Experts' corner

Chris Fulop

An Expaned Look At Expanded

Chris delves into the whole field of decks to expect at Spring Regionals!

05/16/2016 by Chris Fulop

Hello, everyone!

As promised, this article will be devoted to decklists, with the intent of covering all of the big decks we'll expect to be seeing for the first week of Spring Regionals. While Week 3 of Winter Regionals did see the injection of Breakpoint into Expanded, the results we saw there may not be the best snapshot of what the updated format actually has to offer. Many of the games top players had traveled to multiple Regionals, and as such, had to test for two different formats. With the first two weeks being capped off with the newest set being legal as Breakthrough, most of the testing by players went towards that particular metagame. As a result, those players had around a week to really put in work with what the new set had to offer. Now, I'm not discreting everyone as having just been poorly prepared for the event...that clearly isn't true, and players who were only attending the Week 3 Regionals likely put a ton of effort into testing. That said, the overall level of preparedness for the events was almost certainly less than an average Regional Championship.

With these mid-cycle changes, you also see the metagame crafted around that of the prior week’s much more so than what the appropriate metagame with the new cards in the available cardpool. A great example of this was a complete lack of Vespiquen, one of Expanded's biggest decks, from any of the 40 decks that made top cut at Florida or Oregon. (The Northwest did not have enough players for a 2nd day, so they contributed a top 8, while Florida had the standard Top 32 berth, thus the awkward "forty" decks making cut.) One of the big reasons for this was that Breakpoint adding Puzzle of Time should make Sableye Garbodor, a nightmare matchup for Vespiquen, even better. Sableye decks, still somewhat off the mainstream radar for the first two weekends of Regionals, had already been gaining steam, and the projected popularity of the deck pushed players off of using Vespiquen pretty heavily. Of course, if we look at the same 40 decks from before, we notice there were also no Sableye Garbodor decks either. Once we recognize what deck are now in the metagame, opposed to what was being suspected going into the first week, changes to what are viable choices can be made. (Yes, this is me proposing that Vespiquen should be back on the table as a viable deck choice.)

Anyways, before going further, let’s look at the big decks that no one can really ignore going further.

Dark Decks: Dark decks have been a dominant force more or less since Expanded came into realization, and I do not suspect this will change anytime soon, either. Yveltal-EX is such a powerful attacker, and the deck has access to a nice suite of other attackers in Yveltal (XY) Yveltal (BKT) and Darkrai-EX. Yveltal (BKT) is a card I've been very publically high on since its release. I'm happy to see that the general consensus has fallen in line, as the card has been seeing play as at least a two of in most lists. The deck has access to Double Colorless Energy, Dark Patch, and in some builds, the new Max Elixir as means of Energy acceleration. These decks are pretty varied in build because the core of the deck allows the lists to be pretty versatile. The two most popular builds seem to be one running Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick with Gallade and Archeops, and a new build abusing Elixir to help augment the deck's already impressive Energy acceleration. There seems to be a bit of a split in how people are building Elixir decks, though. Some builds are closer to a traditional Yveltal centered deck, while others have gone pretty far into the Elixir gimmick, running more Darkness Energy and less DCE while using both the Dark Explorers and Breakpoint Darkrai-EX as primary attackers. One of the things I do like about the Max Elixir builds is that they are better at pulling off a first turn Yveltal (BKT). Dark decks, regardless of their actual position in the metagame, will always be super popular because they are such a known quantity and are a safe choice for players to fall back on in an unknown field while also allowing them to pilot a deck that offers a lot of play and customization to it. Having type advantage of the next deck helps as well...

Trevenant: Trevenant really gained quite a bit with Breakpoint, between its BREAK card and Bursting Balloon. Originally people talked about trying to use Red Card and Delinquent in the deck to establish a (very hard) soft lock in the early turns of the game, but that wound up being both inconsistent and more frail than expected, and builds have splintered into two camps. Some builds focus on being more aggressive and on spreading damage, whereas others try and play a longer, more controlling game using a focus on Energy removal while hoping the Item lock prevents the opponent from keeping up past that disruption. I feel like, as the format has progressed, that the disruptive version has fallen behind in viability comparatively, and we'll see the more aggressive variation as the prominent one going forth. With Item lock decks in general being quite popular in Expanded, you see decks in general building with the purpose of being able to function better under Item lock and its associated disruption. While this does hinder the archetype as a whole regardless, it is particularly damaging to builds which intend to crutch farther on the disruptive end of the spectrum than others. One slight counter argument, and it isn't worth overlooking, is that the Energy removal based versions do have a bit more game against the various Dark builds if you can catch them at vulnerable points.

Seismitoad: There are really two builds of Seismitoad builds in circulation in Expanded at the moment. The two popular pairings are alongside Crobat, and alongside Giratina-EX. Prior to Breakpoint, Crobat was by far the most successful build, but now the addition of Puzzle of Time muddies those waters a bit. The Crobat builds cannot really fit Puzzle of Time, and the card is just so good alongside the gameplan that Seismitoad-EX decks have. Puzzle of Time also makes running Giratina-EX less demanding, as you have a bit more stability in terms of your Special Energy cards since they can be retrieved with the new Item card. While Crobat Seismitoad did put up some decent results at Winter Regionals, I feel like Breakpoint overall favored a more streamlined Toad build. I'm not even sure this is is just the familiar pairing for the deck if you prefer to focus more on Energy removal and disruption. Perhaps there is a better partner, or even a lack of partner, for Seismitoad-EX for this sort of build. As someone who will openly admit to not being a big Toad player himself, I'm defaulting to the Giratina pairing due to popular consensus.

Primal Groudon: My boy Sebastian Crema has been all about this Groudon deck, and it’s very difficult to argue with the amount of success the deck had this Winter, especially considering how few pilots the deck had. In many cases, a very popular deck will end up placing some pilots into high positions simply due to the sheer number of copies of the deck in the field, and this is often the case for the most popular decks in the format. When a deck has fewer showings, but such great finishes, it is extremely telling of the deck. I think Groudon was by far the best metagame call for Week 3 of Winter Regionals, but I'm unsure how well it will end up holding up now that the deck is a known quantity. Whether people take it seriously or not will do a lot to dictate if it stays a prominent tier 1 deck, or if it proves to be more of a flash in the pan. The deck is very good against all of the disruptive decks, which is a huge selling point in a field littered with Seismitoad and Trevenant (and the boogeyman that stayed home in the closet, Sableye Garbodor as well.) I'm sure it loved seeing a total lack of Vespiquen decks, which otherwise pose quite the threat being able to OHKO a Primal Groudon pretty easily through type advantage. On that note, it’s worth looking at another surprise newcomer which also has type advantage on Groudon that made a surprise re-emergence at Regionals...

Virizion/Genesect: While players have tried over the years to enable this deck to pull off Emerald Slash on the first turn (This became pretty important to chase as decks became more and more powerful to the point a potential VG deck needed to try and speed itself up.) through trying Plasma Badge and Colress Machine, or even Mew-EX and Dimension Valley. (Worth noting, come Week 3 of Spring Regionals, we get the new Fates Collide Mew which can be paired with Dimension Valley, which I think will be great.) None of those strategies were reliable enough to make the deck competitive, but Max Elixir changes that. VG already ran a very high basic Energy count, and stood to gain a ton off of getting a 2nd Energy in play on the first turn. VG is great in the current format for a couple of reasons. First, it is streamlined and consistent. It inherently is strong against disruptive decks. It also beats Primal Groudon, both due to type advantage, but because Red Signal can pull the thing up off of the Bench when Trainer cards can't do that. Virizion/Genesect also struggled against Vespiquen (not just because Flareon is pretty much unbeatable for it) and that deck did not show up. If the metagame stays somewhat close to what it did in Oregon and Florida, Virizion/Genesect is extremely well positioned. That said, alongside Groudon, the deck was pretty off radar going into the weekend, so we'll see what sort of impact them being known quantities now has on deck selection.

Vespiquen: I've touched on it enough already, but Vespiquen is still a viable deck choice. One of the big decks that pushed the deck aside seems to be out of the metagame entirely, and we have the re-emergence of Primal Groudon and Virizion/Genesect...weak to Grass and Fire respectively, the two types that this deck brings to the table. Beyond this, it’s easy to run 1 Jolteon (AOR) to help give you additional game against Yveltal decks. I already feel like the Dark matchup is favorable, so you wind up facing down a pretty favorable field. I actually have a personal dislike of how the deck actually plays, so I am hesitant to run it myself usually, but I really like how the deck is positioned right now. I like trying to find a good, proven deck that is off the radar some, and I feel like the Bees fit that bill well. The deck also benefits from the fact that as a whole, Archeops looks to be in a poor position and is likely going to get cut from a lot of the Yveltal builds going forward. If Toad decks cut Crobat, Vespiquen is "tier two" or worse in the collective eyes of the public, and Eels still clock in at being more of a fringe deck than anything else, the justification to running Archeops is not as strong as it had been. On the topic of Eels...

Eels: Eels came out of nowhere at the start of Winter Regionals, and saw a lot of success. Being able to swarm with Raikou, a non-EX with a high damage output that is often going to be a two hit KO for even most Pokémon-EX gives the deck a lot of legs. Eelektrik, once set up, is also pretty self-sustaining and as a result it is pretty stable against disruption once you hit a certain point in a game. There is a flip side to this though, where the deck is also rather weak to disruption if it hits BEFORE you do get set up with everything. The deck is also soft to Hex Maniac, and Archeops, although it can definitely overcome either. While Breakpoint became legal for Week 3 of Winter Regionals, Generations was NOT legal, and that meant the deck did not have access to Jolteon-EX, which is a huge strength of the deck now. It is the deck that is best equipped to utilize the card, which can just absolutely shut off certain decks on its own. Giving the deck a second front of attack is great.

Those are the decks I think are not only good, but are the most likely to be the most popular. The decks that I expect to see some play, albeit not much, are Mega Manectric, Mega Rayquaza, Sableye Garbodor, Greninja, and actually Night March. Night March hasn't had the same success in Expanded as it has in Standard, but I think just HOW strong Puzzle of Time is in Night March hadn't really been realized for Winter Regionals, and it’s been more or less repeatedly bashed into our brains exactly how good it actually is. It isn't as stable as we have access to Ghetsis and N, but it is still likely a better choice than everyone assessed it as at the start of Breakpoints legality.

Let’s get to this lists that I have in my gauntlet at the moment. Some of them are pretty close to stock lists, because I don't really have many changes I would make and I'm not going to mix up lists just for the sake of having some sort of major personal flare to a list.

Yveltal is one of the decks I feel more comfortable with in the format, and I'm pretty sad that Expanded evolved in a way which makes Yveltal Raichu no longer a viable option, as that had been my old standby for most of the season. I mentioned before how I felt like Archeops was in a pretty bad position in the format (Even though I had spent months saying I disliked the card in general, so do understand my personal bias on the issue going into this.)

I'm running a 2/2 split on my Yveltal, since while I do really like the Breakthrough one, there are matchups where you really do need non-item ways to keep up on Energy attachments, such as vs Toad decks and against Trevenant. I was considering a cop out like running 3 total Yveltal and a Buddy-Buddy Rescue, which would help with the overall attacker diversity, but I settled on the 4th Yveltal because the matchups where you want them in are going to make it difficult/impossible to pull off an Item recovery card. On top of this, if my suspicion that Night March could see some play going forward turns true, having more Oblivion Wingers is going to be nice.

I do want to touch on Yveltal BKT some more though, and why it has gotten so much better as time has gone on. First off, it is great in the Dark mirror matches. These decks all run a lot of-EX Pokémon, so putting 60/60 on two Pokémon is going to add up. This damage makes sweeping with Yveltal-EX or even a Darkrai-EX a lot easier. As a 130 HP non-EX Pokémon, they are not easy KOs either.

On top of this, Fighting Fury Belt is extremely popular, and circumventing that is a huge thing in my eyes. Against any deck using Spirit Links (Mega Manectric, Mega Rayquaza, Primal Groudon, etc.) turning those off slows them down an additional turn which can be game-breaking.

In Expanded, compared to Standard, decks are a little more lax about putting down Shaymin-EX or Jirachi-EX, since they are a bit less of a liability. This opens up the opportunity to threaten to pick off one of these free two Prize targets quite often.

Two of the new comers...well, I guess it is off base to call these decks new comers, but they had been out of the metagame for a while, are Primal Groudon and Virizion/Genesect. Against Groudon, you can slam 60 damage on a Benched Groudon over and over, which either takes it out on its own, or sets it up for an extremely easy OHKO from an Yveltal-EX. Against VG, you are fighting a bunch of 170 HP-EX Pokémon, and this damage spread is just backbreaking against them. To top it off, they can't really reach the OHKO on Yveltal easily either. While active, they are cut off Muscle Band, Fighting Fury Belt, and even G-Booster.

While Yveltal-EX has gotten worse and worse in Standard (to the point where, by the end of States, players had taken up Dark builds which ran no copies of it) it is still quite powerful in Expanded and pretty much locked in at two copies. The damage output is absurdly high with Dark Patch, and there is a lot more-EX on-EX combat than in Standard, where using a more fragile (I can't believe I can even apply that term to a 170 HP Pokémon)-EX is ill advised.

I'm running only 1 Darkrai-EX because, while it is a good secondary attacker (Or a primary one against Lightning decks) it is worse off here than it is in an Elixir build that can power it up quicker. Paired with Darkrai is, of course, Keldeo-EX, who is just way too synergistic alongside Darkness Veil. The card is great against Seismitoad-EX decks, and gives you pretty good immunity to any Hypnotoxic Laser trickery. Worth noting, though, is the continued drop off in Lasers in decks. Even Dark decks are beginning to trim or cut them entirely.

Finally, despite my badmouthing of it, I'm running the Maxie/Archeops/Gallade package. I'm doing this more for the Gallade than I am for the Archeops, but once you already have the infrastructure in place, it’s pretty cheap to throw in the one Archeops alongside of it. Gallade is good in mirror matches, and even better against those Dark builds skewing towards either Darkrai-EX. Gallade is also your answer to Jolteon-EX, which otherwise is a huge issue. Without Gallade, you are just lacking a strong attacker against the Eels decks in general too.

For Energy, we have 6 Dark and 4 DCE. I really prefer 7 Darkness Energy, but I've just come to terms with the fact that it is impossible to make that concession anymore as the demand on other counts in the deck is just too high. I'm already thin on numbers of cards that I'd add additional copies of before I'd up the Energy count, even though I stress I'd like more.

For Trainers, we have a pretty standard Supporter line that I'll use in most of my Battle Compressor heavy builds: 2 Sycamore, 1 N, 1 Colress. Sycamore is the "safest" and least conditional of your draw Supporters. As the game progresses, Colress is almost always the best, and N doubles as being disruptive. To go with these, I have the necessary evil of 2 Maxie's Hidden Back Trick. To round out the Supporters, there are a Hex Maniac, and a Lysandre. Hex Maniac is mandatory, and too good in some matchups. I'd love 2 Lysandre, but with the Maxie gimmick, I'm stuck settling for one copy. It isn't even just entirely a space issue either...I don't want to bloat the deck with Energy and Supporter cards because they clog hands and hinder the ability to pull off a Maxie quickly.

Most of the Items are pretty self-explanatory, but I do want to discuss the switching cards, and the Tools. I have a split on Muscle Band and Fighting Fury Belt. I'm leaning towards just preferring the Belt, but I've had enough spots with Band being good for the damage output that I'm still running one of each. One good thing about Band now is that since everyone seems to be pushing in favor of Belt that players will overlook the potential of it when looking at damage math and you can get some nice KOs off of it. I do like running cards which can punish conventional "good" play. As for switching cards, Float Stone is "better" but I do really want to use Breakthrough Yveltal a lot, and Float Stone has a distinct lack of synergy with its Ability while active, so I am running the one Switch as something to use if it is stuck active and Darkrai isn't set up to be able to bail it out. In most cases the cards are pretty interchangeable and since we do have Computer Search to count as a 2nd "copy" of either for drawing them, I feel like there is extra value in a split. The same logic applies towards the split in damage Tools too.

Finally, we have a 3-2 Laser/Bank line. I hate having this thin of line, and I resisted the idea of anything less than 4 Lasers for a while. I still hate it, but enough people had embraced this count that I bit the bullet and worked with it. I still don't like it, but it is more functional than I suspected it would be. Due to cramped space, an increase in Item Lock, and the resurgence of Primal Groudon and VG (neither of which can usefully be Laser’d) players have switched over to just running 3 Reverse Valley and freeing up some space in the process of doing so. I do like this, and if I were to make that change, I'd cut the 5 Laser spots and add in 3 Valley, a Buddy-Buddy Rescue, and a 2nd Shaymin-EX. The reason I like the Lasers are how well they work with Yveltal (BKT) as a means to up its damage output. The difference between "70" a turn with Valley and 90 plus 30 at the end of their turn if the Poison is left unanswered is pretty big. While I'm not confident in my Night March speculation, I really do feel Vespiquen is going to make a resurgence, and hitting the 90 mark with a non-EX Pokémon is important. Another option to prepare for mirror match if you run Reverse Valley is to run a copy of a non-Valley counter stadium, possibly something like a Silent Lab or a Parallel City. By doing this, you give yourself the ability to re-set the Stadium war, where if they are not able to immediately counter your non-Valley Stadium, you can replace it with your own to lock them off the damage boost for the rest of the game. (Assuming they do not also run a different counter.) This would seem difficult to do...catch them while they do not have access to a second Valley of their own...but it comes up enough, and you also get to a point where a lot of players will dump off their extra stadiums once they won the race to play it first to not have the "dead" card clog their hands/deck.

Pokémon-wise, this list cut the Gallade and Archeops for two additional Darkrai-EX, one of the Dark Explorer's variety, and a new inclusion in the Breakpoint one for its higher damage output while also not having a weakness to Lightning. I also went with the 3/1 split on Yveltal, in favor of Breakthrough, because it just gets so much better with the addition of Max Elixir. Being able to power it up on the first turn if you open it is somewhat reasonable with this build. Beyond this, the demand for Oblivion Wing drops way off with the 4 Elixirs to compliment the Dark Patches. On a good first turn, you can dump a lot of Energy into play, and have enough of a head start that even against the disruptive decks that you are less reliant on needing to use Oblivion Wing to stay competitive.

What I do fear is this decks ability to compete against things such as Vespiquen and Eel decks, where you lack the ability to really keep up with non-EX attackers is pretty lacking. Now, I don't actually think any of the Dark builds are favored against Vespiquen, and I'm unsure how popular Eels will be, so if you want to gamble and accept those are lost causes and not too prominent, I think I like this build better than the traditional Maxie's Yveltal.

Trainer wise, there are no Lasers, OR Reverse Valley, as the deck is banking on the extra Energy attachments to make up for the damage output. This space, plus the space freed up by not running Maxie, we get to fit the Elixirs, and pad the Energy count up to 8 Darkness Energy.

We've also added a Ghetsis, which I love in Expanded, as there is enough space to fit it, and this build is less hindered by running more Supporters. Finally, this build has 2 Fighting Fury Belt over the split. The tipping point with this build is that we are committing so many Energy attachments to one Pokémon at times that ensuring survival with an extra 40 HP is worth it over the slight damage boost.

Finally, we have a real "All In" build revolving around Darkrai-EX over the standard Yveltal package. I will be honest in saying this is my least favorite of the 3 lists, but different enough, and popular enough, that I want to at least include the list. I have just not been as impressed by the new Darkrai-EX well enough to want to greenlight focusing on it so much. Even a shift in weakness from the Lightning of Yveltal doesn't seem that beneficial, as you still struggle against Jolteon-EX (by struggle I do mean "more or less have no outs") and Eels in general due to how hard the Raikou are to one hit while being a non-EX.

Next up we have Crobat Seismitoad, a deck I think has dropped off a bit in viability now. Still, let’s look at the choices for the deck. I'm a fan of the 4-4-2 Crobat line. I've seen 4-4-3, and 4-3-3 in lists, and I'll defend the 4-4-3 line if you feel like you have 11 slots to allocate to the line, but I always find myself wanting to trim in order to fit in more Trainers. Once we accept that we get 10 spots to work with (I'm not saying 10 is even 100% better than the thicker line, I just know where my preference lies.) I MUCH prefer 4-4-2 over 4-4-3. I always want to get Golbat, quicker and in greater numbers. Due to the nature of how the Scoop Up effects work, you don't need as any Crobat in the list to still get a lot of uses off of them.

4 Seismitoad is pretty much a standard in my mind. I know I've seen plenty of Seismitoad Giratina builds that opted only to run 3 of them, alongside the 2 centipede nightmare things, but I was pretty steadfast in wanting to still run the 4 Toad. I just want to open with them often, and to assure I found one on the first turn. To round out the Pokémon, I'm just running a single copy of both Shaymin-EX and Jirachi-EX. Shaymin is actually not that great in this deck, as it doesn't do the best job of dumping its hand size that well. Jirachi is better, but also a bigger liability, so I settle on the split. I do like how we have 8 great starters (4 Zubat with free retreat, and 4 Toads) and only 2 bad openers, so the deck should be nice and consistent. I've seen some lists try and get cute and run other attackers in light numbers to round out the Pokémon, but I'm really not a fan of doing anything but using Quaking Punch over and over and over again.

That said, we do run 4 DCE and 3 Water Energy, so Grenade Hammer is an option. (The Water Energy also let you work around Head Ringer and Jirachi somewhat better. They also let you take the fringe route of attacking with Crobat/Golbat without needing to risk a DCE to do so.) I like having the option to really go aggressive at the end, and with Bat damage and Lasers, you can actually do a pretty good job of OHKOing most Pokémon once you set up for this. I'm running a Ghetsis to cover for this type of transition, where you can BREAK Item lock, but at least gut their hand of all their items before doing so. It may not be as secure, but it’s better than just letting them go off the second you shift gears.

Supporter-wise, we have 4 Sycamore, 3 N, and a Colress as draw power. Since this deck is pretty tight on space, I'm opting for a heavy Supporter line over cards like Trainer's Mail which may be a better engine in a vacuum, but require a lot of space for companion pieces to the engine to make it optimal. Sycamore is a pretty obvious choice, and N is great because this is the type of deck that is not only more controlling, but one that is able to play a great come from behind game. If you can start spamming N's late game, you can easily protect your game with repeated Scoop Up effects (with Toad having 220 HP with a Belt on it) and Item Lock. Crobat also lets you leave "targets" in play that are effectively dead to Ability damage to also let you leave yourself with more Prizes to work with for bigger N draws. With the Bat line, your Bench will fill up pretty easily, and Colress is going to be your best mid to late game draw card.

We also run 2 Lysandre, an AZ, a Xerosic, and a Team Flare Grunt. Lysandre is pretty self-explanatory, but I do want to discuss the 2 vs 1 count. In a lot of lists I'm biting the bullet and running only 1 Lysandre. These are streamlined decks that also run Battle Compressor to pair with VS Seeker so they can fairly reliably get to their Lysandre. Since this deck's engine is more "fair", we get 2 Lysandre. AZ is too good with Crobat not to play, and while not the best thing to do with a Seismitoad-EX (Losing the DCEs and Belts is unfortunate.) it is better than not having a reliable scoop up effect in the deck. I also like being able to rescue hanging Prizes, such as Jirachi-EX and Shaymin-EX. Xerosic gets rid of Pokémon Tools, and more importantly, Special Energy Cards. The biggest gap between Crobat Toad and other Toad lists is the ability to fit in Crushing/Enhanced Hammers. With less of a focus on Item based Energy removal, it’s important to have the ability to attack the opponent's Energy in some meaningful way, and Xerosic and a Team Flare Grunt are this deck's options for this. I addressed the lack of Battle Compressor earlier regarding Lysandre and the ability to get access to single copy Supporters, and I've considered running the awkward, out of place Battle Compressor just to get better access to my Supporters.

Most of the other counts are pretty standard. I'm going with 2 Virbank and 2 Silent Lab. Virbanks pretty necessary with the Lasers, but Silent Lab is great at attacking Shaymin-EX/Jirachi-EX and other Pokémon based draw power which is pretty nice. They work great alongside Ghetsis when breaking Quaking Punch too. I believe at one point Michael Pramawat even ran 3 copies of the card in his list, which is a great testament to how useful the card is in the deck. I'm at 2 Fighting Fury Belt, which is a little bit lower than I'd want, but once you see the first, ideally you're looping your Toads enough that you can re-use the Belts too. Alongside that Battle Compressor, a 3rd Belt is at the top of the list of cards I'd like.

The final debate is over which ACE SPEC to play. Due to how crucial having a Double Colorless Energy on the first turn (and honestly, every turn) is I really like Computer Search in every Toad build. It isn't flashy, it isn't as dynamic, but the deck NEEDS its DCEs. It also serves the Battle Compressor role, in that it gives me a wildcard to get access to any of my one-of cards, even if it feels a bit dirty using your ACE SPEC for that.

Rock Guard is an absurd card, and was again what Pramawat was running in his list (I think that is enough of a selling point overall, no?) but I think it loses a bit of value since it is now competing against Fighting Fury Belt. Sure, their roles are pretty different, but they still conflict. Also, Fighting Fury Belt is a very popular card, and I expect a lot of players to come ready with answers to Tools, which in turn weakens Rock Guard. Finally, we have Scoop Up Cyclone, which is just a nice reliable Scoop Up. I have a hard time pulling the trigger on this card because there are cards which offer the same effect, even if they are a bit worse. It is more replaceable by non-ACE SPEC cards, which makes me hesitant to use my spot on it. I tentatively have Computer Search as my choice, but there are selling points to all 3 and again I think this one is a personal preference issue.

I have an interesting take on Seismitoad Giratina, in that I feel with the introduction of Puzzle of Time, we can REALLY skimp on the Giratina counts while still using it. I legitimately originally ran this list with 4 DCE, 1 DDE and 1 Giratina-EX. If you are simply aiming to transition into Giratina at the end of the game, you don't need to bloat the deck with so many cards towards this when you can assemble it easily enough and also loop everything back.

Many of the Supporters are the same as in the Crobat build, only we cut an N and the Colress. This isn't as bad as we do have access to Trainers Mail, and the Battle Compressor. I also include a Teammates, which is a bit awkward but I think a great addition. On one hand, the deck's game plan is to NOT let Seismitoad die due to Belt and Super Scoop Up, but the card is just so powerful when you do get to use it. The main reason it gets the green light is due to Puzzle of Time, which the deck runs the full set of, and they are so good with Teammates.

I trim down to 1 Silent Lab in this deck, even though it is also great here, because of Puzzle of Time letting us get extra copies. I could consider trimming a Laser due to this as well, but I want that card as often as possible (in most matchups) so I can't really pull the trigger on that. One other trimming which should stick out like a sore thumb is the reduction to running only 3 Ultra Ball. This deck doesn't really need too many Pokémon, and these cards wind up looking pretty mediocre when drawn in multiple copies as the game progresses. I don't mind 4 at all, but I think they are better served in other spots.

I'm really torn on the ACE SPEC in this deck. Again, we could use Computer Search, as usual, but Puzzle of Time makes things interesting. Rock Guard can be brought back additional times. Scoop Up Cyclone as well. A card I wanted to try in here that is more cute than correct is Scramble Switch, as it lets you jump from Toad straight to Giratina in one turn, which is really alluring. I think I'd want a 2nd Giratina if I did that, as you could then Puzzle of Time to switch between Giratina too. I just feel like with Puzzle of Time, re-uses of Comp. Search are extremely low impact, where you get to really milk the other high powered ACE SPECs multiple times otherwise. Still, I'm on the "Comp. Search Forever" wagon until I can find something I'm 100% sold on. I need to play more games with Toad Tina before I can comfortably say the other options are better, though.

Also, I've seen a lot of Giratina Toad builds that go a bit wider on what they are trying to accomplish, running cards like Latios-EX or even Mewtwo-EX. These are fine, and I get that in general those builds were a bit less all-in on Quaking Punch, but I'm not really the biggest fan of this. I think if you want to use Seismitoad-EX, you really need to accept the role for what it is, an attempt at a hard lock, and make the deck list with that in mind. This is very much still a Seismitoad deck, with the thinnest almost "free" inclusion of Giratina-EX to me.

I mentioned before that there are two approaches to playing Trevenant, and this is the more aggressive build without the Energy removal presence. I'll give credit to Ryan Sabelhaus for the starting point of this list, and I actually wound up cutting the 5th Psychic Energy for a 2nd Jirachi-EX because I was a bit nervous about my ability to always have access to Wally when I need it. It also left me feeling a bit more comfortable about the 1 Lysandre. I can definitely see myself needing to use multiple Jirachi-EX over the course of a game.

What I do really like about this build is how the deck may focus on the Trevenant lock and abusing just how good it and the BREAK are, but it also has a strong Dimension Valley utility package, as Mewtwo-EX and Wobbuffet both wind up being great attackers. Alright, maybe great is an exaggeration, but they are pretty strong in their respective roles in the deck.

So there are two things I want to go over, and both revolve around the deck figuring out how to beat the "Shaymin Loop", which is when a player simply alternates between a pair of Shaymin-EX using Sky Return, slowly putting damage in play against Trevenant while denying Trevenant any forward gain in terms of damage. (The way Bursting Balloon blows up compared to Shaymin returning to hand favors the Shaymin, and Trevenant is never able to hit the needed 110 threshold to actually get a KO.) The two quickly realized solutions are to run a new Breakpoint Trevenant, which increases the cost of attacks on Basic Pokémon, and a Head Ringer to put on a Benched Shaymin-EX to BREAK that loop. I feel like the new Trevenant is just not that good, and it allows a player to then go off and set up without the Item lock. An explosive deck can posture with Shaymin loops until this point, then set up, and win the game from there. Head Ringer is the better alternative, as it doesn't compromise your lock in the process.

I took both Nathan Brower and Michael Canaves' lists from Florida and Sebastian Crema's list from Oregon and wound up with a bit of a hybrid between the two lists, with a nice little twist on things too. All of the Pokémon counts looked pretty similar. 3-3 Groudon, and 4 Wobbuffet were universal. Crema ran a Bunnelby and a Jirachi, whereas the Florida lists opted for a Mr. Mime and a Regirock. I hate the Regirock, but love the Mr. Mime and feel like, as Yveltal decks focus more and more on Breakthrough Yveltal that this becomes a necessary inclusion. Bunnelby is a card that has seen play in this deck for a while now, and one I never liked. Jirachi is alright, but I'm not sure how necessary it is. To be honest, I like being pretty straight forward with the deck, and haven't logged quite enough games to know how useful it is yet. I'm not sure it is needed against the field at the moment though.

Brower ran a higher Energy count than Canaves or Crema, and I think I prefer the smaller count. He was also the only one who didn't decide to get cute and run a Psychic Energy to make attacking with Wobbuffet an option. The deck runs Prof. Letter, and Groudon does have a colorless requirement in his cost, so this is a pretty low cost inclusion to the list, even though I don't imagine attacking with Wobbuffet is ever really terribly useful. Canaves got really greedy on his Energy count, and I'm not really comfortable going with less than 10 Energy cards in the deck, even with the Prof. Letter.

The big thing I love with Canaves' list is the 4 Puzzle of Time. I love being able to get back more Robo Subs, and it just gives the deck some nice consistency. The cutest thing I am trying to do with my list, and something that can be cut pretty easily if you don't want to live the gimmick, so to speak, is to run Scramble Switch as my ACE SPEC, while running a Max Potion. The idea is, if you get a pair of Primal Groudon up, you can Scramble Switch between them, and Max Potion the damaged one, and each set of Puzzle of Time allow you to repeat this process two more times. This is why I'm running 1 Spirit Link, a card that is otherwise pretty useless because you can afford to take a turn off to go Primal if you only want one at a time. If the plan is to have a pair going, I do like having access to the one Spirit Link to help ease into that. Now, if you don't want to run this package, you can cut the Spirit Link and Max Potion for two cards of your choice (I like a 2nd Pokémon Center Lady) and replace the Scramble Switch with a Computer Search.

The Trainers are actually really flexible in how you build them. 4 Korrina is a must, and 3-4 Sycamore is as well. I'm at 3 because I really want to have N and Ace Trainer in there as well. You will either fall behind early before going aggressive, or somehow be set up at Prize parity which is even better as I can't imagine losing many of those games. Ace Trainer should be an absolute house in this deck. For utility Supporters, I have a Lysandre, a Pokémon Center Lady, and no Hex Maniac. I run a Silent Lab over the Hex spot, and no, they don't cover all of the same roles, but I prefer the Lab since it counts towards the Stadium count for Primal Groudon's attack, while also being retrievable by Puzzle of Time. Yeah, so is every card, but Hex Maniac normally gets awarded extra points by virtue of synergy with VS Seeker, so I think the Puzzle of Time package closes the gap there.

On the topic of Stadiums, I want to get into Tropical Beach, which is a major part of this deck's engine and why it is able to set up consistently. The lists run between 3-4, and since I wanted space for the Scramble Switch gimmick, I went with 3 so I could save space making the 4th Stadium slot the Lab. Without Puzzle of Time, I do want 5 Stadiums, which would put the 4th Beach back in. I am a bit terrified by the thought of a Groudon just rampaging on a Beach though. Just think of the flavor being suggested here, and remember this is a kid's game. Yikes.

So VG starts with a pretty basic shell of 4 Virizion 3 Genesect in pretty much every build. With the heavy focus on-EX Pokémon, Hoopa-EX is fantastic as well. A Jirachi and a Shaymin are pretty much auto inclusions, although part of me feels like 2 Shaymin is ideal just to increase the deck's ability to chase the turn 1 Elixir harder.

The deck runs 3 more unique Pokémon in Mr. Mime, Dedenne and Deoxys-EX. First off, Mr. Mime is pretty much just a counter to Breakthrough Yveltal, but that role is so important that you can't overlook it. As VG and Groudon are now known quantities, expect that Yveltal to be even more popular. Mr. Mime is an unfortunate must now. Deoxys-EX has two purposes. First off, it is just adding damage, which is pretty obvious in purpose. Against Yveltal, though, you lose access to Tools, so you get restricted to 100 damage, flat, and due to Megalo Cannon's 20 damage to the Bench, you really need to hit the 110 mark to start "OHKO"ing Yveltal. On top of this, it allows Genesect to hit for 220 vs Grass weak Pokémon, such as, say, a Belted Seismitoad-EX. Dedenne is further insurance against Yveltal and its EX counterpart, as with a Belt it can do 140 to a Breakthrough Yveltal and punish them pretty hard for it. I've always hated Dedenne but it finally has a real role that I think justifies him.

The Trainers are not super exciting, but Fighting Fury Belt is a great addition to this deck, bringing the Pokémon-EX up to 210 HP which is a huge improvement. Sky Arrow Bridge makes the deck's retreating easy and conserves Energy so well. The Supporters are a bit spread out, but I'm fine with that. I really like Skyla just because of how low maintenance this deck is at setting up. You care more about card quality than quantity which is a rarity in this day and age. I run the one Battle Compressor to help facilitate the toolbox of Supporters, and also to be able to thin the deck for your Max Elixirs too. I can see cutting it for a Super Rod, an 11th Grass Energy, or a 2nd N.

Eelektrik Raikou doesn't really change too much from its prior incarnations, outside of fitting in Jolteon-EX. I've seen varying counts on Energy, but I'm pretty happy with just running the 10 Lightning. I've seen people running DCE, and that is actually more alluring with the addition of Jolteon-EX, but I'm just not sold on it being necessary.

The Pokémon are pretty straight forward. 4-4 Eels. 4 Raikou. 2 Jolteon-EX as a new addition. I've seen most lists running only 1 Shaymin-EX...and I totally get that. You really want to make an opponent have to chew through non-EX Pokémon, and leaving vulnerable-EX Pokémon in play is never a great idea. I feel like the Shaymin are worth it because you really want to race into a great set up vs Item lock decks. If you wanted to run a few DCE, this opens up the Sky Return loop against Trevenant, which is a bad matchup. Even with Eels out, this line is a bit sketchy with this build because while you can Dynamotor onto a Shaymin, each Sky Return also deposits 2 Lightning Energy into your eventually deplete your discard pile of fuel, and the loop breaks on its own. Plus, without a Rough Seas out, they can just kill off the Eels.

Keldeo-EX just helps with retreating your Pokémon, which is awesome with Raikou if they don't get OHKO’d because when they sit on your Bench, you can eventually heal them back up to full off of Seas. Keldeo also helps with retreating while under Item lock too. Even if they prevent you from putting a Float Stone on Keldeo, it can be Dynamotor’d to on the Bench and lets you retreat none the less. (Although clearly less efficiently.) While I am running Keldeo-EX, I'm doing a 2 Float Stone/1 Escape Rope split, and I like the Rope as an answer to Wobbuffet which is seeing more and more play. It also just has some random uses as a sort of Catcher effect throughout a game. It’s hard to cite specific scenarios as being a selling point for the card, but there are enough fringe spots where the function pays off pretty well.

On the topic of lists that really haven't changed much, we have Vespiquen...namely because the deck is pretty well locked in stone with what it has room to do. It is flexible with its Pokémon beyond the 4-4 Vespiquen, 4-4 Flareon, 4 Unown, 3 Shaymin-EX 1 Jirachi-EX counts, but you really want about 27 Pokémon just to keep the damage output high enough. The flex spots in this build go to an Audino, a Wobbuffet, a Jirachi and a Jolteon. I think Yveltal is favorable as it is but it is so popular that the prospect of just showing the matchup up with the Jolteon is too good to pass up. Audino is an easy discard, and is good against potential Laser plays. (Even though Laser is seeing less and less play.) Jirachi is good against Toad, to BREAK Quaking Punch, and again has random applications as well. I do hate "taking turns off" on getting Prizes but sometimes it is necessary. The card I wouldn't mind over any of these would be a Mr. Mime, but Breakthrough Yveltal isn't as good against this deck as a whole, so I think you can just deal with it. Beyond this, Bench damage isn't too prevalent.

The seven Energy cards are also set in stone. You can't really go less, and have no need to go more. The Supporters are also more or less perfect, with Xerosic being a mandatory inclusion now just because of how popular Fighting Fury Belt is, and because the numbers it offers actually become difficult for this deck to OHKO otherwise. I've seen lists running Tool Scrapper, but I really want to just be able to get extra uses out of my copy. I get the Scrapper is more synergistic with Teammates, but the deck is tight on space, and I expect you need to discard Belts more than once in a number of games.

Anyways, these are the decks I have been testing with, and the archetypes I expect to be most represented at Regionals. The decks I did not include lists for that may be popular (although I think they are also just worse positioned) are Mega Rayquaza, Mega Manectric, Night March, Greninja and Sableye Garbodor. I feel like the safest play is to use some form of Dark deck, and it is more than likely what I'll be doing. The other decks hinge more on what decks wind up seeing the most play, and I don't think there is enough evidence to really formulate a proper metagame prediction outside of just lumping all the good decks into a projected field. Do I think Dark is the best deck in the format? Eh, maybe, it’s possible, but I'm not confident. Without a more defined direction of what we need to beat though, I do think it is the best play for the first weekend of Regionals though. Good luck to those who are going. This is a pretty fun format, and a nice reprieve from Standard, which has been a nightmare. I'm off to go stare at more cute pictures of that new Grass Owl starter Pokémon from Sun and Moon!



[+2] okko


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