Experts' corner

Chris Fulop

Virginia Regionals and More Guardians Decks!

Chris Recounts His Experience At Roanoke Regionals, Reviews Two Innovative Decks From The Weekend, And Offers 3 New Lists Showcasing New Guardians Rising Cards!

05/23/2017 by Chris Fulop

Hello again, everyone!

I did it. I finally did it. I actually traveled to, and played in a Regional Championships this season! With the size of the events, travel costs, and the fact that Championship Points mean very little to me due to not being willing to put the grind in to accumulate enough to actually secure an invite this season, it just didn't feel worthwhile for me. Honestly, with the prize support actually being pretty good this year (I will give props where props are due), the big deal breaker for me was still the time limit for a best 2 out of 3 match. I still hate playing within those confines so much that I don't even enjoy playing the tournaments. It isn't that I am bitter about getting draws... I think I've had 4 unintentional draws total in Regionals/Nationals, and 3 of those 4 are what I'd call "good" draws in that I was either behind in game 3, or it was in a bad matchup for me and game 3 had barely started. The problem is that I am forced to constantly rush in every game I play, out of fear of time. I am naturally a fast player, and have found my speed to be totally inappropriate because I need to play even FASTER than that. Spoiler: I ended up playing Israel Sosa in round 3 of Roanoke Regionals, and the guy plays at the speed of light more or less. Do you think there is any correlation between that and the fact that he has arguably the best overall Regionals performances of any player?

To make matters worse, I'd gone to two Virginia Regionals previously, and they had been some of the worst-run events I had ever attended. I wasn't even at the one where the winner of the event had 63 cards in their deck! Needless to say, if you would have told me that the only Regionals I'd attend this year WAS Virginia, I'd have laughed and told you that you were crazy. I'd spent a lot of time critizing these events both publically and privately over the years, so I want to say this now: The event ran very smoothly and was very enjoyable. The day started off on a very sour note, as people employed by the venue had showed up and began checking everyone entering for food and beverages, forcing everyone to throw them out as they were "not permitted." (Note, there was a sign on the door with rules for entering the building: None of this was listed.) This led to a huge line forming at the entrance--when we drove up at 8:30 (8 am was the start of Registration) there was a MASSIVE line winding around the building caused by this check point.

This was infuriating, as the cost of venue food and beverage was outrageous. Doug Morisoli offered to purchase me a drink on Sunday... I got a Minute Maid bottle of Fruit Punch... it cost him 9 dollars. The same bottle that is like a dollar at a gas station. I also figured that the line and associated delay would only further add to a slow start to the event. Most people I spoke with that morning were equally pessimistic about things.

The event started relatively quickly in spite of this. There were plenty of vendors. The venue was really large and the event was set up spaciously. Round turnover was fairly quick, and the judges did a generally good job. (Neglecting an issue involving Aaron Tarbell after a deck check which should not have happened.) All in all, despite the venue staff actively disrupting the event, I was quite pleased with my weekend. So to all of those involved in putting on the event... thank you.

Anyways, the big selling point for me going to the event was that I actually had a deck I really liked and felt comfortable with playing--Mega Rayquaza/Mega Gardevoir (Despair Ray). Going into the event, there were two things that I noticed about the metagame that would impact me the most. First off, the Vileplume/Decidueye list that won in Brazil ran Rainbow Energy, Jolteon-EX and Regice (an idea I had written about previously) and my list was absolutely ice cold to a Regice. Secondly, players seemed really high on Mega Mewtwo, and a tremendous amount of people I had spoken to leading up to the event were on the deck. With the Gardevoir line, that matchup was extremely favorable, and this was increasing my confidence in my deck choice.

I drove out to the event with my friend Brian Baker, who was on Mewtwo himself. He had booked us a cheap hotel a few miles off site, and we got there around 1 am on Friday night. We parked and walked to check in, and who did I run into standing alone outside of the hotel? One Seena Ghaziaskar, who was waiting on a cab to get to the hotel he was staying at. He had randomly enough arrived at the airport earlier in the day, and met up with an old friend who was also playing who was staying at our hotel. He was staying in Kevin Baxter's room, but the rest of the room wasn't going to get in until much later than Seena, so he was killing time. A random (likely homeless) older man interrupted our deck discussions, and before he could harass us further, we snuck off to the hotel room leaving a still cab-less Seena alone to deal with him because I am a terrible friend.

Anyways, this is the list I wound up registering.

I cut the Wobbuffet I had run to fit Oranguru. I generally had been underwhelmed by it solely as a "draw" safety net, but it could attack into a Regice, so it got the nod this time. It is honestly just a miserable Regice answer, because it takes 2 attachments, and therefore just gets totally chewed up by Owl Abilities before it gets to do much. The openings where you actually get to get the jump on Regice and convert that into a win seem rare. I felt like I'd be able to deal with Regice more often with a pre-emptive Lysandre than by actually getting to monkey it.

Since I cut the Wobbuffet, I wanted a bit of insurance against Vileplume to cover this. I had been teetering on the 2nd Hex Maniac for awhile, and opted to go with it. It was useful against Vileplume ( although it is very overrated in the matchup, it is still good. ) and also against Volcanion. With the 2nd Hex, I went with Escape Rope as my 3rd switching card over Olympia. I didn't want too many Supporters as they cut into Set Up draws, and I felt Rope was good against Darkrai and Volcanion, decks which would mix in a non-ex attacker which would really mess with the prize exchange. You usually want to Lysandre around them if reasonable, and having a non-Supporter out to them in Escape Rope is pretty nice. ( They don't usually bench 2 non-EXes as they try to play the 7 prize game.)

I was again torn on the 5th Energy or a Professor's Letter, but I went with the Energy because of Vileplume, and to a lesser extent, Lapras. Anyways, lets get to the actual tournament!

Round 1 vs Lapras

My opponent mulligans a ton of times, giving me a very clear indicator that he is on the Lapras deck. I actually am not too keen on this matchup, even though my results are pretty close to 50-50 against it in testing. Without the Puzzle of Times that many Rayquaza builds get, you end up really being strapped for resources. You struggle to have access to enough Energy cards, but also Sky Fields, and even benched Pokémon depending on how long the game goes on. A lot of games come down to how quickly they draw into their Skull Grunts and their Handiworks, as without those, you have near unlimited time to set up your kill turns, and manufacturing 3 of these isn't that difficult. With these cards which can attack your deck, or hand, it gets tougher. Toss in the need to score a 4th KO due to Wobbuffet, it can be really obnoxious. I actually get a really slow start game 1, but my opponent never draws into a Handiwork or a Skull Grunt, so I end up with a lot of free time to recover and get the first KO. Unfortunately, I prize a Sky Field, and had to Sycamore one away, so I was pretty pinched on that front. Luckily for me, my opponent never draws a Rough Seas ( He ran the standard 4 ) or a Delinquent either, which was really fortunate. His draws were...not necessarily poor in a general sense, but certainly for this matchup.

The first game ends up taking about 30 minutes, as I eventually get the KO on his 3rd Lapras. There was one turn where I needed to Sycamore into a DCE and 2 Pokémon, which I end up hitting that would have likely lost had I missed it. As a result, we don't have a lot of time for game 2. At this point, I am aware that at the very least, I have secured a draw. There is also a pretty reasonable chance that game 2 never finishes. Game 2 ends up being really awkward, because I get the KO on the first Lapras, but he strips my Ray of it's energy. I have a lot of bad prizes, including a pair of DCE, so it is really difficult for me to actually get another Rayquaza built up. He ends up playing really defensively behind his Wobbuffet: I find out later that he had 2 Lapras prized. I don't want to risk exposing energy, and he won't promote his last Lapras to Collect, either, leading to an awkward stalemate of sorts. This greatly benefits me due to being ahead a game. He assumes I could OHKO his Lapras if he promotes it, and I wasn't in position to. He eventually accepts the role of aggressor as time obviously weighs in on him, but the game ends incomplete with him still at 6 prizes when time is called, so I win the match 1-0.

W, 1-0


Round 2 vs Primal Groudon

Well, this is a blast from the past: My second round opponent is playing Primal Groudon, Wobbuffet. My opponent opens with Wobbuffet, and it slows me down pretty badly. It ends up devolving to a point where I have 2 Mega Rayquaza up, but am unable to get to his Groudon, of course. He is starting to build a second one. I end up using Mega Gardevoir to start chewing through Wobbuffets. I get the OHKO on a Primal Groudon ( I don't believe he ran Assault Vest, which I was trying to set up a Rayquaza to play around, or Heavy Boots. ) and he isn't able to get a second one up in time, netting me the first game despite being really afraid that the Wobbuffet start would really slow me down enough to be behind. I won't pretend I tested this matchup, so I feared the potential defensive Tools would really mess me up if I didn't apply appropriate pressure to not be too even on prizes when the initial exchange hits.

The second game, he also opens Wobbuffet, only this time I'm hindered even more by it than before. I end up losing my Rayquaza to a quick-ish Primal Groudon ( Groudon has it's own speed scale. ) I am unable to set up a 2nd Rayquaza, get a Sky Field, and re-fill my bench ( I had to drop down to 5 bench due to Groudon tossing aside my Stadium. ) While I assumed I had plenty of time for a third game, I didn't make my opponent play it out, and conceded to go to game 3 even though I could have hoped some combination of feeding him my Oranguru plus later N'ing him could maybe allow me to steal a game. The odds it happens isn't worth giving up crucial time for trying to finish game 3.

The third game, he opens with Groudon, and I get a really quick draw going first. He ends up getting Groudon out of the active position, but its too late: I'm set up, and I get to Lysandre it before it becomes a Primal and gains it's Trait to keep it safe. The game kind of falls apart from there, as even if he eventually got a Groudon going, I would be too ahead on prizes.

W, 2-1


Round 3 vs Israel Sosa w Turbo Darkrai

On one hand, at 2-0, I was disappointed to be paired against one of the best players in the game in Israel Sosa. On the other hand, since I don't really put a lot of weight on how I do this season, I was equally excited to get to play him! I haven't actually gotten to play a lot of the new generation of top players in tournaments, so its exciting. The most impressive thing about playing Israel? His speed of play. I consider myself a fairly fast player...or at least, I can be when I have to be. Israel played faster on average than my fastest play. It was really impressive, and I highly doubt it has nothing to do with his consistent performances.

The first game, Israel won the flip and went first. I got off to a bit of a slow start, as he pumps a ton of energy into play with Max Elixirs and Oblivion Wing, which I soak up most of the damage off of walling behind a Gardevoir EX's resistance. The big problem I had this game was my inability to draw into a Lysandre. I don't want to promote my Rayquaza into an Yveltal and score a meaningless KO. I couldn't even draw into a Skyla to search up Lysandre, which I would have absolutely done this game. By the time I take a KO into Yveltal using Mega Gardevoir, it had 20 damage on it, and he had already amassed so much energy in play that he could exactly OHKO it past resistance. I get a KO with a Mega Rayquaza in return, but I'm unable to start hunting his EXes with Exp. Share on it, so hes still able to keep enough energy in play to get OHKOs with. I think I actually stand a really good chance to take this game had I seen a Lysandre to keep his energy presence in check some despite his very strong start. I am able to give myself some absurd longshot N play where he needs to whiff an Energy, but he hits it.

We played a full game one in like 10 to 15 minutes. The second game, I open Gardevoir into his Yveltal, and I get the turn 2 Mega Gardevoir for the KO. I get a Lysandre KO on his Shaymin EX next, and then transition into a Mega Rayquaza. This was a bit of a steamrolling as my deck got to go first and had a very strong hand, and under those circumstances the matchup is pretty favorable. I take the game 6 prizes to 0.

Game 3 he is on the play, and I open with a Shaymin EX, but that isn't a problem because I have a great hand: DCE, Rayquaza Spirit Link, and a Hoopa EX. Well, unfortunately, he opens with one of his 2 Silent Lab, and I don't have any Supporter or any of my 4 Sky Field. I draw pass doing effectively nothing until I die. Time remaining in round: Roughly 15 minutes.

L, 1-2


Round 4 vs Lapras

After taking a disappointing loss to Israel, I shake it off and get ready for the 4th round reading to get back on the comeback trail. The metagame as a whole seemed to look favorable for me: There was a TON of Mewtwo, especially in the 1 loss bracket. Unfortunately: More Lapras.

This match doesn't go nearly as well for me as the first one. I end up having multiple spots in the first game where I get to "go off" for a turn, and need to hit a card, be it a DCE or just a full bench. The odds were pretty good for me to hit the cards, well more than 50% but not close to a lock. Unfortunately, I get these openings 3 times, go for it each time, and whiff them all. My reward? My entire field of energy being stripped away and my Sky Field getting countered. I end up saving up for a spot where I could let him start taking KOs, and then N him to 2 and try and go for it again and hope he just dead draws, but that doesn't work out and I'm down a game.

Game 2 is...actually pretty similar. I play the odds when I can, maybe more aggressively than need be, but I need to actually WIN this game quickly, because at 2-1, I really want this round to be a win and not a draw. Maybe I could have played more conservatively if it was untimed, but I have to play to the perimeters I'm given, so I have to gamble a bit more. Needless to say, I miss a bunch more 70 percenters, and the game goes about the same as the first one. It was a bit frustrating to have so many reasonable shots all miss, especially since my opponent approached the matchup a bit worse than my round 1 opponent and I felt like I gave myself more chances than I may have deserved and failed to get rewarded on any of them. That is how the game breaks sometimes, though.

L, 0-2


Round 5 vs Primal Groudon

Well this sure is unreasonable: A second Primal Groudon. A few of my friends also had gotten paired against Groudon, and I was just not understanding what was happening here! I don't think any of them were doing particularly well, and I don't think the deck is really well positioned at all, although it definitely would have a field day against all of the Lapras decks!

My opponent starts Wobbuffet again ( I assume they run 4 Wobbuffet and 3 Groudon EX, making it the likely opener ) but my hand is decent. I end up powering up a Rayquaza to chew through Wobbuffets, and my opponent makes a critical error in overlooking Mega Rayquaza's Fighting Resistance, and is 20 damage shy of his KO as he only had 1 Strong Energy. From there the game falls apart.

Game 2 he opens Groudon, and dead draws as I get a turn 2 Mega Rayquaza getting the OHKO on a Groudon. He manages to have enough benched Pokémon to prolong the game, but a Lysandre on his 2nd Groudon, before it becomes a Primal, seals the match for me.

W, 2-0


Round 6 vs Mega Rayquaza

I have a mediocre opening, but I win the coin flip. I see my opponent open with a Manaphy. I put him on some sort of Waterbox deck, and play my turn accordingly. Unfortunately, it turns out that he is actually on Mega Rayquaza, with a Manaphy in it. I would have played my first turn differently had I put him on Ray, and I don't know if I was just wrong to evaluate his start the way I did.

I get a pretty slow set up, and since he was on a more streamlined version of Rayquaza, he set up pretty cleanly. He doesn't get the turn 1 Ray, which gives me a shot. I end up struggling to get Rayquazas out, and we wind up at my 6 prizes to his 4 prizes. I have one Ray on my bench, and could theoretically power out an additional one, but I couldn't get a Spirit Link, I think I had discarded one to a Sycamore prior, and that meant I'd have to take a turn off to get one out...which I couldn't do, obviously. He already had 2 powered Mega Rayquaza out, so I took the only line I could. I Lysandre'd up a Shaymin and KOed it with a Mega Gardevoir, getting OHKOed in return. Next turn, I promote my last Rayquaza, down 4 prizes to his last 2, and N him to 2. He had a replacement Mega Ray ready to attack back, and my only chance is for him to not draw an 8th Pokémon for his bench, OR a Lysandre in his 3 cards after his draw. It was comically unlikely to happen, and he drew the Lysandre, but it was the only viable line I had.

Game 2 doesn't go much better, as I fail to get the first Rayquaza up despite going 1st, and he jumps ahead in the prize race and never looks back. I didn't even really have a line to be able to win game 2, it was even less close than the first game, and that gives me my 3rd loss and eliminates me from top 32.

L, 0-2


I end up staying in the tournament, technically, but once Baker lost and said he'd be down to leave and get food, I end up showing up to my round 7 match and immediately conceding and dropping. We end up going to Jack Brown's, a smaller bar/pub that had very well reviewed burgers, and I end up getting 2 burgers with cream cheese and jalapeno jelly on them, and they were absolutely delicious and well worth dropping for. Technically, had I gone 6-3, I was potentially live for t64, although I think I'd have bubbled, and top 128 didn't matter to me. I was on an hour and a half of sleep, and hungry, so sticking around did not seem worthwhile at all.

I liked my deck choice still, and felt I was a bit unlucky, although far from unreasonably so. I had below average draws compared to the norm, and my pairings were not that great: Lapras is really tough, and Mega Rayquaza is actually really brutal for the deck. The deck's engine is based heavily around using Hoopa and Shaymin to get your set ups, and I wound up getting really hammered by Wobbuffet and Silent Labs. Wobbuffet was extremely popular at this event, so that is only fair. I think a 3rd Sycamore or a 3rd Skyla over the 2nd Hex Maniac would have been a better call for the specific metagame, just to give me a few more draws against Ability lock on the first turn: Garbodor was always an issue, but it is a Stage 1 and would still give you a one turn window to use your Abilities at worst to facilitate your set up. Oranguru is still underwhelming, and I'd likely cut it, but probably not for Wobbuffet. I'm not sure what would get the nod, maybe a 3rd Hoopa EX, honestly. I do want it to be a Pokémon, just to make sure I can reliably fill my bench.

Traditionally, I would want to discuss James Arnold's build of Lapras which wound up winning the entire event, but while I do think it is a fantastic build of the deck, the format gains Guardian's Rising now, and it isn't extremely different. In this case, there are two decks from that weekend I do want to discuss, albeit briefly: Grant Manley's Wobbuffet Toolbox and Nathalia Fernanes' Reshiram Dragons deck which won in Sao Paulo.

This deck is really cool, and totally out of left field! As far as I can tell, it plays in a similar manner to the Lapras deck, although while being a bit more pro-active. You use Enhanced Hammer, Team Flare Grunt, and Team Skull Grunt to assault their energy supply while using Wobbuffet to disrupt their Abilities and force annoying non-EX KOs to prolong the game so that the energy disruption is really felt. The deck then runs a bunch of silve bullet answers: Jolteon E against Volcanion, Darkrai, and other all basic decks. Glaceon EX is a great counter for Mega decks, as well as Vespiquen. As an additional answer to Volcanion, he ran a 1-1 Araquanid line! Araquanid's Ability outright prevents all damage dealt to it by Fire Pokémon. To help line up the right matchups, he ran 2 Ninja Boy to conceal where these Pokémon would come from. It was an awesome defensive deck that is totally unlike most decks the game has seen in a long time! Fighting Fury Belt grants the Pokémon extra HP, and Pokémon Center Lady and Rough Seas prevents smaller attacks from eventually accumulating enough damage to score KOs. Unfortunately, Grant ran into his self proclaimed worst matchup: Quad Lapras, as he has no real means by which to actually defend against their energy denial, making it as close to an auto loss as there is.

While this may have been the most innovative deck of the weekend, I am even more excited by a deck designed by Nathalia Fernandes and Gabriel Pino Semedo. I'd spent an embarrassing amount of time trying to make a Reshiram Dragons deck work, and never really got there with it. One of the cards which puts the deck over the top though is Salamence EX, which had not been printed when I did a most of my work on this attempted archetype. Lets look at the configuration which took down Sao Paulo Regionals, though!

The deck relies on Reshiram EX and to a lesser extent, Max Elixir to power out a variety of attackers in Salamence EX, Giratina EX, Flareon EX, and even occasionally a Hydreigon EX! Salamence is a great attacker against the EX heavy decks, and can be powered up in one turn with a Double Dragon Energy and either a Reshiram Ability or a Max Elixir. Giratina is a bit harder to power up, but is really annoying for a lot of decks to have to play against. Flareon EX has a lot of synergy with the deck, letting you soak up Fire Energy off Pokémon you retreat cheaply using Hydreigon EX's Ability. Flareon EX is also just a fantastic attacker against Decidueye Vileplume, and really sways that matchup in your favor. In a pinch, Reshiram itself can become a viable attacker as well. I've always felt that there was a strong build for this archetype, and I am thrilled to see it see this level of success!

Toronto Regionals is also in the books, which featured the Expanded format! The finals saw Lurantis Vileplume win a nailbiter game 3 against Primal Groudon EX, proving that more than just Decidueye can be paired alongside Vileplume and be successful! I didn't get to watch much of the coverage ( It was airing opposite the Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour. ) and at the time of writing, all of the top 8 deck lists have not yet been made public to sift through.

Lets look at a few more decks for the new Guardians Rising format! Last article, I discussed Sylveon, Mega Rayquaza, and Mega Gardevoir decks. This article I'll go over lists for Volcanion, a more adventurous Mega Rayquaza build, and a Greninja deck.

The big updates to this deck for are the obligatory Tapu Lele, Turtonator GX, and Field Blower. Tapu Lele is not only going to be a big boost to consistency, but it makes cards like Olympia, Fisherman and the newly added Prof. Kukui go from obnoxiously situational to being substantially better. I was always a bit iffy on Sky Field in this deck previously, but now the addition of Tapu Lele really puts this card over the top in terms of the Stadium I'd like to play.

Turtonator is in here as an additional attacker, and one that is able to put out a lot of damage against higher HP Pokémon. With the turtle, and Kukui, the deck shouldn't struggle to hit key numbers against larger EX/GX Pokémon now. The presence of Turtonator influenced my decision not to play Choice Band, since it is fighting for slots with Fighting Fury Belt. I like having the extra HP to protect your energy investments, but I am aware that Field Blower is certainly a threat. Depending on how much Field Blower actually ends up seeing play, it could be correct to cut the Belts for Choice Bands.

Turtonator is also an amazing midgame play, as it's GX attack floods your field full of Fire Energy. One of the ways Volcanion ends up losing games is to being caught short of energy and failing to properly rebound off of Max Elixirs and baby Volcanion empowerments. Turtonator throws all of that out the window and drops an overwhelming amount of Fire into play in one fell swoop. I considered trying Scorched Earth in the deck to enable a quick GX attack but I feel like you'll never get enough Fire discarded on the first turn to make it worth chasing. Well, that isn't entirely true, but those games where you draw that well are also games where the deck is going off extremely well, and is likely to win regardless. I don't like building to snowball my best case scenario draws, really. Because of Turtonator, I feel more comfortable going with only 3 Max Elixir in the deck.

Field Blower isn't normally that appealing in this deck: You hit for so much that you don't care too much about Fighting Fury Belts. You do get the random anti-Float Stone/Spirit Link plays, but those are situational at best. Where the card does shine is against Silent Lab, a card this deck just hates, and against Garbodor. A pair of Field Blower may be overkill, but I think it is just too strong against two of the most obnoxious cards you could get forced to play against.

I replaced the Super Rod I previously had with a Pokémon Stretcher. With Fisherman being far more reliable, and Turtonator GX being a great solution to running low on Fire Energy later in the game, I feel like shuffling Fire Energy back into the deck is a bit less important. Super Rod did help increase Max Elixir odds, but with only 3 copies, I'm fine abandoning that end of things a bit. Retriever acts as a Super Rod for 3 Pokémon, or can just immediately put one back into your hand. This card is fantastic, and I think a strict upgrade in the deck.

The deck could opt to run Pokémon Ranger, as it reset's Volcanion EX's no attacking clause, and also chews through defensive attacks which gum the deck down. It also could run a Hex Maniac, as I feel like Hex Maniac is just very strong now. I didn't include either yet, but they could get the green light as I test more.

Volcanion is a deck that I think benefits a lot from Guardians Rising, even if it doesn't change drastically as an archetype. It still plays very closely to how it did before, only with some additional consistency tools and some answers for problematic counter strategies.

This is a more "all in" build of Mega Rayquaza which focuses on using Mallow as a means to help enable pulling off a turn one Emerald Break. Mallow is effectively a Teammates which can be used on the first turn, which is great. ( You do, of course, need to pair it with Set Up to actually see the cards on the same turn. ) A Hoopa EX now gets you both Rayquazas, and the Shaymin, which gets you any 2 pieces towards the turn one Mega Rayquaza gimmick. Grabbing DCE, Mega Turbo, an Energy, Sky Field, a Spirit Link...the combinations are vast. Mallow also works fairly well later into the game with Oranguru.

Volcanion EX wiggles its way back into this deck, as a means to discard a Fire Energy for Mega Turbo. I've also embraced the full set of Trainers' Mail for this build, because unlike my more recent approaches with Mega Rayquaza, speed is actually extremely important in this deck.

Pokémon Stretcher gets the place of the 2nd Dragonite EX, namely because it can be the 2nd Dragonite, while not being an obnoxious card to start with, while also offering additional flexibility. It can actually nets up to 5 Pokémon back, if you shuffle in a Dragonite and 2 friends.

Two of the cards I really wish I could add extra copies of are Mega Turbo and Hex Maniac. I still really love the ability to easily spam Hex chains, but with the deck relying more heavily on Mallow, your turns end up a bit more tied up when it comes to Supporter use. As for Mega Turbo...I'm not running any Puzzle of Times, and that really impacts two cards in particular: DCE and Sky Field. These are somewhat irreplaceable effects. Sky Field is literally not replaceable, but DCE can kind of be replaced by additional Mega Turbos so that you have other means of energy acceleration. Mega Turbo also is very very good against Lapras/Sylveon style decks.

I replaced the 5th Fire Energy with an Oricorio, as it serves a similar function to the Prof. Letter I had previously teetered on, only it also serves the role of being a nice bench filler and a potential non-EX sacrifice. You also can get it back with a Dragonite to aid in your post Sky Field countering recovery.

I had a major complaint with Greninja builds in the past: I just did not like Talonflame. While the deck is really well positioned to be able to run the card and reliably open with it, it ate up a lot of space, and honestly just never felt really that great when you did open with it. It just felt like an unnecessary luxury. I considered trying to look at alternative options...I really wanted to try out Tapu Lele in the deck. While the deck does leverage a total lack of EX cards, Tapu Lele's 170 HP makes it a fairly difficult KO to take. It isn't as vulnerable as say, a Shaymin EX, which is a big selling point. The allure of being able to grab Wally, or the one of Ace Trainer or Fisherman is really appealing.

Instead, I'm just going with a very basic, streamlined 4-4-4-3 Greninja line as our only Pokémon. In terms of Pokémon search, I have 4 Dive Ball, 2 Ultra Ball, and 1 Repeat Ball. Perhaps Repeat Ball is better than Ultra Ball, but a 2-1 split one way or the other is likely correct. I'm going with the Ball I know over the Ball I do not know until convinced otherwise. In addition to this, I'm opting to run a pair of Wally, despite the fact that I've seen a lot of decks shy away from the card. I think it is just too strong when you do get to use Frogadier's attack on the first turn not to run. Even just being able to evolve and boost your HP to avoid early OHKOs when you go first seems appealing to me. If Tauros is popular, it can hit for 60 for just a DCE and chew through some Frogs. ( To avoid Tapu Lele disasters, it is likely correct not to attach an Energy to your active Frog on the first turn going first. )

I'm opting to go with Silent Lab over Rough Seas as my Stadium of choice. ( With the lack of Rough Seas, I do have 3 Max Potion as powerful healing options. ) Silent Lab has just continually impressed me, and will likely only get better as more decks opt to go with Tapu Lele engines. Lab originally got the nod in this deck due to paranoia over the totally unplayed promo Giratina which hosed this deck, but it quickly showcased the fact that it's disruption was just really strong. I love being able to slow other decks down so that the gap in speed between this admittedly glacial deck and the average deck is lessened.

Field Blower and Choice Band are the two new cards that really offer a lot to the deck. Field Blower is your answer to Garbodor, which previously was a very frustrating card to deal with. The printing of Field Blower passively improves this deck as a whole: Field Blower hurts Garbodor a lot, so decks which crutched on it get a lot weaker. If there are less and less Garbodor decks as a whole, it benefits Greninja. If you do get paired against Garbodor, you can Field Blower away it's Tool away, then KO it with a pair of Greninja BREAK Abilities.

Choice Band just really boosts the damage output of your Greninjas. You hit for either 70 or 90/110 depending on your choice of attacks, and that damage output boost is actually huge: Greninja BREAK can now do 170 against an EX/GX with a Choice Band and one Ability use...with Field Blower, you can get around Fighting Fury Belt too! Also worth noting is that the 110 mark will get rid of a Shaymin EX too.

I went with a split of Super Rod and Pokémon Stretcher. Unlike some decks where I feel Stretcher is strictly superior to Rod in, this is a deck that does care about shuffling it's Energy back into the deck, so I didn't want to go down to 0 Rod in total. I'm unsure whether a 7-2 or a 6-3 split on Water/Splash Energy is correct, but I think without Talonflame potential openings, I prefer the 3rd Splash as you are more likely to get your Frog count pressured early on.

Greninja seems to be gaining a lot of steam online and within the minds of players I've spoken with regarding the format. It approaches the game from such a different angle, and with it having been off the radar for months now, it seems in a prime position to make a comeback. While I don't think Vileplume Decidueye is a bad deck now by any means, I do think it got worse, as Tapu Lele makes it much easier for any deck to reliably draw into the right Supporters which makes Vileplume's disruption less impactful.

That is all for this week! Next on the list of cards to work on are Tapu Koko, Garbodor, and an updated approach to Vileplume Decidueye! This set has actually had a really fun impact on the format, although part of me is a bit paranoid that once everyone "solves" the format that what we are left with may end up being a pretty degenerate format. We'll see how it plays out! Until next time!

[+13] okko


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