuts off your BREAK's Ability. With Counter Energy, you increase your ability to actually attack with a normal Trevenant (XY; 55) , and if you can Counter Catcher up Giratina, you can answer it in short order.

Counter Energy comes up sometimes against Zoroark too. Well, more so with Exeggcute. Zoroark can "Safely" bench Exeggcutes against you with Sky Field if you will be left with 0 Energy attached to a Tree. Normally Eggs are a huge liability against the 30 spread, but they can be discarded if Sky Field gets countered with Dimension Valley to enable the attack. If you get an initial KO on some Zoruas with Espeon EX, it is not uncommon for a Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  player to "go off" with Items, fill their bench, and OHKO Espeon, expecting their Eggs -not- to be a liability. Suddenly dropping a Counter Energy so you can attack without countering Sky Field can really blow them out.

A card I had been exploring at one point for the matchup was Weakness Policy. Put on a 160 HP BREAK, it makes it a difficult KO for Zoroark. This actually can be leveraged to force an opponent into falling for the Sky Field/Exeggcute bench just to get KOs. Target Whistle could theoretically be used to get cheap Egg KOs in the matchup too. I tested Weakness Policy to decent results, but have no had the guts to actually try out Target Whistle as I think it is way too cute and not actually good.

4 Mysterious Treasure/2 Ultra Balls/1 Nest Ball: The deck really wants to fill it's bench with as many Phantump as possible because, well, Trevenant (XY; 55) s die a lot. You need a constant chain of them. I actually would like 8 "Balls" here but 7 suffices. The 4 Treasure are clearly the best option. The split between Ultra Ball and Nest Ball may seem unusual, but the deck doesn't really love discarding cards. You want enough additional Ultra Ball to reliably see Tapu Lele over the course of a game, but since most Balls go towards Phantumps, the Nest Ball is a fine 7th.

4 N: N is the best Supporter in the deck. Since you often play from behind, you will be drawing a lot of cards from N while your opponent draws less and less as the game progresses. It really applies to pressure alongside your Item lock. Against Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) , it is important to hit it almost every turn. You want to be stripping DCEs with Enhanced Hammer or stranding targets with Counter Catcher and hoping these paired with N can just buy free turns without getting KOed. While some games the opponent just runs really well and draws what they need off the Ns, most games the disruption adds up. I have considered an Ace Trainer in the deck as a "5th" N, and one that is more lopsided in disruption early on but it didn't make the cut.

4 Cynthia: I mentioned before with the Ball discussion how the deck dislikes discarding resources, so I am going with all Cynthia and 0 Sycamore. A 3-1 split in favor of Cynthia isn't terrible as the value of the 1 Sycamore goes way up alongsided Lele and VS Seeker, but I'm playing it safe here.

4 VS Seeker: It's Expanded. I sometimes forget how great this card was. If you wanted the Ace Trainer, cutting the 4th VS Seeker is a totally reasonable way to go about getting it.

4 Dimension Valley: You would play way more than 4 if you could, I feel. You want it early, and you want it often as decks WILL counter it. Rough Seas is one of the worst possible cards for you to play against, and against Wailord and Greninja decks you suspect run them ( Not all of them do! I like to assume they do until given a reason to suspect otherwise ) you really want to save your Valleys until you can make the first counter as those matchups go long and grindy and you NEED to win the Stadium war.

1 Comp. Search: I should have just lumped this in with VS Seeker as an Expanded gimme in most decks.

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