Experts' corner

Chris Fulop

The Evolution Of Pokemon As We Know It..

Chris Reviews The Evolutions Expansion, Reviews Philadelphia Regionals, and Shows Off A New Evolutions Inspired Standard List!

24. 11. 2016 by Chris Fulop

Let me get this out of the way since I haven't had the chance to publish this yet. Evolutions has been an extremely popular and well selling set. Talking to local store owners, the amount of the product they've sold to non-players off of nostalgia has been staggeringly high. That being said, I've really been unimpressed by the set as a whole for competitive play. I don't understand what was going on with the thought process behind this set. If they were banking on nostalgia selling this set and hoping to lure in new buyers ( Which has happened! ) wouldn't it be better to make this set a slam dunk and full of great, playable cards? Take the hype and use the set to reward players, both old and brand new or returning alike. I get that they are getting the sales regardless, but there is no reason they couldn't put out an overall better product to really use this as a good launchpad to get a broader player base.

Anyways, I'll cover the cards I feel are playable, as well as cards that "stand out" enough that I feel it is worth debunking their potential playability as well.

Evolutions Set Review

Blastoise/Charizard/Venusaur Spirit Links: Well, I like that they actually found a time and place to retroactively introduce these, but the time for any of these lines to be playable has long passed. I spent way too much time pet-decking Mega Venusaur EX, and I'm convinced there was a point where I could have made it a contender if it has a Spirit Link, but I'm pretty sure that time has long passed. The power creep has continued and dwarfed these lines now. Blastoise was never close to playable, and Mega Charizard actually saw extremely fringe play as a tank in Aromatisse decks a few years ago but is otherwise also outclassed. These cards all just look silly when you compare them to Mega Mewtwo or Mega Rayquaza. None the less, I am really happy to see these cards printed and MAYBE we'll get the same treatment for the other Link-less Megas like the Lucario line. I could see it making Lucario EX good enough to see play again. ( It would have an uphill battle, but it is a start. )

Pidgeot/Slowbro Spirit Links: Necessary for their Mega lines. Not too much to say here.

Brock's Grit: Grit here competes with Super Rod and Karen. It is 2x Rods, but a Supporter. In some cases, this can be a selling point. You can get it with Jirachi EX, and you can re-use it with VS Seeker. Karen can't get Energy cards too, but it is very disruptive to certain archetypes and gets ALL Pokemon, so it seems more appealing overall. I kind of like Grit in Max Elixir decks that may run thinner Pokemon lines, too. I think most decks will opt for Rod or Karen, but I'd be surprised if a few decks didn't opt to go with Grit over them.

Devolution Spray: This card is...interesting. The upside is pretty obvious. It lets you re-use evolutions with nice come into play abilities, such as Golbat/Crobat, Milotic, Bright Look Ninetales, and I'm sure plenty of others. In Crobat decks, will it be better than Super Scoop Up? Probably not. Will they have room to run both? Also probably not. ( SSU is too good with Seismitoad EX to get replaced even if Spray doesn't demand a flip. The lack of acting as a Switch is relevent, too. )

Here Comes Team Rocket: Well, it can replace Town Map...and should. It is a much cooler card, shame on anyone who doesn't upgrade their maps!

Misty's Determination: Well, I like being able to dig 8 cards deep. I'm not sure how useful this actually will be. Like, even if you can make a case it is cool for decks that really want to hit a specific card, like a Double Colorless Energy or Double Dragon Energy, how much better than a Sycamore is this? It effectives digs 7 cards deep, and Misty doesn't refill your hand ever either. I don't think this will ever see play. I am actually curious how deep this card would have to dig to be able to be a contender. 10 cards? 12? I'm not even sure, we have so much draw power at the moment that this just seems anemic.

PokeDex: Gallade on a stick! I don't expect this card to be too useful but it is decent alongside cards like Unown and Acro Bike. If there is a truly dedicated turbo engine in either format, I wouldn't rule this card out seeing some fringe play.

Professor Oak's Hint: Oh, I got the hint. Don't play this card. Its like one use of Trop. Beach on your Supporter! Yuck. I'm not even sure how good this card would be if it didn't end your turn. Since it does...well, lets just move on before I get upset thinking about this card.

Beedrill: Beedrill is kind of cool! It benefits greatly from Forest of Giant Plants. For GC, it can execute Swarming Sting which does 40 damage to ANY Pokemon per Beedrill you have in play. 160 is actually a really great rate for a 2 energy snipe attack. It sure does abuse Shaymin EX, which is nice, but I'm just not sure if the card is quite good enough. I kind of like the idea of pairing it with Galvantula, so you can set up 30 snipes and then pick them off with Beedrill later. I'll assume this won't see play, but the design is cool and at least worthwhile, which is all I really ask for in cards.

Chansey: I love how they took all of the old Pokemon cards and upgraded their stats to attempt to keep them in line with the massive series of power creeps we've experienced since 1996...well, except with Chansey, who they instead had to keep in check by adding 2 to it's retreat cost and removing it's Psychic resistance.

Charizard: It's upgrades are...pretty unimpressive. We get 150 HP instead of 120, and the same Pokemon Power/Ability allowing Charizard to abuse Double Colorless Energy. The attack still costs 4 Fire Energy but now does 200 damage...and discards 3 energy. That is a pretty big downgrade. To be fair, even if it did still do 200 for 4 and only pitched 2, I doubt it would see play, so maybe I shouldn't complain so much here. The nostalgia value on the card is really high though, so it has that going for it? At least it got to keep it's Resistance, too.

Clefairy: Clefairy is the same card minus the type change to Fairy that brings with it a shift in Weakness and Resistance. I only bring it up because I can't totally ignore Metronome for CCC that copies any attack. That is splashable, and can be powered up in one turn off of a DCE and a Max Elixir. If it were a different type, like Grass or something, I would love to run 1 of these in Rainbow Road to cover an addition type for Rainbow Force while also being a fringe attacker in a pinch. I'd keep this on the radar, as dumb as it sounds, because Metronome is pretty impressive even on a 40 HP Clefairy.

Dragonite EX: Ah. The stand out card from this set. Well, obviously this card is insane with Mega Rayquaza, where you really want to be able to fill your bench back up after things get KOed. Dragonite's Ability is extremely strong. It enables gimmicky decks like Rayquaza and Raichu. It lets you reliably recycle 1-of Pokemon in decks that run a toolbox or just want to run thinner lines and rely on Dragonite as a wild card of sorts. Dragonite also doesn't specify EX Pokemon...thus it can get back Unowns. I know it isn't super impressive, but being able to bench it, at worst, to draw 2 cards isn't negligible! I love Unown as it is, and Dragonite is just further incentive to run them. I can see Dragonite being a card that makes it's way into most decks as a 1 of. To top it off, Dragonite EX has 180 HP, and a pretty strong attack! 130 damage for CCCC that also rips an energy off the Defending Pokemon is really strong. The problem is, it is pretty tough to get powered up so it isn't really a great secondary attacker without a bit of work. I want to try Dragonite with Ninja Boy. The Ability works well with running a toolbox of big basic attackers, and it mitigates the difficulty of attacking with Dragonite itself if need be. There are a lot of opportunities to abuse this card.

Electrode: Another card that they nerfed a bunch. It's Ability is now restricted to attaching Electrode to a Lightning Pokemon, and it only provides Lightning Energy now. Giving up a prize is a pretty big deal, although it can be kind of cool to help accelerate the impact of N. The problem is, there really are not many impressive Lightning Pokemon in Standard, and if I am looking at Expanded, this card is a joke compared to Eelektrik. If they print better Lightning types in the future then Electrode can be re-evaluated, but I'm just not seeing this card being worth it with all of the new restrictions. You could use Ninja Boy to swap a Lightning type into a different Pokemon, or maybe use Jolteon to make a Stage 1 into a Lightning type to cheat the restrictions, but its still kind of rough. ( It is my understanding that the Lightning type requirement is only necessary when the Ability is used, and if the requirement proceeds to no longer be met that the Electrode stays attached. )

Pidegot EX/Mega Pidgeot EX: Here we go again: My unhealty Ninja Boy fixation at it again. Pidgeot EX is an alright card...170 HP. Colorless. 80 damage and 20 to a Benched Pokemon for CCC. Not terrible for a "Mega Me" EX, but it's first attack is...intriguing. Mirror Move smacks them back for however much damage Pidgeot EX...or the Pokemon whose identity carriers over after a Ninja Boy ( I believe ) took the prior turn. Getting smacked for 150 on a different EX only to Ninja Boy into a Pidgeot is cute. Probably too situational to ever work, but cute. I'd be more optimistic if I felt Mega Pidgeot EX was better, but it was another middling Mega Form that doesn't stand out at all. If Mach Cyclone acted as a Gust of Wind to bring up a Pokemon of your choice, it would be MAYBE competitive. I don't even think that would be close to too powerful for the work you do to make Pidgeot work. Instead it is just way underpowered even if its cool to see Pidgeot get some chase-rare love.

Slowbro EX/Mega Slowbro EX: Well, Mega Slowbro is...not good. It does 100 damage and confuses itself, and afterwards does 200 damage instead. I get that the gimmick is you have to keep healing the Confusion to safely reap the rewards from the damage boost but really, if the attack was 100 and 200 every turn after, the card still wouldn't see play. It is too slow and low impact to start and Rope or Lysandre ( Or just getting KOed ) break up the damage buff. Slowbro EX itself is beefy and it's healing attack is a decent stall, but all the abusively good Pokemon that definite competitive play are just leagues better. This is a shame, because while I hate the design for MOST Mega Pokemon, I actually think Mega Slowbro is extremely cool, so I wanted better out of this line.

Machamp/Machamp BREAK: Machamp suffers from being a stage 2 Pokemon with a hefty energy requirement in a type that is extremely light on energy acceleration. The Ability is cool, and 3 damage counters isn't nothing, but I don't think it is strong enough in the current state of the game. The Break gives you a hefty 190 HP and a decent attack if you can keep it going, but as a "stage 3" it just really doesn't draw me to it.

Mew: Mew is interesting because it's Ability prevents damage from all Evolution Pokemon, but pretty much every deck has basic attackers. Worst case scenario, any deck can just attack with Shaymin EX. Mew only has 40 HP, and doesn't do a lot of damage, so I'm really not too interested in this card when there are better protective Pokemon in the format.

Mewtwo: Now this is an upgrade! I actually think this Mewtwo is really playable. 130 HP is great for a non-EX, and it has Lugia EX's attack, doing 20 damage plus 20 more per energy attached to the Defending Pokemon. Being a Psychic type, it is good against Mega Mewtwo EX. If run in a deck that demands Mewtwo attach 4 Energy to get a OHKO, if you have any sort of damage boost, Mewtwo OHKOs Mega Mewtwo for a DCE. Mewtwo, like Lugia, is also good against Giratina EX, and to a less extent, Yveltal EX. Mewtwo also benefits from Dimension Valley, making it's attack cost only C.

Mewtwo EX: Now this card is impressive. Energy Absorbtion is great in that it lets you power up when getting ready to transition into Mega Mewtwo. Most importantly it doesn't specify you only can retrieve a Basic Energy card, so you can soak up a DCE. This makes a second turn Mega Mewtwo a huge threat in terms of it's damage output. The problem the card faces is that it doesn't offer the damage swap option that the one from BKT does, which means Mega Mewtwo loses access to it's Shrine of Memories gimmick. That being said, I'm not super impressed by it...I'm not saying I dislike it, I am saying that with this Mewtwo being an option, it isn't a necessity in the deck. I could see some kind of split between the two being an option as well. Every time I look at these new cards I keep obsessing about Ninja Boy options, and here is another one that pairs with the card pretty well.

Nidoking/Nidoking BREAK: I hate having to review, lines? like this. I try and hit on all of the marquee/"rare" cards in each set, and Nidoking here falls under that umbrella. Nidoking is just another medicore stage 2 attacker ( I bet hes a true hoss at Pre Releases! ) with decent HP and expensive midrange attacks that will never be at the rate needed to see play. The BREAK buffs it's HP further and gives it a very underwhelming "Toxic" poison attack. Pass.

Ninetales/Ninetales BREAK: Ninetales here is a throwback to the original Base Set Ninetales ( Surprise! ) a card which has a really dear place in my heart. Back in 1999, I piloted a Ninetales/Magmar/Scyther deck and managed to hit 4th in the DCI Rankings back then, which was really difficult since I know at least the first place guy totally fabricated tournament results to hit that rank. Of course, the deck wasn't actually even very good and the Ninetales had to have made the deck way worse, but I was 14 and man did I love my fox. This Ninetales isn't great either, but it has a decent amount of HP, it's Lure attack is not bad at all, and 120 for 3 isn't a terrible rate. Unfortunately, in Expanded you have Bright Look Ninetales which is just better in most ways. In Standard, we don't have Blacksmith to make it easy enough to power.

Ninetales BREAK has a pretty absurd damage output, matching the old Rayquaza EX. Unfortunately, it still feels like it requires too much work to get out a non-RCable Stage 2 Pokemon to do that sort of damage when I feel like Fire, as a type, just has so many better alternatives ( Such as said Rayquaza even. ) The fact that it's attack isn't at all in line with what the other ( Better ) Ninetales offers doesn't help much. Bright Look Ninetales is a great card partially because it has such a cheap potent attack, and whatever shell you'd play it in would not be capable of supporting an odd BREAK addition even if the inclusion is somewhat free to branch off the line.

Rattata: Well, we finally have our universal tool hate! While it doesn't take tools off of Garbodor ( For two reasons! ) it does deal with Fighting Fury Belt, Balloons, and Klefki if you are running Mega Pokemon. The applications are wider in Expanded, too. I see this being played in a lot of decks. It helps that it has a nice evolution too...

Raticate: Yikes is this card great. It has an attack for a Colorless that strips away an Energy card off the defending Pokemon. While it doesn't protect itself afterwards, we've seen how useful that attack is on the Promo Jirachi. It also synergizes greatly with Shadowy Bite, which, also for a Colorless, does 60 damage for each Special Energy Card in the opponent's discard pile! It is easy to expect, against a lot of decks, that you'll be doing 120-180 damage. I think the card looks pretty good against a deck like Giratina, especially if you pair it with other energy removal. Alongside Hammers, Crunch lets you really pressure their attachments, and it can then transition late game into being able to sweep with high damage outputs. Also worth noting, Raticate BREAK is actually a really good card, and now that the rest of the line is strong too, I can see it getting dusted off. It does kind of take things in a different direction, but there may be something there!

Starmie/Starmie BREAK: Starmie's Ability is interesting, in that it lets you retrieve Basic Energy each turn, which actually seems like it is something both Greninja and Volcanion decks could be interested in. I feel like, especially with how popular Garbodor is in Standard, that those decks are better off using their Trainers based recovery that they currently have. If Garbodor tapers off in play, maybe a transition would be fine, but I'm not sold.

Starmie BREAK does 100 damage to every BREAK your opponent has...which is generally going to be like, one. If BREAK Pokemon were better, this card would likely still be bad because it seems really easy to play around by just restricting how many BREAK you play down at any given time. As it is, with a pretty subpar Starmie and a metagame that doesn't promote a lot of BREAK use, this card is pretty underwhelming.

Alright, I'll conclude this portion of the review with a fairly abritrary "Top 5" list out of the set which is obviously taking a lot of personal bias into account.

Honorary Mention: That Stupid Clefairy
5.) Mewtwo
4.) Mewtwo EX
3.) Raticate
2.) Rattata
1.) Dragonite EX

Philly Regionals

If I had gone out to Philly Regionals, I would have played a list very similar to those used by my friends Kevin Baxter and Carl Scheu. Kevin finished in 33rd place, right on the bubble, and Carl started out extremely well and I believe lost 3 in a row to miss top 32 due to some really bad luck. ( He told me the stories, and I am pretty sure I repressed the details to soften the pain. It was pretty bad, I remember, and I will spare you, the readers, of suffering through it as well. ) Anyways, this is the 60 cards I would have registered.

I don't think it is particularly surprising that I would play Mega Rayquaza given a position where it is even remotely a defensable choice. I like having a very proactive deck choice that I am super familiar with, especially in a format with such a wide card pool as Expanded. I don't deny it: I am far less prepared with this format than I am Standard, and as a result will gladly embrace a deck I know inside and out if I can. Being honest with yourself about where you stand in regards to preparation for an event is very important. This isn't an excuse to enable poor preparation and testing, but sometimes your life makes it difficult to have the free time to allocate towards testing multiple formats. ( I made the choice to put Expanded on the back burner due to such constraints. )

Mega Rayquaza benefits from a few factors. First, it is not one of the "decks to beat" in Expanded. I mean, it is on the radar, but very few people will run anti-Rayquaza measures, and people will be fine running decks which are just extremely soft to it. Second, we have Special Charge and Karen. In Standard, I have been crutching on Puzzle of Times to help the deck keep up with lost resources, and that eats up a lot of space and forces me to run Teammates. Karen makes it extremely easy to always have access to your Pokemon, and Special Charge keeps you full of DCEs. The big issue is having beyond 4 copies of Sky Field. The nature of the format kind of combats this, though, because you don't have as many Stadium cards in the average list and you match up better against a lot of decks even without the 8 wide bench. Unlike in Standard, you also don't really face as many Parallel Cities ( Not having a giant bullseye on your forehead is nice, right? ).

Karen does a lot more than just recover your Pokemon, though! It lets you combat Vespiquen and Night March decks. Just spamming Karen gives you some pretty good game against the slower, type-advantage-less Vespiquen deck. Night March is tougher in that Joltik just has it's way with you so easily that you need a slightly different plan: Seismitoad EX. Toad with Karen can be good in both matchups, but is best against Night March. It has random applications as well, just being a good card

The one big argument I had with Kevin and Carl was over the inclusion of Ghetsis. They both ran a Prof. Juniper over it, and I felt like not running Ghetsis was just incorrect. I debated cutting the 2nd Hex Maniac or the Sycamore, and wound up cutting the Sycamore. I hate Sycamore in this deck, because it is almost ALWAYS worse than Colress. With Hoopas, Shaymin, and Jirachi to go with your Ultra Balls, your first turn usually has a ton of flexibility and you should be able to gain access to N or Colress on the first turn pretty easily. ( Lets not overlook the Battle Compressor + VS Seeker engine we have access to in Expanded. ) Sycamore offers a slightly different take on raw draw power that is almost ALWAYS worse past the first turn ( I'll take Colress every time. ) and offers no sort of disruption. ( N is a slightly worse play than turn 1 Colress if looking for card quantity, but it's primary role is as disruption later in the game anyways. ) Ghetsis isn't really a draw card...I mean, it is, but I'm never playing it on the pretense that I'll be netting a great deal of cards. It is disruption and strong in spots where N may not be. With the deck's incredible non-Supporter draw power, having strong turn 1 disruptive options is very appealing. If the deck goes second, it can pull off a turn 1 massive attack. If it goes first, it can set up strongly, while also slamming either Hex Maniac and Ghetsis. Even if these plays don't cripple an opponent, they should slow the opponent down enough to be worth it. I'd rather see a unique threat in Ghetsis than a vary narrow deviation of "draw" that I already have 3 copies of in the deck, more or less. Expanded is so toolbox friendly, it should be exploited. Also, Ghetsis does play really well with Seismitoad EX. It doesn't play out very often, but when you transition off of Quaking Punch and Ghetsis for a bunch, it does feel pretty nice.

Pokemon-wise, the core is pretty unchanged. 3-3 Mega Rayquaza, 4 Shaymin EX, 2 Hoopa EX and a Jirachi EX is standard. Beyond this, I'm at 1 Exeggcute. ( I really do like 2, but the 2nd is a luxury and a lot of cards got added to the list. ) Seismitoad's presence and role was addressed above. Keldeo EX is just a great utility card and I don't think it's inclusion is too out of left field. It is very good against disruptive decks. Since Keldeo made the cut, it influenced the inclusion of the 3rd Float Stone. Due to the 3rd Stone, I feel a lot less flimsy on only running 3 Rayquaza EX since it does make promoting one of the first turn more reliable. If it weren't for Keldeo, I'd be running a 2 Stone/1 Escape Rope split.

Anyways, that was my deck choice, but lets look over the top 8 from Masters! Unlike last time, I will not be going as in depth into the deck lists.

Trevenant took down another Expanded Regionals, really cementing it as one of the formats sturdiest archetypes. There have always been a few camps in terms of how to build Trevenant decks. This list clearly foregoes any of the Burst Balloon gimmick and goes with the heavy disruption build which I particularly like. I don't know if I'd have ever had the gumption to jam 4 Red Card into my deck, but it clearly works. ( There are certain strategies I usually shy away from until someone else proves they work. This counts. ) To add to this disruption, we have 4 Crushing Hammer and an Enhanced Hammer ( As well as a Flare Grunt and Xerosic. ) I want to discuss the Red Card a bit more though. The card is good at almost every stage of the game. Taking an opponent down to a 4 card hand on the first turn while also cutting them off of Items is huge. Due to this game long Item denial, decks don't thin out as they do normally. It is misleading to compare this to normal experiences with a late game N to 4, which is usually just giving them a decent hand if they stocked their deck right. In this case, they have a deck fat with unplayable cards, so this random 4 card hand is often likely to be rather poor.

One of the other nice perks of not running the Balloons is that you are free to abuse Rescue Scarf ( A phrase I never expected to type ) This makes it a lot easier to continue to loop Trevenants over the span of a game.

I like the simple line on Energy too. Running all Psychic prevents any of the anti-Special Energy card hate that decks end up playing. I don't think it ends up mattering a whole ton and you can probably squeeze in at least 1 Mystery Energy, but I get the idea. Finally, I LOVE how consistent the deck is with 2 Shaymin EX, 2 Jirachi EX, 4 Ultra Ball and 2 Level Ball. It makes it so that you should almost always pull off the turn 1 Wally. The build runs no Float Stone or switching card at all, which is a bit awkward, but you can just retreat into the ghost tree on the first turn anyways. The build cares less about racing an opponent and more about leaving them resourceless so if you end up delaying your attack a bit, it isn't even a major deal like it would be in some builds.

I've known Mr. Fouchet forever now, and I'm thrilled to see him take a 2nd place spot at Regionals here. On the other hand, I am a little bit less happy to see Accelgor take a 2nd place spot. I'm being torn in so many directions here! Accelgor is one of those "lock" decks I think are kind of bad for the game, even if the archetype has regressed from "hard lock" to a softer but still oppressive lock as the years have progressed. It is a deck that can just auto win many decks if it isn't prepared for in a metagame.

The big difference here is that Accelgor has left it's long time Item locking friends in Trevenant ( and previously Gothitelle! ) at home in exchange for a playset of Wobbuffet. Rather than lock players off of Items, the build instead goes for locking them off of Abilities. ( Wobbuffet also is a...somewhat viable, attacker with the presence of Dim. Valley and a Mystery Energy to allow it to jump up and smack a damage Pokemon for a KO. )

One of the problems I've had with Accelgor overall is that it was always EXTREMELY clunky and that it would often "beat itself" or at least put itself into very compromised positions because it didn't set up well. With a full 4-4 Accelgor line, and 4 Wobbuffet, paired with a 2-2 Musharna line, the deck is extremely streamlined and effective. Wobbuffet also does a nice job of turning off the Archeops which did infiltrate the top 8 as well. Pretty much every deck is banking on Float Stone as their "switch" cards, so locking a player off of Items isn't super important. ( Decks do seem to universally run exactly 1 AZ which is annoying but you can definitely deal with it. ) With Wobbuffet, Keldeo is no longer a problem at all. I played Yveltal for years, and with Keldeo I had always done pretty well against Accelgor. The constant Ability lock may be a bigger issue than the Item lock was. You also do have access to Ghetsis as a means of hand disruption to pair with Wobbuffet.

I actually love this build a lot, even though I know I'd never want to play the archetype. I am a bit concerned that it is too easy for decks to abuse VS Seeker + AZ against the deck, especially since AZ seemed so prevailant. If the deck gets back on the radar too much, I suspect it becomes a much worse play because the Wobbuffets seemed much more like a chance to snipe a very soft to it metagame than anything else. AZ just seems like a tough card to beat if people want to jam it in every list, or worse, more than 1. Trevenants were a bit better at beating hate cards, but running them made the deck so clunky, so I'd take this build anyways.

On the topic of friends...I haven't known Sam that long, and I don't get to see him at events very often as he always plays in other areas of the country, but he bought me food at the Klaczynski Open, so guy checks out in my book! Thrilled to see him with another good placement. Seeing how I'm not chasing an invite this season, I am now choosing friends who I will root throughout the season. I'd love to see Sam get another invite this year.

Unlike Mike's deck, I LOVE this archetype. I've loved Eel decks since before we got the original Rayquaza EX, and its no surprise the Pokemon is still enabling decks 5 years later. This time the deck abuses Raikou, a card which is just extremely sturdy. You don't really score a ton of OHKOs with the deck, but you bank mainly on non-EX Pokemon that have high HP totals and solid healing. Between 3 Fighting Fury Belt ( and Raikou's 120 HP plus damage reducing Ability ) and 4 Rough Sea, Raikous are extremely hard to KO, and you'll often have to chew through 5 or 6 of them.

The only EX Pokemon the deck plays are 1 Shaymin EX ( for consistency ) a Mewtwo EX ( a solid attacker that doesn't need Eels but can sweep when backed by them. It also helps against other Mewtwos which are actually pretty good against Raikou. ) and a Seismitoad EX. Toad plays a similar role as it did in my Rayquaza build when paired with Karen against Night March and Vespiquen. Toad is also scary in any deck with Belt and 4 Rough Seas.

Sam is relying on Evosoda as a means to cheat Eels into play past Archeops in the Yveltal matchup. Also, if you look at the deck's energy count, you see 7 Lightning Energy and 3 DCE. That seems like a low Lightning count at first glance since you do want as many as you can fit on a Raikou since it adds 20 damage per Lightning. I like this split because DCE is actually really good when you DON'T have access to your Eels ( Because of Garbodor, or Wobbuffet, or Hex Maniac spam, or Archeops, etc. ) You can power up Raikou easier, or build up a Mewtwo or Toad out of no where. Also, you can use it to retreat a stranded Eel, which can be an issue if locked off of Float Stones of you have more Eels in play than Stones which can definitely happen. The energy split seems counter intuitive at first, but it really is more of a hedging to strengthen the deck for when it is struggling than it is an effort to make your best game better ( Which a thicker lightning count would be. )

Sam only ran 1 Battle Compressor, and I'll admit a 2nd one would make me a lot happier, especially with the 7 Lightning Energy. It would also make your Supporters play smoother since the deck is trying to keep a minimal EX presence and thus does not run Jirachi EX. ( You also have a finite bench space, so cards like Shaymin and Jirachi are a liability there.)

Man, I hate this deck. Not because it is bad, but because it sure has given me it's fair share of throttlings over the years. Two Nationals ago, I got the round 2 feature match using Landy Bats, and got paired against it. I got routed in 2 pretty embarrassing games on stream. Then, at Regionals last season, Michael Pramawat just ravaged me with the deck again in quick order to give me my second loss ( Frank Diaz got me two rounds earlier. Rahul Reddy eliminated me from day 2 in the 9th round. Rough day. )

The lists haven't really changed all that much over the years. You have a 4-4-2 or 3 Crobat line, and 3-4 Toads, plus Shaymin and Jirachi. I usually liked 4 Toads, but here we have 3 and the Lugia as an additional attacker so that makes sense. 4 DCE and 3 Water Energy is also par for course. Why change what isn't broken, right? ( Or in this case, why change what IS broken? )

The Supporters are the classics, with the addition of Delinquent. I like the card in any deck that is disruptive,a nd this counts. There are a lot of 1-of utility Supporters, and while we have Jirachi EX in the list, I would like to see the 1 Battle Compressor I've gravitated towards in Toad decks just to smooth things over.

I won't go too into detail on the choice of numbers for the Trainers because so much of it is personal preference with this deck. You have a ton of space and a ton of disruptive and utility cards that have flexible numbers available to them. Those are going to come down to metagame predictions and personal preferences more often than not.

Here is one of two Yveltal Archeops decks which made the top 8. This is a build that is WAY off what I would have compiled for the deck, and I don't mean that to say it is bad at all. I've played a lot of Yveltal over the years and I have my builds and leanings with how I like the deck. A huge selling point for Yveltal, or Dark decks in general, is how flexible they are. This just takes things in a different direction than I am used to.

I also think that I jinxed myself when I said how Rayquaza didn't have to deal with Parallel City...this deck has a pair of copies and some Silent Labs. Yveltal went from running Lasers and Virbanks, to no Lasers and Reverse Valley, and now we have a purely defensive suite of Stadiums in this build.

One thing I am skeptical of in this build, and a lot of builds, is the one copy of Lysandre. I honestly just like being safe and having 2 unless space is extremely tight. I want to believe something can come out for the 2nd copy.

The Pokemon assortment in here is wild and all over the place. 2 Yveltal EX. 2 Yveltal ( BKT ) 0 Yveltal ( XY )!?!? 1 Darkrai EX. These are all extremely thin numbers, and we have Mewtwo, Keldeo, Sableye, Gallade and Archeops backing them. I've never been the biggest Sableye fan since like, 2013, as the Dark decks are now way more aggressive and less grindy. I also don't think the build is suited to be grindy, so Sableye while never a -bad- card doesn't shine either.

I'm really surprised to see no Yveltal, as it is just such a stable card for the deck. Usually when this kind of omission is found in a list it is pretty well thought out because you can be sure Tom started with the card in his deck and lately determined it was not pulling it's weight. I'm willing to put a lot more weight in a person's decision to avoid an otherwise universally played card than I am in their decision to play something unorthodox because sometimes the results used to include something can be skewed a bit.

One thing I do like a lot is the decision to run only 1 Hidden Ball Trick. Tom seemed to take the slightly riskier route on a lot of his card counts with a lot of single copies, which is fine since this deck has a whole wide range of threats. You don't always need a very specific game plan, you just need -A- game plan, and this deck should be able to offer up a strong line of play regardless of what is prized and if certain cards are proving tough to find. I feel like 1 Maxie and 1 of each of the Fighting types is plenty for that package. I've seen too many builds just "safely" run 2 Maxie, and I think it is unnecessary. I understand there are matchups in particular where you do REALLY want the quickest Archeops possible ( Toad Bats, Eels, Vespiquen ) but that is a spot where matches being 2/3 does help out a lot. I complain about how much I hate matchplay for swiss in these large events, but it does help let decks run thinner lines of things because you can always just scoop games where prizes become an issue to get another shot at it. ( See! I recognize SOME of the benefits of the structure! )

One thing I am a bit surprised by, and maybe bothered by, is the lack of any sort of recovery card in the list. I like the diversity of threats, but I would love to have some means to be able to recycle some of them. I'm not sure what I'd cut for something, though. ( I want to get that Sableye out! I am so unreasonable in my dislike of this card, but I can't help it. )

We get our 2nd of 4 Dark decks that made the top 8 ( Interestingly, all 4 of them lost in the Quarterfinals... ) and this is a deck that takes things in a totally different direction. This build abuses a combination of Dark Patch and Max Elixir to be able to power up the newest Darkrai EX extremely quickly. It is the fastest of the Dark builds, which I like, but it loses a lot of the utility you see in other builds due to the high concentration of basic Darkness Energy and the therefore necessary exclusion of DCEs. I do dislike how you can't really play Yveltal EX or Yveltal ( BKT ) due to that lack of DCEs. ( This build does still run a Mewtwo EX since you can get it powered out of no where with Max Elixir. )

The deck is extremely linear with what it is trying to do, and that benefits greatly from the fact that outside of Primal Groudon EX ( A card that not only failed to be represented in this top 8, but also a deck that is just OHKOing you regardless of weakness. ) Fighting is a very underrepresented type in this format. ( Humorously enough, you do have access to Mewtwo and Keldeo as attacking options that take advantage of a lot of the Fighting type Pokemon. ) The one cute thing this deck is able to do is run Malamar EX. Malamar triggers sleep on the opponents Active Pokemon whenever you attach to it, and since Darkrai counts the total energy in play, if you have Darkrai with enough energy to attack, you can freely toss in some Sleep by attaching to it on your turn.

Unlike the Yveltal list above, this build does run one XY Yveltal. I like it a lot in this list because dumping an excess of energy in play is really beneficial, but also because with the decks damage output, tossing 30-40 damage into play before transitioning to a Darkrai EX is a big deal towards getting a clean KO with Darkrai. You also attack with exclusively EX attackers otherwise, so Yveltal acts as your "7th" prize.

Looking at the Trainers, this top 8 continues to spite my pre-tournament predictions by jamming in a pair of Parallel City as well. I don't really feel like the card is particularly vital to anything ( I could be overlooking something. ) but the deck doesn't really seem like it wants any other Stadium all that much either, and I don't like playing NO Stadiums, so it is cool by me. The card is just generally useful and has a lot of play to it.

Now for some objections. I really dislike only running 2 Fighting Fury Belt. By the nature of this deck wanting to stockpile Energy in play, denying KOs is extra lucrative. I want to have 220 HP Darkrais if I can. The longer the game goes, the more damage output you are graced with, so prolonging games seems very important. I understand that there are ways to discard Tools in Expanded ( Most lists in this top 8 played one, which is a worthwhile trend to note. ) but I think overloading this discard outlets is important.

I'm not a huge fan of Pokemon Ranger, despite the fact that a few lists did end up playing it. I don't think it is a necessity, and it would probably just get cut to fit in the 3rd Belt. The card seems like a hedge against some of the more fringe strategies in the format, but there are no lists that top cut here that I feel the card is a necessity against and I think the conservative play is to cut it.

Dowsing Machine gets the rare nod over Computer Search here but I get it. This is a deck that is pretty consistent, and doesn't really have many cards that are tough to get copies of. ( Usually if I play DCE, I want my Comp. Search. ) Even key cards like Max Elixir and Dark Patch are pretty redundant and you therefore have 8 copies of the effect. ( Well, 9 with Dowsing. ) I am actually not super excited by Dowsing Machine either, but it does make the 2 Fighting Fury Belt a bit more tolerable.

One thing I love with this deck is the lack of Float Stone or any switching effect besides the AZ. With the original Darkrai EX and Keldeo, plus an abundance of means to dump additional attachments into play, you really don't need the help retreating very much. That is a lot of space to free up in a deck, and I love that the dynamic of the build enables this. Lastly, I'm always uncomfortable with less than 4 Trainers' Mail, but I'll be honest, I don't see how to make space for any more of them. I love Mail in a deck with 4 Elixir and 4 Patch though.

Yep. Just drive the nail in my Rayquaza evaluation's coffin. More Parallel City. And Giratina EX. Can I spin it that none of them made top 4? This deck is pretty similar in vein to Josh's Giratinaless build, in that it abuses Dark Patch and Max Elixir to pump out a ton of damage with Darkrai EX. It is less streamlined, in that it also has the Giratina EX subgame. Keldeo, Mewtwo and Yveltal get the axe, and instead we're left with a pair of Giratina EX. Giratina is great in this format because there are a lot of decks that are just extremely soft to it's disruption. Vespiquen, Night March, Seismitoad EX, Rayquaza and Primal Groudon all struggle against Giratina to varying degrees. Darkrai seems really well positioned against a lot of the decks which are relying on EX Pokemon to do their heavy lifting, where as Giratina is pretty good against the non-EX decks which usually rely on DCE to be able to keep powering up attackers. They do cover their weaknesses pretty well.

The Energy count in this build is higher, due to the need to run 4 DDE. You don't really -need- 13 Energy total, but you need 4 DDE, and for Elixir to work, you really do want 8-9 Basic Energy so you have to just bite the bullet. With selection of Ace Spec, you'll see Chris went with Computer Search, which is important since it can get you DDE. Unlike the prior deck, we have an Escape Rope and a Float Stone to go with AZ, although there is no Keldeo EX. I kind of like Keldeo EX in here, though.

Chris is only running 3 Max Elixir, which I'll against point out I am uncomfortable with. I've stated it again and again, but in decks built to make use of Elixir, it is one of your best cards, and when that is the case, I think I just want the full playset every time. Pokemon Ranger gets the green light here again, and I assume it is because the deck isn't really equiped to deal with any of the "Basics/EXes can't hit me" defenses, but those effects just don't seem prevailant. I like the Xerosic choice over a Tool Scrapper a lot. Against decks it is good against, you can reuse it. More importantly, with Giratina EX, hunting Special Energy that sneak in under Chaos Wheel is really useful too.

I wish this deck could fit a 2nd Battle Compressor, but with only 3 Elixir and 2 Trainers' Mail, I think I'd pad those numbers before I'd complain about only a lone Compressor. Without the Dowsing Machine, only 2 Belt is more troublesome to me too. Reverse Valley is kind of cute as a 3rd Stadium, but I'm not sure it is necessary or that I like it more than I do the other cards mentioned above that I want more copies of. I think I'd take the 3rd Belt over it pretty easily honestly.

That being said, I've been doing a lot of deferring to the players who built and piloted these decks, so I feel like I am due to make an opinionated statement here. I've spent the last section really comparing the two Darkrai decks to each other despite acknowledging that they are fairly different despite their similarities. I think that the comparison is still valid, and I think if I wanted to play one of these decks, that the Giratina inclusion is just too enticing to pass up on. There are too many builds that are just really soft to the card, and I like free(ish) wins in large events like this. I just don't see the selling point of further streamlining an already streamlined archetype opposed to running a powerful and dynamic Plan B like Giratina EX.

Finally in 8th place we have Ben Sauk's Yveltal Archeops, the only "duplicate" archetype to make top 8. I've known Ben and his father extremely long time now, and I am always happy to see Ben put up another really strong performance. This is in spite of his absolute throttling of me in day 2 of Philly a few years back with Vespiquen. ( I never forget! I never forgive! )

Anyways, to the list. Unlike the 5th place list, Ben did not run Keldeo EX or Mewtwo EX. In their place we get a 2nd Darkrai EX and an Yveltal. I like the second Darkrai as there are matchups where it is actually a stellar attacker. I went on the pro-Yveltal tangent already and will not beat that dead horse. That stupid Sableye is still here though, which makes me think it is probably correct to play. I will stay stubborn and refuse to sleeve it up though, don't worry. You may want to play it yourself, though.

Ben ran a Delinquent in place of what I assume is the 2nd Silent Lab, although there is a bit of a disconnect there in that while Delinquent is another Stadium "answer" it also works well with having your own Stadiums to turn it on with. The 3 Stadium count makes a bit more sense with the choice to go with Dowsing Machine over Computer Search again. I actually just dislike this choice ( I will definitely side with Comp. Search over it in this deck due to the strength of reliably having access to DCE. ) especially since theres access to Sableye.

One interesting decision was to run 1 Enhanced Hammer and no Tool removal card over a Xerosic which would cover both issues and also be easier to gain access to with the 3 Battle Compressor. This isn't an oversight by Ben, I'm sure, so I am really curious to know the rationale here. ( Beyond the obvious issue of Supporter vs Non-Supporter. ) Xerosic also can function under Item lock.

I again find myself at the point where I am reading this back and feeling like I am picking apart decisions while offering little in terms of compliments on the list, but a lot of that has to do with the fact that I spoke a lot on the archetype previously already. I actually think I like Tom's Trainers more while I definitely like Ben's Pokemon selection better between the two.

Now, where am I standing after the results of the tournament are in? Part of me is always going to love the Dark decks. They are such safe plays and flexible. Unfortunately, they are always on everyone's radar as a deck to beat. They seem like extremely safe choices to pilot if you need a GOOD finish, but I feel like they are difficult to take down a whole event with. First of all, the best players are often gunning for it. Second, the deck is just a slight favorite against a lot of decks, and often times the winners of tournaments get there by preying on a metagame they predict well and feasting on easy matchups. It is very difficult, even as a great player, to reliably win an event by winning a tournament worth of 55-45 matchups. Still, I love the deck(s) and it is always my safe fall back plan in Expanded.
I also would be totally fine sleeving up Rayquaza. While I know I'm not beating Darkrai Giratina, the other Parallel City builds don't really scare me. I think there are a lot of decks really soft to it still. I mentioned that Dark decks are a safe fall back play, but so is Rayquaza for me. I've played so many versions of the deck that I can always pick it up and feel comfortable with it.

Finally, I really like Raikou Eels. I need to play more games with it, but its one of those decks that fits my playstyle well, and it still manages to sneak under the radar every tournament. I'm not entirely sure why or how, but it never gets the hype it deserves. That is another place I like to be for a tournament.

Anyways, that section wound up taking up a lot more than I was planning on letting it, so I want to close things out with the deck I've been testing to good results in Standard after Evolutions. You guessed it, its Rayquaza, but I think the new set offers so many new tools that I can't help but explore it some more! You'll also notice that I've dumped Raichu aside: There are just too many other cards I need to play now to support the space to run it anymore.

Even with these new changes, I'm keeping with the general build I had prior to Evolutions. Rattata deals with Klefki and other troublesome Tools and also lets you play Raticate. Raticate plus Enhanced Hammer can really pressure Giratina EX's energy supply. Raticate also lets you threaten a lot of damage. The "Swarm With Colorless Rayquaza" plan is now actually viable! Without them having 210 HP, they are a three hit KO for the deck. ( I don't think they want to play down Garbodor against you to stop the Rat since they would much prefer their Ability to stay in tact I assume. ) Plus, if you hit for 60, they are in range of Raticate hitting for 120 which is pretty easy to pull off when you play Enhanced Hammer.
Raticate + Hammer is actually one of the reasons I am steadfast on the Teammates plan.

Being able to search up Hammer easily, and re-use it with Puzzles really gives the deck a better game plan around energy disruption. Raticate is also your non-EX attacker for your "7th" prize. Raticate, alongside Hammers, makes for a pretty easy Lysandre attacker to take out Garbodors too. I am running a 2-1 Raticate line because there are definitely games I want to use Raticate more than once. Between Puzzle of Times and Super Rod ( And Dragonite for additional Rattata ) I can actually get a whole lot of mileage out of this line! Being able to pressure an opponent into fighting the Rat battle only makes Raticate better as the game progresses. Ironically, in a lot of matchups, this deck plays the role of the control deck and not the aggressor.

Teammates is also awesome when dealing with Parallel City now more so than ever! A Teammates can get you Sky Field plus Hoopa EX, which in turn gets you 2 EX Pokemon and a Dragonite EX which gets you back 2 Pokemon...Thats enough to rebuild after a Sky Field + KO leaving you with no Sky Field and just 3 Pokemon in play. Out of Sky Fields? Teammates for 2 Puzzles into Sky Field and a Hoopa EX accomplishes the same thing. Due to the value of Sky Fields and Puzzles, I'm running an unorthodox 3 N and 1 Sycamore line.

Due to Dragonite EX and the Puzzle of Times, I'm also running 2 Unown. You know I love Unown as a great card with N, on both ends. It also helps pad the bench space. Its draw power ( Which I am happy with due to a lack of Mail in this build. ) Dragonite, on a strong board state, lets you retrieve 2 Unown back and draw 2 cards. Hoopa EX, midgame, can now get Rayquaza EX, Mega Rayquaza EX, Dragonite, and "2 cards" off of the Dragonite. It may be worthwhile to run additional Dragonite just for this redundancy. Unown is also cute with Puzzle of Time as it lets you dig 3 cards deep before popping an Unown. Not a great play, but if you have a weak hand and an Unown, it makes a solo Puzzle much better.

I'm sticking with 2 Mega Turbo and 2 Rayquaza Spirit Link. Your first turn ends with a manual Mega Evolution, so you only need Spirit Link mid to late game. With Teammates and Puzzles, 2 is fine. Mega Turbo is another card you really only need to see mid to late game, since you are never attacking on the first turn really. ( Ok, with an absolute nut draw yes, but it isn't your game plan. ) You just attack on the second turn off of 2 manual attachments. This is another reason why Unown and Rattata are so great: They make great "shields" on the first turn to eat a KO to activate Teammates with. With so many Basics, I'm running 3 "Switching" cards.

The last inclusion worth discussing is 3 Lysandre. I want to take out Garbodor on turn 2 in a lot of matchups, and I am totally fine just using a Rayquaza EX to hit it for 100 on the second turn if need be. Having access to an early Lysandre is just too important against a lot of the Garbodor matchups.

Anyways, that concludes it for this week! Join me next time for a whole slew of lists for post-Evolutions Standard!

[+9] okko

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