Experts' corner

Chris Fulop

The Magnificent Seven

Chris Identifies The 7 Defining Decks of the 2016-2017 Standard Format!

10/02/2016 by Chris Fulop

Hello there again!

I was asked if I could write an article discussing Expanded, due to the split nature of the upcoming Regional Championships. I was blunt with my response to this: I have not tested the new Expanded format, and I did not feel comfortable trying to pass off any advice I would have on the format as being anything more than outdated assumptions. As someone not planning to attend any Expanded Regionals this go around, I never had the drive to explore the format more while this new Standard was still in the process of being fleshed out.

For those who have upcoming Expanded tournaments, I'm not going to be able to help you too much on that front, sadly. I know if I were playing that I would want to build some sort of Dark deck (Big surprise, right?) since Dark Patch is still a stupid card, and I'm sure some build of the deck is still extremely viable. Vespiquen, Night March, or a hybrid of the two also seems appealing, too. I know, I'm really going out on a limb with those safe picks, but like I said, I'm untested for the past 2 expansions more or less in the format, and would defer to a safe pick in my comfort zone.

That being said, I want to take this article as an opportunity to go over the decks I feel are locked in as the definitive top two tiers of Standard at the moment. I'm not going to get into the argument of saying which ones are tier 1, and which are tier 2. These are the decks that are both popular and successful on a fairly wide stage right now. Whether some of these decks are overperforming or overplayed or vice versa is irrelevent. These are the top decks you need to be familiar with when preparing for upcoming Standard events.

This list is not particularly different than the list I had in my last article because not a whole lot has honestly changed with it. I've just moved around some of the trainer counters and added a 4th Mewtwo EX for consistency.

One thing I do want to discuss is the lack of Super Rod or Special Charge. I feel like in most cases Special Charge is...kind of pointless. You have 4 DCE and 4 Mega Turbo. If you need more DCE than that, you are in a very interesting game state, and the rare type of game state I have no desire to build for.

Super Rod is more interesting, but it shares a lot of similarities to Special Charge in that the number of games you need to recover cards, have Super Rod, and actually procede to convert the use of said drawn Super Rod into a win you would otherwise not have seems low. I get that the safety net it provides -feels- good as a player, but the times it changes a loss into a win here seems lower than we instinctively want to believe.

I actually had this debate, more or less, back in 2008 with Jason Klaczynski over whether or not to run Night Maintenance in our Gardevoir builds. Half of our team ( Myself included! ) were deadset on wanting to run the Night Maintenance, as it gave the build some more leeway, but Jason was against it, making a fairly similar argument as to the one I made above. It took me until after that format ( a slower, grinder format where a card like Night Maintenance/Super Rod would be more impactful than in this one. Worth noting also is that a lot of decks benefit from being able to Super Rod and then use Shaymin EX to help draw into cards, but with Garbodor, this deck lacks that luxury. N doesn't draw many cards end game when you want to Rod, and Sycamore is extremely dangerous late game too. ) to realize that Jason was likely right about the card's inclusion. This is a deck that doesn't really run thin counts, either, so you don't get to capitalize on Super Rod being a way to recur very specific inclusions, either.

I also want to make a slight retraction from previous arguments in prior articles as well. I was pretty low on Shrine of Memories in these decks, and made sure to point that out. I've had different results lately, and the card has been pretty impressive as a whole. I think as the format has settled down, more and more matchups have popped up where it is more effective. Jamming mirror match and Mega Rayquaza games sure made the card look rather unimpressive, but as we get decks like Mega Scizor and other "two hit" KO decks infiltrating the metagame, it has looked a lot better.

I've also seen some builds of this deck running 8-9 Psychic Energy and Max Elixir instead of or alongside Mega Turbo. ( Yes, I support Super Rod in decks using Max Elixir. ) I do like how it makes the deck faster, and makes normal Mewtwo EX a bit more reliable an attacker, but it eats up more space overall and is a bit less stable. I haven't gotten to play with a Max Elixir list but I've played against a few and have felt pretty happy with their performance.

Ok, I actually still really like my Raichu build for this deck, but for the sake of not jamming that list into too many articles in a row, I'll include a different approach, which is more geared to beating Giratina EX, which is otherwise a nightmare to deal with. I do like like that the metagame is widening to the point where "make every list specifically to beat Rayquaza" isn't as viable a trend. Giratina, for example, seems like it would have an absolute nightmare matchup against Mega Scizor, and the popularity of Fairy decks is also going to make that card questionable.

So we cut the Raichu line, and added 2 additional Basic Energy, a 4th Rayquaza EX ( They have all been converted into the Colorless one now, both due to an oddly "better" weakness, and the C-60 to an EX attack being important now! ) and a Manaphy EX. One of the floating spots freed up by reducing Spirit Links and Mega Turbos to 2 went towards a Jirachi EX. I cut one of the Unowns for a 4th Sycamore just to give the deck a bit more reliably raw draw power to help it function better under Garbodor lock. The final "freed" slot goes to a Lugia EX

The plan against Giratina EX is a combination of a lot of cards. 4 Colorless Rayquaza cycling between themselves hitting for 60 a piece for a Basic Energy ( Which we now run 5 of! ) gives you a very realistic shot at taking out a Giratina EX by grinding it out. Having the 5 Water Energy alone is a huge strength against Giratina. Jirachi lets you pressure the Double Dragon Energy, even if builds do run Special Charge to recycle them. If you are able to play N and discard a DDE, they have to not only hit the DDE again off their new hand, but they also have to draw an Escape Rope/Lysandre to not just be stuck right back where they were. This should guarantee the ability to break the lock somewhat safely. Lugia EX is the final piece of the puzzle, letting you crack a Giratina for a lot of damage for WW. Lugia is a pretty difficult card for Giratina to combat, and it should give the deck a powerful weapon in the matchup.

Manaphy EX is in there to give the deck free retreat, which makes cycling between Rayquazas and Giratina and Jirachi very reasonable. You can also actually attack with Manaphy EX to heal your Rayquazas some, as it has 120 HP and is 10 shy of being taken out in one hit by a Chaos Wheel with a Fury Belt. With the cycling Rayquaza game plan, ideally you stick a Spirit Link under Chaos Wheel, as you can transition midgame to the AOR Mega Rayquaza and wipe off the Chaos Wheel damage and have another clean attacker.

I toyed with running an Energy Switch to abuse with Teammates/Puzzle of Time, as it also lets you power up a Lugia EX out of no where. If I wanted to go really deep, running a Regice is an option too, as most Mega Mewtwo builds are really really soft to it at the moment. Mega Scizor decks are as well. I'm not sure where I would find the two spaces for that, but the option is on the table. ( I guess I could begrudgingly cut the last Unown, and maybe go down to 3 Rayquaza EX again. )

The downsides to this build are that it is weaker to Zoroark, Raichu, Garbodor and the mirror match than the Raichu build. Raichu is a good alternate attacker against the non-ex Zoroark and Raichu, so losing that option hurts. I don't think Raichu is too popular with the field widening, and the same can be said of Zoroark, a card which is also a lot easier to combat than Raichu. I loved having Raichu as an option to swing into a Garbodor so getting that KO doesn't expose a Rayquaza, but it is what it is. Mirror match is still "even", you just no longer have the trump card.

Volcanion decks have also been putting up great results, and I can totally understand why! They have a pretty poor Mega Rayquaza matchup, but as the deck ( I feel incorrectly! ) falls out of favor, the deck's matchups have improved a lot. Being a dedicated Fire deck, it mauls Mega Scizor. One thing I am really concerned about is that the deck is pretty soft to Garbodor, but between baby Volcanion dumping energy into play, and Max Elixir, you can still power up your field really easily and thus be able to get KOs on a Garbodor and hopefully free up your Volcanion EX Abilities as the game progresses.

I love how the deck is extremely streamlined and simple. It is also really quick, and pretty hard to disrupt the set up of. Having 4 fantastic non-ex attackers is just icing on the cake. This deck has two really bad matchups, and those are Mega Rayquaza ( You can't really keep up with damage without benching EXes to eat Lysandres. ) and Greninja. I feel like the deck organically can compete with most Garbodor decks even without Abilities long enough to get Garbodor off the field. Greninja ALSO shuts off your Abilities and thus damage out, but also relies on non-ex attackers with high HP, AND they have type advantage against you. Volcanion has a definite speed edge, but it usually isn't enough to stop them from pulling off the comeback.

If the projected metagame is light on Greninja and Mega Rayquaza ( a trend we are currently at in most areas, and on PTCGO! ) then this deck is really well positioned. I like it as an option for being simple, consistent, and proactively powerful. One card which can make a difference in the Mega Rayquaza matchup would be a Klefki. If you can time it with a late game N, you can possibly steal a close game. If you can spend most of the game getting Lysandre KOs on Shaymin and maybe Hoopas, you can break serve with the Klefki/N play some games. I don't have Klefki in the initial list, but its an easy enough of an add on.

The first thing I want to point out is that I've opted to go with a Max Elixir build opposed to a Mega Turbo one. This lends itself to a few changes. First off, you cannot run any Shield Energy. I've seen lists running 2-3 of their Metals as Shield Energy, which is almost a "freebie" if you are relying on Mega Turbo to recur your Metal Energy, but clearly that is a no go with Elixir. Elixir enables the deck to attack on the first turn, which is actually pretty important as it can set up some reasonably turn 2 KOs that otherwise may not exist. Max Elixir also makes Cobalion a lot better, as you can surprise the opponent with it out of no where. In the Mega Turbo builds, I was a bit underwhelmed by the Cobalion, and I've seen a lot of lists not even supporting it.

The list as a whole is really streamlined. There are not a ton of frills to this build. I am also amused as I right this about how many of my builds run Super Rod after my miniature rant about how I dislike the card in a lot of builds. It is too good with any deck running Max Elixir, which just so happens to be a lot of decks in this format. The Mewtwo Garbodor deck, though? Not quite the build for it.

Scizor has a lot going for it. First off, Garbodor is great at the moment. A lot of decks are pretty soft to it, even if they are building to remain competitive against it now. Fairy decks are popular, and Scizor is great against those. It also is great against Giratina EX as you just slice through DDEs every turn. Rayquaza is...interesting, because you can attack their DCEs and Sky Fields, while also playing the Garbodor/Parallel City/N game that Mega Mewtwo tries to do. The matchup has favored me as a Rayquaza player, but it is competitive for sure. Greninja struggles against Garbodor, as well. I mentioned earlier, this deck gets mauled by Volcanion though.

I'm running 1 Giovanni's Scheme, just to let Scizor hit 130 damage in one hit ( Which is important in a lot of matchups ) but it also lets you hit 240 over the course of two swings. I've pretty much seen Magearna EX in every build, but I've yet to be impressed by the card at all, but maybe I am just overlooking things somehow. I want to cut it, but haven't swung the axe yet on it.

Another interesting approach I want to try with the deck is to add more of a grindy nature to it. I'd love to fit Crushing Hammers and Team Flare Grunts into it and really just attack an opponent's energy supply. If you want to take that approach, you have to cut Max Elixir for a smaller Mega Turbo count, and likely lose Cobalion and a bunch of other fluff to be able to fit it all. I also like the idea of running Pokemon Center Lady, as with the disruption I can really see the deck taking advantage of the healing.

So I've included lists previous for Greninja Octillery builds, and I've just recently started playing this variation of the deck instead. I'm not even sure I love Talonflame, but man, if there were ever a deck that took full advantage of getting to open with one, its this deck. The downside of the gimmick is that you can't really splash much, and the deck is pretty muched in as to what Pokemon it can run. I guess you could run like a 1-1 Octillery line anyways, but it would compromise enough that I don't want to make those waves. ( Water type joke. )

Talonflame does a wonderful job of letting the deck search for whatever random Supporters it wants to get ahold of. The original list I saw that I started to test from ran 1 Ace Trainer, and 1 Wally, but I felt like I wanted a 2nd Wally just because it was a card I really wanted to draw when I did open with Talonflame. I felt like Wally was too key a card to trim down even if you -could- get away with it. Fisherman, on the other hand, I was fine leaving as a 1 of due to this. The big cut off is the point in the game where you want to see the card.

I love the extra damage output granted by the Burst Balloons. Talonflame is a great way to keep them coming as well. One thing I wanted to try out, but haven't yet, was Teammates/Puzzle of Time ( 1 Teammates, it can be grabbed/discard early with Talonflame ) since it lets you loop so much stuff, including the fantastic Balloons. The package is so clunky if you don't open Talonflame though, especially without Octillery to augment your draw power. You could make the 5 spots available by doing -1 Super Rod, -1 Burst Balloon, -1 Wally, -1 Rough Sea, -1 "Supporter". You could also actually probably cut the 4th Greninja, as blasphemous as that sounds. Greninja BREAK could eat a trim to 2 potentially as well. Most of the trims are offset by the Puzzles anyways, and the deck is already built with "grab 2 cards from your deck" in mind, so Teammates does bridge the gap once Talonflame dies.

I stubbornly did not want to include Garbodor in my Darkrai/Giratina builds, but after watching how impressive the stupid trash bag has been in every other deck, I bit the bullet and made the shift. Right now, I don't really think there is anything that can be changed with this list. I think it is pretty much a set 60 at this point.

Pokemon wise, 3 Darkrai, 2 Yveltal and 2 Giratina is a lock. 2-2 Garbodor and 2 Shaymin as well. I think Hoopa is too good not to run, but it could theoretically go if we need an addition for the list. I don't want less than 9 Darkness Energy with the Max Elixir, and I like drawing more basic Energy for Oblivion Wing anyways.

The trainers are all pretty much at their perfect numbers, at least in terms of what I am including in the deck. I really would love to have access to some sort of energy removal, even just an Enhanced Hammer or too. Hammer has been really impressive for me so far, and the Garbodor line really cuts into the utility slots for the deck. I'd love some kind of healing ( Pokemon Center Lady, more or less. ) or Energy Removal to help drive home the disruption, but it can't fit. With 200+ HP due to Belts, I'd love to try and turn some 2 hit KOs into 3 hits, but its too hard to fit these luxury cards.

Ok, so I initially started testing this deck from a list I got from Pablo Meza's Youtube video ( Tablemon ) who credits Josh Marking ( Team Fishknuckles! ) for the basis for his list. I made some changes from this, but I do want to give credit where credit is due on this.

The premise for this deck is using Xerneas' Rainbow Force to up to 270 damage to a Pokemon for YCC. The attack does 30 damage for every type of Pokemon on your bench, and Volcanion EX, Galvantula, and Bisharp are all dual typed Pokemon, allowing you to have up to 9 different types on your bench at one type with a Sky Field in play!

The "problem" here is that you need 2 energy per attack with Xerneas, who only has 130 HP. The deck doesn't inherently have any sort of built in energy acceleration, so something has to give on that front. The initial list I saw had 2 Max Elixir and 2 Exp. Share. Now, it also only had 7 Fairy Energy. I felt like the Elixir package was really clunky at those numbers. 7 is just lower than I want for Elixir. To make it worse, upping that number was then just unappealing too, because you only had 2 Elixir to capitalize with. You'd really want to run more of both to make that package work. In turn, I decided I'd sooner cut the Elixirs, allowing me to add the 3rd and 4th Exp. Share to the deck instead.

Due to the 4 Experience Share, I also have a focus on Switch over Float Stone. I'm also running a Mew as a 5th Xerneas, and also as a nice free retreater and an additional type. If you wanted to try the Elixir route, you can cut 2 Exp. Share, and Mew for the 8th Fairy Energy and 2 Max Elixir.

It has been awhile since I've really been negatively opinionated on a deck, but I really do not like this deck very much. It just feel like you jump through a lot of hoops to try and keep up with all of the decks, and that you aren't even too much more powerful than the other decks either. You struggle against Parallel City, which is a popular card right now too. I've had a pretty good win rate with the deck so far, despite this, it just feels really off to me. I've played enough of this format now that I trust my gut feeling on things like this, and I just don't like this deck, even though this almost assuredly means I'm dropping at least a match to this deck at Regionals now.

One other thing I do want to admit to...I pegged Zoroark, Octillery, and Raichu as three cards that looked to be big roleplayers in this format right out of the gate, and I feel obligated to own up to the fact that has just simply not been the case so far! I think there are a few reasons for this, though.

First off, Zoroark and Octillery are both hampered by Garbodor. Parallel City, the format's primary weapon against Mega Rayquaza, also hurts Raichu. Rayquaza being a lesser presence due to the target on it's forehead also takes away one of Raichu's targets. Parallel City also makes utility Pokemon which eat up bench spaces, such as Zoroark and Octillery, a lot worse. Zoroark wants big benches, and Parallel City both reduces the number of "big bench" decks, but also means decks have a way to limit their own bench space. If Parallel City sees less play, I expect these cards to surge some in the amount of play they see.

Anyways, this concludes what I consider to be the 7 most important decks in the format. Whether you want to play these decks or not, they are the pillars of the format that you can't really ignore when designing your own deck either!

[+9] okko


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