Experts' corner

Chris Fulop

What Almost Was...

I Go Over My Primal Clash Testing, What I Would Have Played, And A Number Of Decklists!

03/04/2015 by Chris Fulop

Hello again everyone!


I want to apologize for a few complications with this article. For one, I had wanted to finish it a bit sooner than I did. Unfortunately, last Thursday I found myself rather sick, and I haven't been feeling back to normal until very recently. The worst of it only lasted a few days, but I was just pretty out of it even after that. This brings us to the bigger let down, for me personally, at least. My plans for the weekend were to be driving down to Florida with my friends Carl and Laura. Yes. We were going to drive 20ish hours during the winter from Ohio to Florida. The plan was for me to drive down to Columbus, and then split the drive with Laura Thursday and Friday. Well, let me put it non-graphically, but I was in no shape to even make the two and a half hour drive down to Columbus, yet alone the longer leg of the trip afterward. SOMEHOW, Laura wound up being an absolute machine and made the trip on her own. ( Carl does not drive. ) I cannot even fathom how she was able to pull that off, and I feel terrible having put her in a position to have to do that.

Now, the reason this relates to this article is that my original plan was to lead with my Regionals report from the event. Instead, I'll focus on my preparation going into the event, and some of my thoughts stemming from the results.

I was a bit of a procrastinator in terms of testing for the new Primal Clash impacted format. Going into St. Louis Regionals, all of my focus was on the old format. When I got back from St. Louis, I was burnt out and physically exhausted, and took that week off from testing. This left me with a week to adjust to a new metagame which I felt could see quite the upheaval with new cards. The set was chock full of new trainers, some of which could introduce new engines ( Acrobike, the Aqua/Magma Supporters. ) and a lot of powerful EX Pokemon. In some cases, it is safe to assume most of the archetypes stay the same, a few cards get added, and the set offers a new archetype or two. This set looked to feature the potential for a lot more change than that. I felt a bit stressed out because while I was busy preparing for St. Louis, I knew players who did not attend that weekend's Regionals would be busy getting the jump on the new cards.

One of the decks I had discussed with Carl Scheu, Kevin Baxter and David Cook after St. Louis was a deck based around Primal Groudon. When I first evaluated the card, I had no idea that they would rule Alpha Barrier in a way which would prevent Crushing Hammer/Enhanced Hammer from being able to discard energy off of the Pokemon. As far as I am aware, based on the wording of both cards involved, this is an entirely new precedent being set. In the past, such effects had not been ruled similarly. Usually a card would specifically state that it also protects cards attached to the Pokemon as well. With them accepting a somewhat more abstract ruling, I'm a bit surprised they allow it to be Escape Rope'd/Lysandre'd to the bench by an opponent, but at the end of the day, all that really matters is what the official rulings are. This made cards with Alpha Barrier much better. The obvious card to look at from there was Primal Groudon.

Groudon can sit on the bench, taking on energies, while your opponent is unable to bring it active to get the first hit on it. The base idea is, against decks using primarily EX attackers, you get to bring it up and at least get two OHKOs off of it, since with Fighting Stadium and Strong Energy ( or maybe a Muscle Band if you opt against using a Spirit Link! ) it is very easy for Groudon to hit 240+ damage. If they are able to take the Groudon down from there, it shouldn't be that difficult to secure the last two prizes. Going into the event, the big deck that everyone seemed the most hyped for was Gardevoir Fairies. Groudon felt like a good counter to that, as you could take out two Primal Gardevoir EX with it, and almost always be safe from a return OHKO with 240 HP. ( Gardevoir would need an impressive 8 Fairy in play, AFTER you Lysandre kill one of their Pokemon, with the most Fairy attached to it...ideally an attacking Gardevoir. ) Groudon also is inherently very good against Seismitoad EX decks. There is nothing they can do to make it an easy KO. First, it is going to OHKO Seismitoad EX. They cannot bring it active. They cannot Laser it, meaning they cap at an “impressive” 50 damage with Muscle Band, making Groudon a comical five hit KO. So you can more or less just bench it, ignore what they do, and power it up then win. Obviously this is a bit of an oversimplification, but the matchup should be pretty good.

Against decks like Yveltal, where you would assume a card like Yveltal EX could potentially power up an Evil Ball that could hit for 240, we have to look at the math. Groudon will have 4 energy on it. With a Band, and the base 20 damage on Yveltal, you can give the card 120 overall damage to start with. This means it has to make up another 120 damage, which means it needs SIX energy attached to it. With Groudon untouchable on the bench, it is going to get the first swing, and KO whatever Yveltal is being tanked. Yveltal decks, even under the best of circumstances, are more or less incapable of presenting a pair of Yveltal with that much energy.

I'm a big proponent of Metal decks, clearly. Now, there were two possible builds which could have seen play at the event. You may have builds like the one I had been using, with the traditional arsenal of Heatran, Dialga EX, Seismitoad EX and Aegislash EX. Very few people besides myself used it last format, and I did not expect a ton of people to find reason to jump ship, outside of potentially wanting to punish players for bandwagoning onto Fairy decks. The other build would be to try and focus around Aggron EX. This is appealing, as it gives the deck the ability to score OHKOs on 180-240 HP Pokemon, a problem I had been struggling with using my traditional build all season. Well, unfortunately, Mega Aggron EX only hits 240 at BEST ( with Victini ) 75% of the time, and unless you also pack Mr. Mime, the missed flips will really punish you. This is a lot of dedication to the card. None the less, I felt like Groudon EX matched up fairly well against either deck. You can reliably OHKO Mega Aggron EX, and they had to hope to get you back. Plus, you were guaranteed the first hit. Now, I'll be honest, it isn't completely out of the realm of possibility that they could use Bronzong's Metal Links to get two Mega Aggron up, and if they did so, and hit the return KO, I could see the matchup spiraling out of control from there as a second Groudon is very difficult to pull off.

The other build simply lacks the ability to OHKO Groudon, meaning it will get two EX kills, and assures you a nice grindy game. I felt like Metal could actually put up a decent fight against the deck normally, but you do get a lot of other attackers to compliment the deck.

Crobat Fighting decks were dominant at the prior Regionals, and another deck worth looking at, matchup wise. You get access to a lot of the same attackers they do, sans Bats. They can start to pile damage onto Groudon on the bench, both through Hammerhead and Bat Abilities. This is a big problem, as you realize very quickly that the two sides Fighting Pokemon are both fairly anemic against each other. Hawluchas brick off each other, and whoever brings up an EX gets attacked by a Hawlucha, which resists Fighting. So you get this sort of cold war going, only their Bats are reasonable attackers during this stage. One card I initially thought may help this matchup was Mr. Mime, but there is a big problem with that: The list did not run Ultra Ball. With 4 Korrina, and all Fighting Pokemon, the deck didn't run Ultra Ball, meaning cards like Mr. Mime and Jirachi EX were off the table in deck construction. Crobat Fighting decks felt like a matchup which would require some pampering, as it fundamentally looked challenging. It didn't seem unwinnable, but it certainly felt like it needed help.

Virizion Genesect was a deck that seemed like it could just butcher the deck. First off, they could just OHKO Primal Groudon with a Muscle Band and Megalo Cannon. Even the idea of a Weakness Policy wouldn't stop a big G-Booster. Beyond this, they could bring it active with Red Signal, making the card an even bigger liability. VG was a deck which I expected to see moderate play, as it had game vs Fairies, and had type advantage vs both of the new Primal Pokemon. While we all know that no one has really used Primal Kyogre yet, it started off with quite a lot of hype on it's side. If VG was to see a lot of play, we needed to have an alternative game plan for it. We hoped we could craft a package using Landorus EX, Landorus, and Hawlucha to be able to have some degree of game against them, accepting that Groudon was going to be forced into being a non-factor in these games.

Anyways, lets look at the list I came up with ( We all discussed a lot of options, and while we all seemed to take it in slightly different directions, the core was the same.)

The Pokemon are fairly simple. Hawlucha is your best starter due to free retreat. With Korrina being able to grab other Pokemon, this flexibility cannot be overlooked. In addition to this, in matchups you want to attack with Hawlucha, you often want to rely on it as a main attacker. You want a lot of copies for that, as they are not difficult kills. I initially had four copies of the card, but cut the 4th for a Lucario EX. Lucario is an interesting inclusion because it seems like it is just a weaker Landorus. The big boogeyman in Water is Seismitoad EX, which was previously a big justification for Lucario as an alternative. Fortunately, Groudon is just a better weapon in that matchup. Lucario is actually a nice change of pace because it's first attack chews through Weakness. This gives you a means to KO Zubats, and Hawluchas with Muscle Band/Strong Energy. Since the deck does not have Jirachi EX in it, it also serves the function of being a means out of a dead hand, and providing some degree of late game N protection with it's second attack.

Landorus EX is one of the most aggressive Pokemon ever printed, with Hammerhead putting out so much damage so quickly that it cannot be overlooked. This is one of the decks best attackers, although you only need 2 copies of it. In matchups where it is good, it is unlikely they get in a spot where they KO two, and you need a 3rd. With Korrina, it is easy enough to get copies of it. Even if you don't open Hawlucha, Korrina can grab you your attacker of choice, plus a Switch. Thus two proves to be the magic number for most of these Pokemon.

A 2-2 line of Primal Groudon seems to be the right number. First off, it is hard to KO before it is ready to attack. Second, even if you build around the card, it is extremely difficult to power up additional copies. You never, ever need a 3rd one, and you find very few game states where you need a 2nd one powered but also prize a piece of it. It happens, but I feel like you have enough other lines to take with the deck that its a risk you just end up taking.

Baby Landorus is the last inclusion, and it is your way to try and accelerate out Primal Groudon in matchups where you really want to get him up and going. It is also the best means by which to try and power up two copies, or to be able to switch gears midgame. The card has actually played worse for me than I thought it would, as the first attack eats an attachment, and you really have to attack with it twice to go ahead on drops. You only do 20 damage ( It gets bigger with Bands and Strong and Fighting Stadium, for sure ) but you have to also look at what you are trying to accomplish. You are forcing out a Primal Groudon EX. This guy is aiming to OHKO everything in its path. These set up hits don't matter, so you gain less advantage off the Landorus than you would imagine. You see the Ace Spec included is Scramble Switch, so that does change things as it lets you free the energy off Landorus later, which makes that first attack more profitable. If we chose to run an Energy Switch ( one of the cards I had lobbied for, but ultimately cut from the list ) it makes Landorus more appealing as well. Where I have actually liked Landorus is in powering up Landorus's Land Judgment. If you hit with it, and attach to Landorus EX, you threaten a Scramble Switch for Landy's big attack.

The energy is pretty self explanatory, with Strong Energy being too good not to play as a four of, and 12 total energy being plenty. I guess you could maybe justify a 9th Fighting Energy, but I think 8 is going to be enough.

The Trainers are where things end up complicated. The Supporter line is pretty simple. 4 N and 4 Sycamore are getting included in pretty much every deck ( You'll see an exception later! ) and 4 Korrina is too good in this deck not to play. I've included a 13th Supporter in Colress because I do feel like the deck needs it. With our Ace Spec not being Computer Search, and the deck unable to support Jirachi EX, I want it. I'm not thrilled by it, I just feel like only 12 is very low, even with VS Seeker.

I touched on Scramble Switch before, but the card is just fantastic in this deck. Groudon is hard to power up, and and this gives the deck a bit more flexibility and spontaneity. The deck also wants more switching cards, because Groudon and Big Landy are fat and hard to retreat. I'm only running 2 other Switch, because Korrina makes them easy to search up in the deck.

Groudon forces you to have Stadiums to discard in order to hit 240 damage reliably. Fighting Stadium is necessary to reliably hit 240, but more so in matchups where you rely on your non-Groudon attackers. As such, I'm running 3 copies of that, and 2 copies of the new Stadium Scorched Earth. I've been high on this card since reading it, and it helps this deck discard energy for baby Landorus, and also gives you some more draw power in absence of more Supporters. It lets you fill your Stadium quota while also fueling your consistency some.

Tool wise, we have 3 Muscle Band ( Necessary for non-Groudon games ), 1 Groudon Spirit Link, and 2 Focus Sash. Groudon Spirit Link is less necessary than you think. First off, you can get it with Korrina, and you only really need one a game. Beyond this, if you are attaching to Groudon every turn to power it, you often don't attack. You can afford to waste a turn Mega Evolving as normal and skipping an attack with the way the deck plays out. Focus Sash is an interesting inclusion, but a great one. Against decks which can OHKO a Primal Ground EX ( a tanked Gardevoir, Aggron EX, Genesect EX, etc. ) this gives you a second chance at life. Beyond this, it works great on Hawlucha against EX decks, buying extra attacks. Putting it on Landorus EX isn't bad either against decks that can get the KO. Against say, Night March, which doesn't struggle to hit 180 damage against an EX, denying a KO there is huge!

Our other Supporters are pretty self explanatory. 2 Lysandre is generally the accepted default count with VS Seeker now. ( Which we run 4 of. I don't even want to type to justify that ) We also have a Pokemon Center Lady. This works well with Hawlucha and Muscle Band ( hitting that magic full heal! ) but also is your primary way to keep Primal Groudon healthy. Against Crobat decks, this card is vital in keeping Groudon healthy enough to even be used. With VS Seeker, you can really wipe out a ton of damage. I always stress how I dislike a lot of damage reduction cards, and healing cards because I feel like in general they do not reliably change one hit kills into two hit kills, or two hit kills into three. With 240 HP, and Groudon getting first shot at their best attacker, I feel like healing 60 damage is actually quite likely to turn two hit kills into three hit kills. ( They have to do 300 over two attacks! That is a pretty big demand. )

Prof. Letter is too necessary with 4 Korrina in the deck, especially since grabbing 2 Fighting Energy lets you attach one, and discard one to Scorched Earth. I mentioned 8 Fighting being plenty, but this acts as a 9th energy towards that count, abstractly. The last card in the deck is Battle Compressor. This card just kind of gels some of the deck's interactions together some. Off Korrina, it lets you fill your discard pile with Fighting Energy for Landorus, lets you purge your deck of bad cards in the matchup for future use, and lets you grab your situational Supporters more easily for future VS Seekers. Skyla can grab a Supporter. Korrina cannot. Thus, the one BC is a compromise in that it lets you “search” for a Supporter early on to have access to it later with Seekers. The card isn't fully abused in this deck as it is in some, but it does carry its weight well.

Now, lets go over some cards I did not include, but wanted to.

Energy Switch: I touched on this earlier, but wanted to bring it up again. I feel like this card makes the Baby Landorus game plan a lot stronger overall. If matchups arise where you want to go Groudon, but in the process need to keep some pressure on them during the early stages of the game, I feel like this card could find its way back into the 60.

Max Potion: This card is great with Focus Sash, especially with Landorus and Lucario EX. Unfortunately, it is pretty bad with Groudon EX, so it didn't make the cut past PCL. I don't mind playing it alongside PCL, but the list grew pretty tight so it got the cut. If you wanted to try a heavier Focus Sash + Max Potion build if too many matchups show up where Groudon isn't pulling its weight.

Lysandre's Trump Card: This card gives us a re-use of all of our resources, but more importantly, it is a counter for Night March, and Flareon decks. It is super clunky in this deck, since we do not have a great draw engine to work besides it.

Anyways, this was the deck I was most excited to play for the event, feeling like it had a nice surprise advantage, and also a good amount of play to it. I felt there was a pretty big advantage to having a new deck that at least a portion of the field would be ill prepared for. Well, until I logged onto PTCGO, and played 20 Night March decks in 30 games my first evening of testing. WELL THEN.

Now, I got properly rolled in pretty much every game I played against Night March with this deck. Groudon was just waaaaay too slow, and they could easily two shot it when it did get up. Hawlucha is pretty bad vs it, and...well, it wasn't unwinnable, but the matchup felt very much in their favor when I initially tested it. I know people who went to the tournament added Trump Card to help the matchup, which I do imagine helps quite a bit because you can just win games off of it in the end game. Focus Sash helps to a degree as well. I was only running 1 at the time of testing, and like, I could see and think up lines that kept me in the games, but I was just never able to hit everything well enough to keep up with their very stream lined game plan. I'm sure the matchup can be made better, but it felt very discouraging.

Beyond this, I was not having great experiences against Crobat either. It felt like a mirror match where their differences ( the Bats vs my Groudon ) seemed to go in their favor. Carl later told me he felt the same about that matchup, but Kevin claimed the matchup was closer to 50-50 ( He did finish in either 4th or 5th seed with the deck after day 1 Swiss in Florida ), arguing that the idea is to make them waste their damage over the course of a game and then sweep with Groudon, but I feel that the Crobat deck can also adjust its game plan to avoid that to a degree as well. The matchup isn't that bad, but I feel like it does favor Crobat. The least re-assuring part about this is that this 50-50 comes from Groudon gunning for Crobat, and not vice versa. If Crobat adjusts to improve the matchup back, I could see that 50-50 ( I am again giving Kevin benefit of the doubt, he wound up playing the deck a lot more than I did, since I got disheartened early ) deteriorating as the deck becomes more of a known quantity.

I ran into a player on PTCGO using a similar deck, and on like, turn 3, he asked me “How has the deck been doing for you? “ and I told him fairly bluntly that it wasn't doing great. He said the same for him, which was a bit of the nail in the coffin for my interest in using it.

Now, I want to address the online Night March explosion. For one, part of this can be attributed to the deck being a budget deck. It is cheap for a lot of players to build, so it should see more play than it would otherwise. Beyond this, players like to use PTCGO as an opportunity to test fringe and gimmick decks that they may not have the courage or results to use in a big event. I weighed that in mind when trying to figure out how to approach what degree of threat to put Night March as. Unfortunately, while talking to various players, a majority of them felt Night March was a real deck, and was in their considered decks for the event. Usually it was something along the lines of “I don't really like any of the decks, I may just use Night March”, but it being the default fallback for players is even scarier.

Anyways, the first thing I did was to build Night March and get a better feel for what I wanted to try and beat. This isn't a perfect list for the deck, I'm sure, but it isn't too far out of the realm of a stock build. Some lists opt to run Flareon in it, due to the overlapping discard pile theme and similar engines, but I wanted something streamlined.

The 12 Night March Pokemon are obvious inclusions. 2 Mew EX seems perfect. Part of the appeal of this deck is that you want to force them to get a lot of knock outs on non-EX Pokemon while you swing with OHKOs right out of the gate. If you rely too much on EX Pokemon, especially easy to KO ones like Mew EX, you devalue that game plan. You do want a nice one energy Night Marcher with Dimensional Valley/Joltik, but you don't want to crutch on it. Jirachi EX is necessary for the deck, even if it violates the “make them KO a bunch of non-EX Pokemon” concept I criticized Mew EX for. Mr. Mime helps against Landorus EX and Crobat, which can just devastate this deck. I actually feel like that is a pretty bad matchup anyways, but you have to do what you can to help improve it. The deck can just get knock outs with non EX Pokemon, while also getting a lot of free prizes off of Bat Abilities to jump ahead in the exchange. It is also difficult to KO an early Landorus EX, and it can certainly put enough pressure down that the Bats can take over.

The Energy is pretty much at its base minimum. 4 DCE is a given, and 4 Psychic alongside Dimensional Valley is pretty much spot on. I've seen players go up to a 5th Psychic, but I feel like I'll be a bit minimalist on this one.

Trainer wise, the deck benefits big off of two new cards: Acrobike and Teammates. Acrobike really enables these Battle Compressor discard pile engine decks. The deck gets a lot smoother without having to use many Supporters. It also can help put Pokemon directly into the discard pile. Teammates is great because it gets you all the pieces you want. It lets you grab DCE and an attacker in response to a KO. If you need to, it can grab you 2 Battle Compressor and just more or less assure you a OHKO. It does everything you want in this deck, and is easy to trigger because your Pokemon get knocked out. A lot. Being able to put a copy into the discard early with Battle Compressor makes it reliable to get a copy of it.

I went with Silver Bangle over Muscle Band because the deck pretty reliably OHKOs non-EX Pokemon, and I'd rather focus on getting the extra damage in to hit 170+. I'd want a 3rd copy if it wasn't for Teammates making it easier to grab them. It could still be right anyways.

I'm really unsure of the 60th slot in the deck, which is between a 2nd Bicycle and the 4th VS Seeker. I've really wanted more Bikes in the deck, but it seems foolish to not run a set of VS Seeker. Still, this is a deck that wants to start as quickly as possible, and I'd rather focus on early game than late game.

Battle Compressor, N, Prof, Ultra Ball, Lysandre, Computer Search, and Dimensional Valley counts are all pretty well locked in stone for this archetype and don't really need defended.

Night March felt like it would be a good play, but I was afraid of Crobat decks, Seismitoad EX, and well, any deck with Trump Card in it. I also feel like mirror match is quite possibly the worst thing in the world, and I didn't really want to play that all event. Also, with all the play it was seeing, and how aware of it everyone seemed, I was afraid of people teching for it, or skewing their deck choice towards deck which could beat it. It also is just not my play style. ( Even if I do see some similarity between it and an old favorite of mine, in HGSS Jumpluff )

After deciding I did not want to use Night March, but wanted to keep it in mind as something to beat, I decided to at least get some games in with Fairies, as a deck that seemed very hyped. I felt like it was pretty poor against Night March in theory, but I actually ended up winning 3 games out 3 against it, because I saw my Trump card early and was able to spam it. I felt like it would be a bloodbath if I didn't, of course. The deck also just didn't have a lot of ways to search up the Trump, I just fortunately drew it early every game, so I didn't put a ton of faith into those results. Here was the list I used:

For Pokemon, I started with a 3-3 Aromatisse line. I've seen decks go with a 3-2 line, but I just want to make sure to get him out. I could see some players aggressively trying to Lysandre them, and I just don't want to let that happen easily. I feel like 3-3 is the norm, and 3-2 is the exception, and for my purpose of testing the deck ( I was more interested in learning it than really considering it ) I wanted to go with something stock. I went with 2 Florges EX as a cheap attacker and one who could help with consistency. I didn't include Jirachi EX because it interferes with Florges as an attacker, and Florges offers a similar sort of stability. I DID include a Spiritomb as a non Fairy or Grass type Pokemon, but I felt like it did so much in the VG matchup that it had to be included. Also, the reduction in damage to Florges in that matchup isn't too important. Also, I did opt to run AZ, which can get rid of him if need be. Like Florges, Spiritomb also has an attack which helps mitigate the lack of Jirachi EX.

I went with a 2-2 line of Gardevoir EX, which may have been too thin. I don't feel like 3-3 is needed, but 3-2 could be correct. I'm running 1 Xerneas EX, as it is a pretty good attacker, and well, to be honest, I just wanted to try it out in here. As the format refines itself, I'm sure the attacker line changes, but when you aren't sure to start with, I like to run at least 1 copy of most considerables just to judge how they play. Normal Xerneas makes its presence felt as a three of, because it is your best starter and something you do often fall back on midgame. Our switching effects are 4 Fairy Garden, which are fantastic once Aromatisse gets online, but they do nothing to help you retreat into Xerneas on your first turn. If we ran real Switches that made an impact on the first turn, I'd be happy with 2 copies, but I just wanted a bit of insurance.

I think that 10 Fairy Energy, with a Trump Card, is enough for the deck to sustain itself. The deck gets demanding on its energy with Geomancy, and wants to hit a critical mass of it in play for Gardevoir, so maybe I do want more. I opted to not run any Wonder Energy, because I just don't feel like there are enough attacks which it interacts with. ( The card gains value in Expanded where people may use Accelgor though. ) Maybe 1 copy is a bit of a freebie, but I'd rather avoid Enhanced Hammer altogether, plus I'd feel pretty silly if it ended up mattering for a mid to late game Geomancy.

The Supporters and search cards are pretty basic here again.( You'll notice I don't want to go too in depth on the obvious cards over and over again in the same article, so some things will be glanced over. The same logic from previous decks carries over unless I address otherwise. ) 4 Max Potion is pretty normal, although I can actually see using 3. Since Gardevoir EX closes out a game a lot quicker than Fairy decks used to be able to do, once you hit the point where you are just denying Kos with Max Potions you don't really need as many turns of damage denial. Trump Card also resets your Max Potions. I'm running 1 AZ in addition to the Potions, since it becomes additional copies off of VS Seeker. It also works as a Switch under failed Laser flips, and also can give you a turn 1 Geomancy if you open something else. That is very fringe, but still worth noting since you have it, and a Comp. Search to get it.

Unlike Groudon, this deck actually does want to use Spirit Link to get Gardevoir into play. Prior to it setting up, you want to be using either Florges or Xerneas' Geomancy every turn possible. Skipping a turn is really detrimental to Gardevoir's overall performance as missing a Geomancy is 60 less damage. I can't imagine ever using more than 2 Spirit Link in a deck unless there is some sort of gimmick which calls for it though.

The deck matches up well against Crobat decks, and it has tested very well against Seismitoad EX. Eventually Gardevoir just gets up and can score OHKOs on multiple Toads. If they do not run Garbodor, Aromatisse and Xerneas make eventually hitting that Mega Gardevoir pretty easy. When they do run Garbodor, you can still bench both Gardevoir, and just spam Geomancy onto both of them and eventually just hit the critical mass anyways. That is actually a pretty good reason for why you want to run a 3rd Gardevoir EX in the deck. And I am over simplifying the matchup of course, but I feel like you have a line to gun for which makes you a favorite. The problem, of course when they have Lasers which disrupt your Geomancy chains, or if you struggle to get Xerneas up early. As for Crobat, they struggle with all of your healing.

The deck loses to Metal, clearly. It really needs to draw Trump Card to beat Night March, but it can be done. With Spiritomb, your VG matchup is salvaged. Groudon is pretty rough, but it was unsure whether that deck would even be a presence since it wasn't wildly known. Against Yveltal decks, and other “big basics” style decks, I felt like your healing and damage output made you a favorite. You were also a really big underdog to...

Ok, so this is a deck I tested, and was fairly impressed by. Now, let me preface this by saying this deck is not a really viable choice, because it's matchups are really polarized. The deck cannot beat Seismitoad EX ever. Not even just a dedicated Seismitoad deck, but like, even a splashed Toad. It runs no stage 1s, and can't win without it's stage 2s. On top of that, everything in the deck is weak to Water. To make it worse, even if you manage to sneak an Emboar in play before they start Punching, they still likely beat you. The deck can't actually KO 3 Seismitoad EX without using Superior Energy Retrieval. I mean, with Trump Card and perfect draws I guess it -CAN-, but you get the idea. Beyond that, you are pretty well done if they just Lysandre up said Emboar. Oddly enough, splashed Toads seemed to be declining in presence as a lot of decks hyped just didn't run them. Maybe there is a metagame where “loses to Toad” is an acceptable gamble, but I wasn't going to risk a Regionals on it.

The deck also struggles against Night March. You generally start Koing on turn three, and that is too slow against them. That said, you do have Trump Card, and Delphox does a lot to help you search it up. I may be understating how good Trump Card is as your lone game plan against Night March.

Against other decks, you are able to put out a ton of damage and just chain OHKOs. Camerupt is obvious the new Rayquaza EX, needing 4 energy to KO an EX, and 5 for a Mega or Primal. ( I wonder how many times I've interchanged Primal with Mega and not realized it. ) The best card in the deck is actually Delphox though. The draw power it offers the deck is the glue that makes it function. Beyond this, it is a difficult to KO non-EX attacker with a huge damage output. Delphox with Trump Card is so powerful, and this deck is even better than Slurpuff Toad in terms of how well it abuses the Supporter. If you get multiple Delphox out, your turns are downright silly.

The shell isn't too far off from old Blastoise/Emboar builds. The Pokemon are pretty streamlined. 4-0-3 Emboar and 3-0-3 Delphox helps to make sure you can get them both out quickly. I don't waste time on Stage 1s. They are too slow, and vulnerable to Kos too. Trump Card makes it so you don't even run out of Rare Candy as the game progresses. Delphox and Camerupt are the only attackers, and 3 of the Camel seems fine. I really want a Jirachi EX in here, but space is really, really tight. With the Delphox line as thick as it is, I feel like you can get away without the Metal type. Once the deck gets rolling, everything runs extremely smoothly, which may be a big argument in favor of the Jirachi, just to ensure you hit that point.

9 Energy actually ends up feeling a bit low to me. David ran 8 in his list, really relying on SER to have access to it. Maybe I'm a bit of a dreamer in wanting more turn 2 attacks, and should just accept it doesn't happen enough. With 4 SER, and Trump Card, you have plenty of energy to attack with over the game. I wouldn't mind either a Battle Compressor ( works with Skyla to get 3 energy if you have SER...also can hunt for Trump Card vs Night March, oddly. ) or a 2nd Prof. Letter to try and make it easier to see your initial 4 energy.

The Trainers are again very streamlined. 4 of all 3 draw Supporters. 4 Rare Candy,4 Ultra Ball, 4 SER. 2 Lysandre. Only 3 VS Seeker, but that is fine because Delphox carries so much of your draw rate, and you can recycle cards with Trump so easily. I'm a bit reluctant to only run 2 Switching cards, and would like a third, but there isn't a ton of space in here if you want to keep the evolution lines so thick. I want to run Jirachi EX more than additional Switch anyways, so its not even my 61st card. I'm running 1 Scorched Earth, even though I've been oddly unimpressed by it in here. Your energy count is still fairly stressed, and once you hit Delphox, your draw power is over the top anyways. You get this weird window of where Scorched Earth ends up being good. After that you are so set up that it is redundant. I started out playing 3 copies in the deck, and kept trimming. As absurd as it sounds, maybe 0 is the right amount to be playing. Like, I get the idea is that the card helps draw more cards towards getting Delphox out, but once its out, the Earth matters so little. My logic for it being a one of right now is that if the Trump loop does start happening ( I stress this ability to do so a lot, but in reality, in most games, once you set up you can close the game out pretty quickly and you don't get to really abuse it as much as you could. ) having just 1 copy of a stadium to counter things can be beneficial. Beyond that, it is still draw power. It could be better served as a Colress, or even hat Jirachi EX I want so badly in here.

This is by far the most downright powerful deck I've tested in this format. Once set up, very little competes with it. Night March can go under it, decks with Seismitoad lock up it tight, and I guess it can't really beat the now rarely played Garbodor either. ( I overlook discussing it since the only deck really using it is Toad, which is already unwinnable. ) Against everything else, the deck is fantastic. I'm including this deck because not only do I really like it, but if you have the read on a local metagame where you find Toad and Night March to be in decline, this deck is a super powerful play. The deck also struggles a bit with Crobat Landorus, but less than you'd think. If you can get your stage 2s out, you still overpower them. Delphox is pretty great vs them. It sweeps Crobats, ignores Hawlucha, and can take a hit from which point Camerupt does it's job. I feel a Mr. Mime, or a healing card could really help in that matchup too. This build was meant more to push the consistency of the deck. I didn't log enough games with it to hit the point where I started refining it across the board for matchups. On the topic of Crobat...

Alright, I'm not going to beat a dead horse here with a fairly well discussed archetype here. This deck actually gets very little from the new set, although it has managed to stay right in the thick of things with most of the new archetypes. The big inclusions I do want to discuss here are some of the utility cards.

I like a 3 SSU 1 AZ split. I just feel like AZ is a very reliably “4th” SSU, something you can Jirachi EX for, and again benefits from 4 VS Seeker. I have to like AZ more than any other player in this game, I swear. Anyways, I like having the option to be able to search up this card in spots where I -NEED- to bounce something, and don't want to have to put it to a flip. I like that fallback plan. It is also usable under Quaking Punch, which does matter.

Since this archetype is very popular, I feel like Mr. Mime is great. I do want to go into a tournament with an edge in mirror match if I feel mirror is popular. Between Mr. Mime and the AZ inclusion, I feel like I can wage a better attrition war than most builds of this deck.

I'm also running a Trump Card as a counter to Night March and Flareon. ( I will not be discussing the Flareon deck myself...that already has a whole article devoted to it coming out on it for the site, and I don't want to step on it's toes...especially since they will do the deck far more justice than I could at this point. Be sure to check it out as well! ) I feel like Crobat gives you decent play vs both of those decks anyways, so Trump Card seems particularly effective in closer games.

Now, I've discussed a lot of decks, but haven't actually said what I planned to play. This may be almost a bit of a joke at this point to some, but I honestly was just going to use my stand by old Metal deck. No Aggron EX stuff. ( I feel like it is too clunky...great in some matchups, but so space consuming that you can't also fit cards to beat matchups you can't just brute force through. ) Let me explain my logic behind the cop out selection.

Fairies was very hyped, and proved to be a good deck, even if a debatable metagame call. That is an actual autowin for the deck, and in a long tournament, this is big. I feel like Crobat Fighting is a close matchup, but one that could be made favorable with just a bit of work. I like my odds against Night March as well! The deck has Seismitoad EX to slow them down, and they struggle against Aegislash EX. Beyond this, Heatran is a decent non-EX attacker against them, and is able to maintain even prize exchange if you are ever able to break ahead. Night March is surprisingly resilient to a lot of the cards which “counter” it, but this deck having a lot of different cards the deck hates seeing leaves it in a great spot. If I were to assume the three most played decks would be Fairies, Night March, and Crobat ( the conclusion I came to Wednesday night ) then Metal would be a great call for the event.

Beyond this, the decks two worst enemies had been Pyroar and Mega Manectric. Both of these cards have been pushed well out of tier 1 range, which is very beneficial. If we consider VG to be another popular play ( I feel like Night March is the nail in the coffin pushing it out of viability myself ) then that matchup is good as well. Lets look at the updated list I was going to try out.

The big inclusions are the 3rd Heatran who has been in and out of the list, and a Mr. Mime. Heatran and Mr. Mime help against Crobat decks quite a bit. ( My results from St. Louis had been somewhat skewed...the addition of a Miltank in my opponent's Crobat deck greatly impacted the matchup due to its implications on Heatran, and stock lists without it are much better for this deck. ) Heatran is just such a great card in this deck. It is a pretty easy turn 2 KO on anything in Night March. It just allows the deck to keep up exchanges with all these non-EX decks. ( Hilariously, attacking with Bronzong against Night March happens more than you'd think. )

Against Night March, we have a lot of options. An early Quaking Punch can just cripple them, and lead to a fairly casual win. Beyond this, Aegislash EX is a really hard kill! They can't use DCE to attack with into it. This lets you start Lysandre'ing Pokemon with a Psychic on them and lock them off of attacks. They have the Mew EX route, with a Valley and benched Joltik, but they have to hit 190 HP without a Bangle, meaning they need 10 Night Marchers in the discard...while having a Joltik benched. To top it off, if you start with N, they have to actually draw their Psychic energy, which they run on average four of. Even just chaining Kos because you can keep up on energy attachments gives you a chance to beat them off them fizzling or running out of attackers. I'm not saying Night March can't beat you, but you threaten it from a lot of angles.

As for the Flareon deck, Seismitoad is good against it, but they are equipped to beat Seismitoad focused decks. They run a bunch of Leafeon, which is great when the game plan is “beat only Toads” but when Toad only slows the game down to a point where your deck can gain and maintain an advantage, their anti-Toad measures matter less. Seismitoad Kos a Flareon easily with a Band, and Leafeon ( or their Empoleon ) have to two shot it back. Heatran deals with their whole deck fairly well. On top of this, despite a weakness to Fire, Aegislash EX works well there too. They need to rely on DCE to power Flareon most of the time, and if they try to power it off of basic energy, you can lock them out with Lysandre still. I know it sounds funny to be happy about a Fire deck as a matchup for Metal, but I think that deck is quite good for this.

As for Primal Groudon decks, you don't have any inherent counter measures for them, and at first glance you'd assume that matchup to be pretty rough as traditionally your game plan is to deny Kos with high HP Pokemon and OHKO stuff back. Well, Heatran is a great card. It cuts them off of Hawlucha, and spars well with baby Landorus. Landorus EX is ok against you, but much less so when Mr. Mime nerfs their damage output. Seismitoad works great there, and I am fine two hitting it with a Heatran ( which they have to two hit as well! ) They struggle to fight you while also building Groudon, and if they try and just rush out a Groudon EX, the deck is actually very capable of just chunking through it in two attacks. With Pokemon Center Lady giving it the “300” HP mark for two hit kills, that puts it right in range of Heatran + a Banded Dialga EX.

One potential line to take against them is to just spam Heatrans ( you'll hear that a lot! ) which forces them into one of two reactions. They either discard a Stadium to get a KO on it, or they have to attach a Strong Energy ( or two if they Spirit Linked ). In the first case, you wear down their Stadium count at the cost of 1 prize, and can focus on N'ing them and making them miss. If they attach a Strong, you can bench Aegislash ( you save it...maybe they just attach a Strong anyways ) and they can't damage it anymore. Another interesting line involves Dialga EX. When they bring up Groudon, and discard a stadium, you can bring up Dialga, N them ( Ideally you sandbag this play until the end of the game ) and use Chronowind. They have to draw both a Switch and a Stadium to actually KO the Dialga. Since their non-Dialga game plan is pretty weak against you, you should have plenty of time to line up a “throw everything but the kitchen sink” game plan against the Groudon they do power up and get the KO. After that, closing the game should be pretty manageable. I'm not saying the matchup is even great, but I think it is pretty competitive!

One of the biggest debates I have with the deck is between a 2nd Aegislash, a card who has been gaining a ton of value in my eyes, vs the 2nd Dialga. Dialga was crucial before in that it could OHKO a lot of things, but the HP of Exes that see play now have been going up and up, past that 170 mark. This makes Dialga much less appealing. With less use of Dialga, and the “tough Kos” now being 200+, do I just accept two hitting Pokemon more, and drop the Iris? I think that answer is a pretty easy yes if I didn't want the ability to OHKO a Landorus EX. Aegislash is also another really good card against Toad decks not running Garbodor.

I also want the 2nd AZ in the deck. I like it against the Toad decks, and I feel like additional healing is very important. There are a lot of games I struggled with drawing a copy of the card. I've also looked at something pretty extreme, such as running 4 Heatran, and going back up to the 4-4 Bronzong, and just trying to really spam Heatran as the primary game plan now. It already is ONE of the game plans, but part of me thinks if I really just focus on it, that it can be made to work fairly universally. ( Ok, it isn't beating Toad, but its good everywhere else. ) If I did that, I feel like I'd want Battle Compressor(s) in the deck. It is the type of deck I'd want to try out more once this format gets further defined.

The final justification for me running this deck comes from my experience with it. In a field where you can't test vs everything, and you are limited on time to test, if you are torn on options, I love sticking with a deck you really know. This format is actually really skill intensive, and it is easy to be outplayed by a deck piloted by someone more familiar with the matchup than you, even if you are a good player. I feel like I would have better luck with a deck I know inside and out than a narrowly better deck I'm a fairly new user with.

I wanted to include another fun little deck I made, that is now pretty much dead on arrival due to the prevalence of Night March and more so Flareon. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give to you, Sceptile Genesect.

 Alright, so this is my take on abusing Genesect EX. But why Sceptile over Virizion? Well, “why is it that we are opting to lead with Emerald Slash in the first place?”, is a good question to lead with. You need to make sure you have enough energy in play to be able to keep swinging with Genesect EX over the course of the game. Even with Colress Machine turning Genesect into a 2 energy attacker, you eventually fall behind, especially if using G-Booster. Therefore, we jump through a ton of hoops to make sure we hit a t2 Emerald Slash with a benched Genesect EX. This makes us run 4 Virizion EX to make sure we open with it, even though you only need to use 1-2 a game. We have to run 3-4 Switching cards to reliably get Virizion active. Energy Switch is needed to really milk the acceleration and save energy off of Virizion. These are a lot of compromises made in order to fully utilize Genesect EX, who is an impressively good card.

Not only do we give up a lot of deck space to make Emerald Slash reliable ( We've all seen what happens to a VG deck that FAILS to get the turn 2 Emerald Slash...and we've seen what happens against a deck able to OHKO you that wipes you down to 0 energy at any point in the game too. ) but we give up pressure. Emerald Slash does 50-70 damage, depending. This is ok, but Genesect EX is built to be able to use Megalo Cannon on the second turn as well, due to Colress Machine! 100-120 damage plus 20 to the bench is much more powerful. The problem is, once that Genesect drops, you struggle to replace it. Well, have no fear, our good friend the Sceptile is here! Sceptile is a card that lets you dump additional energy into play each turn while also healing your Pokemon of 30 damage.

The basic strategy here is that one Sceptile in play lets you use it's Ability, plus your attachment for a turn and a Colress Machine to power a Genesect up from an empty board. Who needs Emerald Slash? You have energy acceleration now that isn't so time sensitive. If you ever get a pair of Sceptile out, you don't even need Colress Machine anymore. Anyone whose used VG before knows that Hawlucha is a very frustrating card to play against as it two hit Kos your Exes. Well, with the healing from Sceptile, this is easier to mitigate for sure. Plus, Sceptile can attack for 70 damage itself, taking Hawlucha out on it's own.

It would be unfair to compare this deck to a deck like Emboar, or Blastoise, despite the parallel in using a Stage 2 Pokemon to get energy into play. This deck is extremely threatening on turn 2 even without a Sceptile in play. If they opt to go hunt your Treecko, or even just kill your Sceptiles midgame, they are left dealing with easy to power Genesect EX. Every turn they spend trying to keep you off of Sceptile is a turn you are already developing at an acceptable pace for the deck. Even 1-2 uses of a Sceptile over a game can really give you a huge advantage. A deck like Blastoise or Rayboar offers no real turn 2 threat if they fail to “nut draw” their Stage 2 and a slew of energy. If this deck fails to get out a Sceptile, it very well likely will be able to get out a Genesect that turn. And if that Genesect goes down, once you do get a Sceptile up, you can rebuild from no where, even if it is on turn 4 or 5 when Sceptile finally sees play. You have a very streamlined attacker who doesn't need your evolution to work. It offsets the normal weakness of how you'd normally try and cut off a stage 2 deck. If a deck tries to kill Sceptile/Treecko, you are still “winning” in that you are developing at a rate that should put you ahead. They can't keep you off Sceptile all game without just losing to Genesect. Another stage 2 weakness right now is to Seismitoad EX...well, this is an all grass deck. I think we'll be fine.

Now, I've just spent a few paragraphs praising this deck. Unfortunately, it isn't good right now. You have such bad matchups against Night March and Flareon. The problem is that I just feel Genesect is not good at the moment. I feel that if it was, that this would be the approach to take. Now don't take all my praise towards Sceptile as meaning that 60 card list is a masterpiece: It certainly isn't the optimal 60. This is a work in progress still. Lets look at some options which could be added.

2nd Virizion: I mentioned Seismitoad being good above. You literally cannot get a Sceptile out vs them, so you do want to go with Virizion there. A second copy should really help in that case. That particular list is actually very capable of beating beaten by Seismitoad, but I'm confident the tools exist for the shell to be able to be made favorable. This would be a start.

Lysandre's Trump Card: I was torn between this and the Shadow Triad, if not both. The card is good agaist Night March and Flareon, but those seem really bad for us anyways. Sceptile is a little more demanding on having access to Grass energy than Virizion because it can't just search them out. As a result, I feel like you'll find spots where you want to restock. The card is also just good in general, allowing you to be more risky with using resources.

Mr. Mime: Mime would give you additional protection against Crobat Fighting decks, which normally are good against Genesect. Between Sceptile's healing, and Mime protecting against bench damage, I think it can be made favorable!

2nd Prof. Letter: Sceptile really changes your energy needs, and Letter is even better than normal because of this. It may even just be better to go 8 Grass Energy and 2 Prof. Letter because getting that energy into hand, not stocked in deck, is so important now. Superior Energy Retrieval helps with a lot of that late game, but you do want to see exactly 2 Grass midgame a lot of times.

“Bad Sceptile”: The other Sceptile in Primal Clash is also interesting. It has Alpha Barrier, like Groudon, and has an attack for GGC that does 120 damage, discards an energy off of Sceptile, and automatically poisons a Pokemon. This 130/150 damage is great at cleaning up non-EX Pokemon, and is great against Focus Sash, a card VG traditionally hates. Even Primal Groudon falls to Sceptile...who can't be Lysandre'd up. Groudon, on the other hand, can eat a Red Signal, for sure. This Sceptile likely needs other ones to power itself, so it would probably need the line to be thickened to support it, but its worth noting.

Lugia EX: Sceptile can attach to non-Grass Pokemon as well! We are already aggressively spreading Megalo Cannon damage, and have a Deoxys EX. We run a lot of Colress Machine. Lugia EX seems like it would be a pretty natural fit. A quick Lugia could probably do some decent damage against the Flareon deck. ( Joltik keeps it in check from Night March, sadly. ) If non-EX decks that trade well with Genesect pop up, Lugia could be a great solution. Rather than go over fringe Pokemon, I'll point out that you could run any number of supporting non Grass attackers that run off Colorless or Grass energy. I do like that amount of flexibility.

Teammates: This card seems good in a deck that runs evolutions. I'm not sure if its better than the other Supporters, but it could be! I like this card a lot, even though I've yet to find a great place to include it!

Anyways, this article is coming to a close, and I hope you enjoyed a look at not only my thought process going into my ill fated trip down to Florida last weekend, but also my take on a few of the formats best decks as well as a few out of left field brews. I'm looking forward to testing this format a lot more leading into States, as I still have an invite to chase! Thanks for reading, and as always, if you have any questions, leave them, I'll do my best to answer them!  



[+2] okko


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