Experts' corner

Max Armitage

Expanded Crash Course

Max goes over all things expanded as we approach Philadelphia regionals!

31. 10. 2016 by Max Armitage

Hey 60cards readers! I’m sure that many of you have been hard at working on your Pokémon skills, with a new prize structure and format there has never been a more exciting time to be a Pokémon player! However with Philadelphia Regionals right around the corner it’s time again for us players to shift our focus back onto the Expanded, Black and White-on, format. For many veteran players, myself included, playing in expanded tournaments is like revisiting old friends, but for many newer players the challenge of going into an entirely new format with foreign cards can be a very daunting task. That’s why I am here to give you a crash course on the state of the current expanded format including what decks to expect, the do’s and don'ts of the format, and my personal top picks heading into Philly. So without further ado let's dive right in!

To begin the commentary on the current state of expanded I think the first thing that is crucial for us to do is to break down the results of the last major event. If there is anything that Pokémon has taught me in my many years of playing it’s that studying history is crucial to understanding the future. Anyways back to the tournament. for those who’re not aware the last major expanded event was a Regional Championships in Phoenix Arizona, and while I wasn’t fortunate to be able to attend the event I thankfully have many firsthand accounts of how the tournament played out along with being able to view the tournament through Twitch the entire weekend and analyze those results I have been able to gain a very comprehensive understanding of the format. To give a very brief rundown of some of the unique occurrences that took place in Arizona a BAD Trevenant list took 2nd, Eelektrik/Raikou/Gallade Top 4’d, Dark type Pokémon were nowhere to be found in the Top 8, and a deck that nearly everyone had written off thanks to the presence of Archeops in the format was able to sneak into 3 of the Top 8 positions and eventually win the entire tournament.

To start us off, I'm going to look at the Trevenant deck list piloted by William Herrmann to a 2nd place finish in Arizona.

Trashy Trevenant 

I know what you’re thinking. “Max this list got 2nd, it can’t be that bad”, WRONG. I will not sugar coat it. I will not pretend like William Herrmann took hours upon hours testing this deck to perfection. Finally I will not lie. This deck was bad. Luckily for William, Item lock is good and he had a great player to teach him how to play Pokémon when he started back in 2012 (Me). Don’t take this the wrong way - William is a great player and friend however he has a terrible reputation within the Pokémon community as being one of the most unprepared people ever.

In fact, only hours before the event began Will planned on playing a Vileplume toolbox deck until his fellow competitors Brandon Cantu and Bradley Curcio convinced him that Trevenant was an overall stronger play. There are many things that I don’t like about this list which William has straight up agreed with including the awkward inclusion of Enhanced Hammer, the one Wobbuffet, and the extra Level Ball. If anything the fact that this Trevenant list was able to place 2nd speaks volumes on the amount of strength the deck possesses. If I were to play Trevenant l wouldn’t be caught dead without a few copies of Red Card included in my list or I would even consider Crushing Hammer in this deck. Either way this bad list does tell us how powerful Trevenant is as it came only turns away from winning the entire event.

Expanded Tenets

Now that we have dipped our toes into what a deck from the expanded format looks like I think it’s important that before we get any further in analysis of specific decks we go over some of the fundamental tenets of the Expanded format. The purpose of discussing these is to give you the tools and knowledge that you need to successfully craft your own ideas and to be able to perform with them. I’ll touch on each of these very important ideas and rules with varying degrees of analysis depending on their importance.

Ace Spec Abuse

First thing on the list is Ace Specs. At the last regional in Phoenix alone I saw multiple people use various different Ace Specs to great effect including Gold Potion, Scramble Switch, and Dowsing Machine. I know that at times this may seem like redundant information because it’s so clear how important playing the correct Ace Spec is but you would be surprised if you saw how many people made that mistake. Taking advantage of the appropriate Ace Spec for your deck whether it be a Computer Search to help you help boost the consistency and speed of your deck, a Life Dew to deny crucial prizes, or a Dowsing Machine to get back a 5th Dark Patch is very important, as that 1 card can often swing the game in a way most other individual cards can’t. Finding the strongest and most effective Ace Spec for your deck is a key to success in this format and you should be sure to think through your options thoroughly even if the choice seems obvious at first.

Say no to Nostalgia

While the last point was made mainly for relatively newer players who didn’t have Ace Specs previously in their arsenals this one is for the veterans of the Pokémon Trading Card Game. Those who experienced the Black and White era that included decks like Blastoise/Keldeo, Darkrai/Sableye, Plasma and more. You should think of each tournament as an investment, don’t want to get caught spending time, energy, and money to be playing an outdated deck. With the chance to play some of your favorite cards in the expanded format it’s no surprise that you would try to leech onto a deck that you had success with previously. Often times I catch veteran players trying to revamp their classic decks to make them suitable for this format when there is usually a much better deck to play. One example of this is how many elite players like Bradley Curcio, Israel Sosa, and others will generally want to play a dark type deck without fully considering and exploring the options that expanded gives them. Not to say that Dark decks in general aren’t strong decks, but the way that many players will instantly default to a deck in that manner is not a good trait to have when trying to give yourself the best chance to win an event. On the flip side of this coin if you consider yourself to be a master of a certain deck but are second guessing yourself it’s often good to sleep on your decision and follow your instinct in the morning.

Creativity and Innovation in Expanded

I think that the expanded format is much more unexplored and intricate than what the average players give it credit for. If you look at it on surface level it may seem like there are only a couple decks with the most results but overall the format is extremely diverse. With a very large card pool the possibilities are very close to endless and I strongly encourage that you go through each of the older sets whenever a new set comes out to check for possible combinations of cards that may be very strong. However with innovation in your deck building process it’s also very crucial to not go overboard. As the saying goes you don’t need to redesign the wheel in expanded. You just need to make your deck to be the fastest and most efficient. One example of the creativity is the use of Greninja in expanded which you typically wouldn’t see in Expanded because of the play of Archeops. However the players who did well with it evaluated the meta and chose to go with the deck anyways. I’m certain that there are many strong card combinations that are currently going unused simply because the format hasn’t been fully fleshed out by the top level players. This is due to them being able to top with decks they enjoy simply based off of their skill and leads many people, myself included, to not bother attempting to search for stronger decks.

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