Experts' corner

Chris Fulop

Starting From Scratch...

After Binge Testing The Post Trump Card Format, I Discuss Some Of The Major Trends Towards Deck Construction I've Discovered And Share Updated Lists For Popular Archetypes.

06/18/2015 by Chris Fulop

Hello again, everyone!


Hopefully we've all had some time to soak in the changes brought on by the impromptu banning of everyone's favorite Supporter-based source of infinite resources, Lysandre's Trump Card! I've really buckled down and put in a lot of time on PTCGO lately, as it is approaching crunch time for U.S. Nationals. (Yes, despite joking around on Facebook over decreased Nationals Prize support, I will still be not only attending the event, but competing in it. This will be the first Nationals I have played in since 2008, so I am very stoked to throw my hat into the ring once more!) There is a bit of a rush associated with approaching a new "format" with a major event coming up, and the one thing I've learned over the years is that the people who really put the time in testing that format are the ones to reap the rewards. I don't want to go into the event only partially prepared.

There have been two major camps I've noticed when it comes to how people have been testing to adjust to the removal of Trump Card from the cardpool. The first seems to want to just rewind the clock, and reset the decks to a Phantom Forces-era style of deck construction. The prevailing mindset here is that without Trump Card, the incentive to abuse the crazy degenerate draw engine we've been introduced to is no longer there. It is too risky, and too much of a gamble to be worth it. With the belief that those decks do not function as well, the whole format kind of slows down, and a slower, "safer" approach to deck construction is still viable.

The other school of thought I've seen players embrace is the idea that even without Trump Card, decks can kind of just continue on built the way they were before the banning. I've seen plenty of all-in builds for Night March. Players have continued to test Shaymin-spamming builds of Seismitoad EX and Trevenant, even without the nigh-infinite amount of disruption recycled by the now-absent Trump Card.

I've actually seen a surprising number of people still using turbo Rayquaza decks, just aiming to be a little less reckless with how far they chase their setups if it means throwing away too many resources.

I mean, when you step back and think about it, we all know the solution is nowhere near as black-and-white as that, but it is easy to be swayed towards one direction of thought or the other. I mean, I'll be the first one to admit I'm closer to the latter camp than I am the first. The more I've been testing though, the more complex I've found things to be.

The first deck I spent some time on was Night March. I addressed in my last article that my biggest concern was how this new format would handle the emerging strength of this archetype now that its silver bullet has been stripped from the game. Clearly, Trump Card was banned due to its obscene power level, despite the fact that it both kept Night March decks in check and also likely factored into the power level of the Night March Pokémon in the first place.  I highly doubt these cards would have been printed at such a power level if Trump Card had not been released with them.

Let me tell you this much: just by jumping into my games with the deck, I realized just how jaded I had become with how I played the game with Trump Card. I was playing...well, I guess I would just call it sloppy, for lack of a better term. I found myself overextending, and constantly found myself strained on resources towards the endgame, be it a lack of appropriate Night March attackers, Energy, or Dimension Valleys. I needed to just accept the fact I wasn't going to be able to always get up to an EX OHKO on the first turn and recognize when it was time to stop chasing that and just accept two-hitting it. The trap here is that the KOs happen JUST frequently enough to muddy the waters there and make it difficult to determine when you need to slow down. I loved the Shaymin-EX in the deck, but I also needed to realize that it was not a deck with Sky Field, and because of that, I was choking on my own Bench more than I would've liked.  Also worth noting here: one of the major strengths of Night March before had been the ability to force decks to answer your OHKOs with return-KOs on non-EX Pokémon an exchange they would very frequently lose.

Mew-EX messed with that in the first place, but now having a pile of Shaymin-EX cluttering your Bench makes it easy to be beaten just by having your low-HP EX Benchsitters Lysandre'd. It is even more of an issue because other decks have Shaymin and a lot of Item drawpower. Previously, since you were scoring OHKOs on their attackers, you could really put pressure on the opponent's turn by forcing them to power up a new attacker while ALSO using their Supporter for the turn on Lysandre. Now, it is a lot easier for decks to continue their setup while also using Lysandre.

Due to the somewhat brittle nature of how my setups were playing out at the end of the games, I decided to add a lone copy of Revive into my list. The card is fairly widely played from what I've seen, but I was hoping I wouldn't need the crutch of having a copy in my list. Although I overlooked some of the cute plays you could make with it due to Battle Compressor, I still am holding onto the belief that I'm only running it because I still haven't gotten a perfect grasp of the deck and that if I was just a BIT better with the deck, I could get away without running it.

One of the other things I noticed was how much I was not enjoying the Empoleon in the deck. I was struggling to get the card into play in a timely fashion and I felt like a lot of the games in which I was stressed on resources stemmed from me making compromised plays in order to try and get Empoleon out. With Shaymin-EX and Trainers’ Mail, I wasn't even really feeling like Empoleon was offering me much. It is almost always a worse attacker than any of your Night March Pokémon. There were spots where having a 140 HP Pokémon that is a bit harder to OHKO was useful, but it usually either died anyways or got Lysandre'd around. If you're giving up Shaymin and you're only two-hitting something with Empoleon, it just doesn't mesh well with the deck's gameplan. Tempo is more or less the ONLY thing that matters with the deck.

I wasn't even feeling like the augmented draw power was very useful. I guess there would be spots where it was assured N protection in the late game, but I feel like that can be mitigated by managing your resources better going into that phase of the game (a lost art now, for sure!).  I think the biggest selling point for Empoleon before was as additional draw to kickstart things after being Trump Carded by the opponent, but that isn't an issue anymore. Another big selling point was that it was a way to discard your Pokémon while under Item-lock, which gave the deck a ton more strength against Seismitoad and Trevenant.

So, if we are looking at Empoleon as being best against Item Lock decks (okay, it is likely BEST against Landorus-EX, who seems to have gained a bit of popularity back) then we have a few problems. First, in a portion of the games, we can just go off so hard that we're set up, discard-wise, before they lock us.

In some of those games, it just fails to matter. They can't Trump us, so that initial burst of damage is often enough. The bigger issue is that I wasn't always able to get it out on the first turn "safely". Now, the engine can definitely do it fairly reliably. I mean, I was defending Primal Groudon and Maxie in Crayquaza, after all, right?

Well, here is the problem. For one, with that deck, getting Primal Groudon out made you very likely to win the game assuming you get anything going at all from there on out. What you burned through didn't matter, because you got Groudon going, and more or less swept unconditionally. Worst case scenario, you had Trump Card to fall back on. Now, you're burning all of these resources to chase a card which effectively only buffs your draw power. You still have a full game to fight from there. Getting Empoleon out doesn't lock the game up; the full war of attrition still plays out. You can't reset your deck if you had to dump key DCEs or Stadiums in the process. Also, without Sky Field, chasing an Empoleon in that one-turn window REALLY strains your Bench space.

As a result of just generally being unsatisfied with that package in the deck, I cut it. No, I'm not positive that it's correct, but I haven't really messed it too much yet. Most of the lists I've been paired with on PTCGO still seem to have it, and I'm unsure if thats more out of habit or because they've had different findings.

Nonetheless, here is the list I'm currently using for Night March. 

If you want to run Empoleon, you can use Water as the Basic Energy and free up two spaces by cutting a Mew-EX and either Mr. Mime (if you're a gambler) or a Lysandre. (I default to Fire or Fighting Energy in decks that don't need colored Energy sources at all for the fringe chance I can piggyback off a Scorched Earth. In this case, due to Mew-EX's Ability, there may be attacks worth copying, so maybe a better type is worth considering.)

Night March proved to be pretty strong, but not as game-breaking as I had feared. You couldn't hit 180+ on the first turn as frequently as I'd wanted, and you still had to cope with finding Energy to power attackers as the game progressed. Crobat decks could jump ahead in the Prize exchange. Donphan decks were just plain out-exchanging the deck, and proved to be EXTREMELY difficult to ever beat. The biggest issue, as I addressed before, was that decks could just force you into giving up EX Prizes. I have actually been thinking about really trying some counterplay to that by adding Super Scoop Ups, or at the very least, an AZ. With the SSUs, you can reuse your Shaymin for additional drawpower, but can also just lift your vulnerable Pokémon-EX off your Bench to avoid the liability. The AZ doesn't really seem appealing as a draw enabler (I'd rather have a real Supporter for that) but it is a safe, reliable and easy-to-splash inclusion which can start removing your Bench targets from harm's way.  With four VS Seeker and four Battle Compressor, it's easy to pull out and use at the deck's leisure.

The next route I took was to see what happened to Seismitoad/Shaymin, formerly the best deck in the format. I think, as the International National Championships unfolded, it became difficult to argue that this wasn't the case. Now, without Trump Card, the deck isn't really as capable of hard-locking a player, so it becomes a race to close a game out before a player can force past your disruption.

Seismitoad decks struggle with being pulled in three directions. One, they need to be able to succeed in the mirror match. The cards which are useful in mirror are generally inferior everywhere else, but compromises must be made to accomplish this. Then, you need to run cards which beat the counter-Item-lock strategies. Finally, you need to balance those threats with ensuring you don't give up too much ground against the decks you would otherwise beat.

After trying different builds, I feel like the best approach to the deck is to play it with Crawdaunt. I initially refused to believe the stupid Pokémon could be the right partner for the other stupid Pokémon (Seismitoad-EX) but I'm pretty sure it's actually my favorite build of the deck so far.

The deck needs Energy removal to succeed. While it is great to try and just steal wins by forcing dead draws out of opponents, you usually need to set them back. Crawdaunt takes a lot of work, but it is the best Energy removal available. First, it works while under Item-lock. It is so frustrating to have to run cards like Xerosic and Team Flare Grunt in order to get removal is viable in mirror matches.

You already run Super Scoop Up to heal Seismitoad-EX and to reuse Shaymin-EX, and Crawdaunt gets to piggyback off that card really well. With AZ, you effectively get "five" additional Crawdaunt uses off of that alone. You don't see an infinite amount of Crushing Hammers now, but you do get to see a whole lot of 'Daunts. One of the biggest selling points for Crawdaunt is the ability to interact with Primal Groudon-EX! That card, as I've mentioned, is a nightmare for Item-lock decks, and it generally sweeps once it sets up. Luckily, Groudon's Ancient Trait doesn't stop Abilities, so Crawdaunt has free reign. Now, a lot of the Groudon decks are running Wobbuffet, and that stops Crawdaunt from doing work until it is Benched.  (Usually that just means a raging Groudon in your face, but hey, you do your best to get that guy dormant again as quickly as possible.)

I've been hopping around from archetype to archetype just trying to get a feel for things, so I'm sure the list will get refined once I've really established a proper gauntlet to run it through and I learn exactly where the weak points lie, but I'm pretty happy with what we have right now.

"No Crushing Hammer?!"

Nope. I need to give credit to former U.S. National Champion Justin Sanchez for this decision, as he sold me on the concept. It seems somewhat obvious when you think about it, too. There are diminishing returns on Energy-removal cards. The opponent generally can only attach one Energy per turn. (Most ways to cheat past this are GREATLY hampered by Quaking Punch.) So as the game progresses, you really only need to be stripping an Energy per turn. If Crawdaunt is working well, it is going to render your additional Hammers dead. My initial feelings were that I wanted to just run SO MANY sources of Energy removal that I'd overload my opponent. In reality, all I was doing was overloading myself on excess cards. I fell into this trap of thinking that I always wanted tons of Hammersto compensate for the flips. Crawdaunt is an unconditional sure thing, and is fairly easy to reset. Space is tight in the deck, and the safest way to allievate that is by gutting it of the Crushing Hammers.

I'm running three Virbank City Gym. Stadium wars have been EXTREMELY important in a lot of matchups, and while players have previously been fine running only two copies of this card (myself included!), that is no longer viable. You want to at least stand a chance of sticking the final Stadium of the game. You always benefit from seeing it early on, too. This is one of the big findings I've had so far. Not only do we no longer have Trump Card to get Stadiums back, but such a high percentage of decks are running Stadiums now that only having a pair seems like preemptively admitting defeat.

I'm also running an interesting split of utility Supporters. I touched on AZ before. Xerosic is your Energy removal Supporter, and occasional solution to meddlesome Tools. Garbodor is a major issue if it gets set up against you, so this solves that problem. Finally, we have Shadow Triad. Outside of looping Hammers, Trump Card gave us more Lasers, which are a huge part of the deck's damage output. Shadow Triad translates into a potential five-to-nine total Lasers. (Worth noting: I'm starting to wonder if Dowsing Machine is viable again in some decks. With VS Seeker and Trump Card, the ACE SPEC was more or less useless, but we have access to so much non-Supporter draw now, that extra copies of key cards may be more important than consistency in certain decks, giving the wannabe Junk Arm a new lease on life.) Due to this, I'm also running a lone Jirachi-EX to help with this toolbox. (You'll see my old standby, the Jirachi-into-Skyla-into-Computer Search for DCE is ready to go in this list as well.)

You'll notice my draw-Supporter selection as well here, and you'll begin to see a trend with how I am currently building my decks. I don't like Acro Bike, or more blasphemously, Professor Sycamore/Juniper right now. I feel like these "turbo"-style engines are still very much viable, but the biggest thing to pay attention to is needlessly discarding key resources.

The biggest offenders of this are Sycamore and Acro Bike. Ultra Ball lets us control what is dumped. Sycamore is a HUGE offender, and everyone has always complained about those "Sycamore away all your DCE " or "Juniper away all your other Juniper" hands. The problem was, before, the card was just your best draw card possible. Now? It has a TON of competition! Even though I like this Seismitoad build, I feel like Item-lock decks have lost a ton of strength. We have a ton of strong Item-based draw, and Shaymin-EX now.

Look at Sycamore previously. It was debatably your best turn-one Supporter (depending on what you'd be pitching, and your opponent's hand size. N'ing a guy with three cards in his hand into six really sucks.)

It, alongside Colress, were your best late-game Supporters. You couldn't get away with just running four N for your first turn Supporter, even with Jirachi. The math doesn't add up. Now, I noticed something when I was playing Crayquaza...I almost never Sycamore'd. Ever. I was able to dig deep enough that I could get a strong enough Colress on my first turn a lot of the time. I was getting so much turn-one drawpower off of Shaymin-EX. Any time after the first turn, I was almost ALWAYS using Colress, as it just drew me more cards than Sycamore would. N wasn't much worse on turn one than Sycamore would be, and it conserved resources. N serves an additional purpose of being powerful disruption late in the game.

Juniper's purpose late in the game? To be worse than Colress. In general, decks want fewer Supporters now because Shaymin and VS Seeker give you stable draw. When you're banking on VS Seeker for a lot of your Supporter plays, you prefer a diversity of Supporters anyway, especially if your deck plays Battle Compressor (this one does not, clearly, but Jirachi offers a toolbox nonetheless.)

In this case, I'm running four N, one Juniper, one Skyla, and one Colress.  Skyla will always be a one-of. I'm at one Juniper for Jirachi purposes, and to diversify for VS Seeker. The deck doesn't quite fill its Bench as quickly as some decks, so I felt like the most reliable supporter to have here is N. I like the disruption with Quaking Punch, as it lets you repeatedly reset an opponents hand if they do manage to hit an actual draw Supporter to refresh their hand. I'm not sure what split I actually want on N and Colress, to be honest.  Maybe a second Colress over the fourth N is better because I don't want to be pressured into needing to N a hand where my opponent is showing weakness.

As for Acro Bike, I still think the card is good, but where I felt like it was kind of a freebie before, I feel like it is now a bit of a liability in some builds. There are still decks which are gimmicky and want to run both it and Trainers’ Mail, but if I had to choose between the two, I'm now firmly with Trainers’ Mail (this is another reason I really like lower Supporter counts). Previously, with Trump, I felt like the two cards were really close. I was torn in Crayquaza, and I wound up siding with Acro Bike. I just felt like a card that dug two cards deep for free in a gimmicked engine was just an automatic four-of as you weren't giving much up. Now that the downside is a bit more pronounced, I feel the scales tipping toward Mail. This is especially true in decks with evolution lines or multiple key cards they get to run JUST enough of. (Mega Rayquaza was always pushed to JUST the bare minimum number of copies on a lot of cards and even with Trump Card it was occasionally an issue.) I love having Item-based draw in all decks, but if I'm playing say, Crobat, I'd rather see Trainers' Mail. By phasing out Sycamore's prominent role in lists, and being careful where I'm running Acro Bike, I've found that in a lot of cases, decks can really push the boundaries with engines and not fall apart without Trump Card.

The biggest issue here is only running 4 DCE as Energy. The problem is, you have to run a reasonable amount of Basic Energy for them to matter. Every Basic Energy you pair with a DCE doesn't matter. You really need at least four to even bother, and I'd rather see closer to five. I'm not close to comfortable cutting anything to make that happen. The inability to recycle DCEs is definitely the biggest hit from losing Trump Card from this deck.

(This also really impacts Raichu decks, which before would just be able to power out six Raichu and six DCE as their whole game plan. Now, even if you Sacred Ash your Raichu back in, you can't get your DCE back.)

Anyways, I do not particularly care for Trevenant decks, but I do have a list for it while I'm discussing Item-lock decks.

You'll notice a lot of the same design ideas I have for Toad carries over here, only I'm running a pair of Psychic Energy to allow the deck to attack with Gengar or Trevenant. With only a 3-3 Tree line, Sacred Ash becomes very important to keep pumping Trevenant out if the opponent sets up well enough to chain KOs. I feel like this deck requires a bit more going on than the Toad decks, and that is a problem. It is really strained on space as well. I'm running VERY few draw Supporters in this, because I need to make room for Wally. Beyond that, Colress is awful in here. Unlike in Seismitoad decks, the Item-lock here is a passive Ability and not an attack, so I'll be resetting Shaymin frequently and netting most of my draw power off of that. This also makes the need for a card like Super Scoop Up minimal.

I mentioned how Donphan was a deck which was rolling Night March in my testing. This Donphan list isn't really anything super-special, as the core of the build is similar to builds from the end of the Phantom Forces tournament format.

By not running anything but the Donphan line and Hawlucha, no switching cards or Ultra Ball are needed. This streamlines the deck a ton and makes Korrina a fantastic Supporter. The downside of this build is that you can't really run Jirachi or Shaymin. Due to this, I'm a bit concerned about how well the draw power works under Item-lock. Therefore, I'm actually running a fairly hefty line of Supporters (for me, at least!) because the deck's very specific engine somewhat demands it to keep up with Item-lock decks. I feel it is worth it, because the deck should perform fairly well against them unless it chokes on a lack of draw.

I'm running a fairly heavy amount of Sycamore because N is awkward in here. Due to the nature of the deck running all non-EX Pokémon and trying to deny Prizes with Focus Sash and Robo Substitute, you'd find yourself gifting the opponent a ton of cards while you are stuck ahead on Prizes. The deck is also pretty light on Pokémon, so Colress is weaker than in most decks. You don't always want to fill your Bench with Lysandre targets if you are abusing Focus Sash and Robo Subs.

I guess I'm already discussing Focus Sash, so I may as well highlight it. The card is fantastic in here. Between Sash and Robo Subs, you can really buy a lot of turns without giving up a Prize in this deck. Decks which rely on a narrow Prize-exchange advantage, like Night March or Raichu are going to be hard-pressed to ever beat this deck.

The problem I have with the deck is that I'm unsure if the overall damage output is high enough. I'm sure it hates SSU and any sort of healing. I don't really want to play against Crobat either, which is a pretty popular evolution line at the moment.

On the topic of Crobat, lets post a pair of lists for the two most popular builds involving the card. (Sorry Seismitoad/Crobat and Wobbuffet/Crobat, you're left out this time!)

Nothing extremely innovative here. I'm still banking on a more traditional Supporter line. The thick Crobat lines deter a heavy Item engine because those really rely on Shaymin-EX, and that doesn't work well with hands clogged with Pokémon. I'm trying out a lone copy of Silent Lab as a means to circumvent Mr. Mime, but I'm not even sure the card is popular enough to warrant teching against.

I've been a huge fan of Raichu, ever since Sky Field came out. This is a deck which still gets to focus on using Raichu as the primary attacker, only now it can set up OHKOs even on Mega Pokémon, or just skip ahead in even exchanges off of Bat damage. I REALLY dislike Sycamore in here, because discarding pieces of the Crobat line or Raichu line is really bad, even with the one Sacred Ash. (I'm actually a pretty big fan of Sacred Ash, and Revive, in decks at the moment. I like the safety net. Even though I stand by hating the Revive in Night March still!) Normally I really want Exeggcute in Raichu decks because you need to refill the Bench after a Sky Field is countered, but with Crobat that is less necessary, as you make up for lost damage off of Bat Abilities.

On the topic of Raichu decks, I've been experimenting with this spicy brew! I mentioned before how the lack of Trump Card meant a lack of DCE Number Five-Plus, and this meant that streaming Raichu ended when the DCE supply ran out. So, I decided to try and pair Raichu with some Energy acceleration, in this case, my trusted ally (alloy, hehe) Bronzong!

This deck has been playing pretty well for me! That said, I am one-hundred percent certain that the deck is not optimal. I am unsure which supporting Pokémon I should be running. With Bronzong, you get access to a lot! Here are some of the Pokémon I've looked at:

Mr. Mime (Landorus is rough!)

Therefore, the Kecleon, Aegislash and Cobalion are all somewhat in flux. They've been rotating about, but the deck has been performing well. You don't actually need more than one Bronzong out, as it makes powering up Raichu pretty easy. I started at a 3-3 line and realized quickly it was too much. Since you aren't powering big Pokémon, you don't need a ton of Metal Energy either. I started at four and trimmed to three. I'm not sure thats perfect either, but I'd never go over four. Even Aegislash, who benefits from a bunch of Metal, is mainly used for matchups where an opponent can't really hurt it, more so than to put out a huge amount of pressure. It often wins off inevitability.

Regarding Kecleon, that card is awesome in this deck. It can copy Quaking Punch off of Seismitoad to buy time. (I've loved this in Bronzong before, only now, it can also retreat easily, unlike using an actual Toad to force a stalemate.) It is Raichu Number Five in mirror. It is also a monstrous counter to Mega Rayquaza, as a DCE and one Metal Links lets you smash for 240 damage as a Basic.

Next up on the list of decks to discuss is Primal Groudon. I'm kind of forced to accept that I don't have a better alternative for the card than to just pair it with the stupid Wobbuffet now. The appeal of a turbo Shaymin build rested on the ability to Trump Mega Turbos back into the deck to be able to rebuild Groudons fairly well. That isn't a thing anymore, so I'll just stick with the tried and true disruptive build.

Here is my most recent list for the archetype:

Pokémon-wise, things are pretty simple. I'm running a Landorus-EX to help with Night March and the mirror match, where putting damage on a Groudon is going to break up Focus Sash and potentially force OHKOs past Hard Charm. On top of that, I imagine the mirror can be miserable, with neither player wanting to expose a Groudon, so being able to send up a one-Energy attacker first to goad out the opposing Groudon seems strong.

I'm doing a 1/1 split on Hard Charm and Focus Sash. I feel like they both are useful in different matchups so I like having access to either. Since you don't attack early anyway, you can get away with only two Spirit Link, as a lot of times you can just Mega Evolve the slow way.

I'm running two Silent Lab, because, well, you can't beat Safeguard or Aegislash (if you attached a Strong Energy) otherwise. Unfortunately, some decks that run those Pokémon run multiples, so I opted for the second Lab. I feel five Stadiums is necessary in the deck as well. I ideally let someone else lead with a Stadium so I can get in the first 200-damage shot at the expense of their Stadium, giving me some breathing room if needed versus non-EX Pokémon.

In this deck, Battle Compressor isn't really abused, but it does help to smooth the deck over. It gets Energy in the discard for Mega Turbo and gets you your Supporters for VS Seeker. Grabbing it with Korrina is nice too. Perhaps only one is needed due to Korrina, but two has performed well for me.

ACE SPEC-wise, we see the return of my favorite, Scramble Switch. You don't really need Computer Search, and Scramble Switch is pretty strong in here. It is hard to OHKO a Groudon (if not impossible, with the right Tool attached) but rebuilding if they do KO one is very difficult. This card lets you transition from a damaged Primal Groudon into a second, clean one if need be.

One of the other "port over" decks from before the banning that I've been testing is none other than Crayquaza. I've had to accept that I need to pad some of the numbers, and chasing solutions to the deck's worst matchups isn't really feasible anymore. Sorry Maxie, back to the binder.

Anyways, here is the list:

Gone is Sycamore, replaced by the second Colress. Trainers' Mail gets the nod over Acro Bike as the four-of versus the three-of. I debated whether Sky Field, Spirit Link, or Mega Turbo needed to be bumped to four from three as well. The bad news is, the answer for all of those is...kinda. Any of them could use a bump up, but I'm not sure which needs it most. I'd likely cut the fourth Battle Compressor for that spot though.

The bumps we did get are to Mega Rayquaza (I now feel like you NEED to have access to three Mega Rayquaza in a game, and prizing or discarding one is too crushing to gamble on just three) and to the Altaria line. Raichu and Night March are very popular, and you need to cut off your Weakness. You can't get them back, so you may as well get a second one out if the first goes down.

The deck is still strong, but I feel like it struggles against Night March too much still. The thicker Altaria line helps, and you can someones Lysandre enough Pokémon-EX to pull ahead (they don't hit 220 very easily) but the loss of Trump Card really hurts the matchup. Altaria plus Trump was your key to winning before; now it's a race, and that is rough.

The Item-lock matchup is still tough, albeit a bit easier than before. The saving grace here is that the metagame seems more wide open. With Item-lock decks not looking as impressive, I expect less of them, at least.

Now, I want to end the article with some decks I haven't gotten a chance to play with yet. I've always leaned on the side of sharing these types of decks with everyone. Maybe something catches your eye and you see enough promise to want to give the lists a whirl. I can't vouch for how tuned they are, as they are closer to the brainstorming stage than anything else. This format seems like there is a ton to explore, and even having played a ton of it since the banning, there are so many ideas I haven't even gotten to touch on yet.

Fringe experimental decks aside, I feel like I am beginning to hone in on the different decks which are frontrunners for what I want to use at Nationals. While I feel Seismitoad-EX decks are certainly viable, I really do not want to be playing one for the reasons I addressed earlier. While I still love my boy Rayquaza, and I do feel it is still viable, I think the popularity of Raichu and Night March make it too vulnerable. Night March, as much as I hate the deck, is strong enough that I am considering it. The card I really want to use seems to be Raichu. I am not sure what partner it will be with, but the card continues to overperform for me. The Crobat decks (hey, maybe even with Raichu!) stand out, and I feel like there is something to be said about trying to explore Metal decks again. This is my assessment a few weeks into the format, and I'm wouldn't be surprised to see my opinions change as I test further. If Nationals were tomorrow, I would use my Metal Raichu deck. Luckily for me, and for a lot of you out there, the tournament is NOT tomorrow. While I don't feel I've solved this format yet, I hope my insight offers a unique approach to this format and helps everyone in their quests to do so. This will be my last article before Nationals, so I'll just say this: if you run into me there, say hello! Hopefully I'll see a lot of you there!



[+21] okko


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