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Caleb Gedemer

A Statistical Look at Greninja in Expanded — Defending the Game's Most "Inconsistent" Deck

Caleb Gedemer provides a statistical examination of Greninja BREAK in Expanded.

01/02/2018 by Caleb Gedemer

Greninja BREAK is one of the best Expanded format plays for Dallas, TX Regionals. Why? It’s more consistent than you think (trust me, I’ve got the numbers to prove it), and it has a great matchup spread against the most popular decks. It was the first deck I looked at after Memphis, TN Regionals while making the switch to our other format. The biggest two decks to beat, Night March and Zoroark-GX decks, both have a difficult time against the large HP of Greninja BREAK combined with the shutdown lock of Shadow Stitching. Many of my friends and teammates have tried to stifle my hype of this deck. I get it, too; Greninja BREAK is notorious for drawing dead sometimes.

I reached out to my friend and teammate, Rukan Shao, and asked for some help with some Greninja BREAK statistics. Rukan is very good with numbers and programming, and in a minute, he had built a simulator to get the numbers I was looking for. These numbers are the real deal, and while they don’t encompass everything to playing a deck, they give you a very solid sense numerically as to how often you will set up in optimal fashion with a Greninja BREAK deck.

I’m excited to share our results and talk about this deck’s matchups in the Expanded format. It’s been a long time since Greninja BREAK saw legitimate success in our more tumultuous format, so I’m hoping some of what I share today can break that dead spell. Love Greninja? Need a quick pick for an Expanded format tournament? Want to make the frogs great again? Keep on reading to get all there is to know and more about this infamous deck in the Expanded format. I hope you enjoy it!

The List

The Explanations

Four Froakie, Four Frogadier, Four Greninja, Three Greninja BREAK

Nothing fancy and only frogs; this lineup is perfect, and there’s nothing to even consider otherwise. I wouldn’t change any of these unless you added Talonflame to this deck, in which case I would take out just a single copy of Froakie to improve your odds of starting with Talonflame. However, you want to start with Froakie in most traditional builds, like this one, so I urge you to keep this line the same under all costs.

One Computer Search, Four Dive Ball, Two Evosoda, One Repeat Ball, One Ultra Ball, Three Brooklet Hill

I’m lumping all the general search cards in this category. While Computer Search is a whole lot more versatile, I’m sure you can guess why, these cards are primarily for fetching frog pieces. I’ve tweaked around with a lot of different search counts, and this is the one that has stuck for the longest. I wouldn’t say this is perfect, but it’s closer to perfect than some of my earlier iterations. I tried Pokemon Communication for a while, but it was infuriating to have when you didn’t have a Pokemon in your hand to start off with to put into your deck. As for the other search cards, Evosoda seems weird, but it gets you the many Evolution Pokemon you need with no downside, so I’m a big fan. Repeat Ball is nice when you start with Froakie and want a second, but I think that another Ultra Ball might be a better option. Three copies of Brooklet Hill increase your odds of getting multiple Froakie down on your first turn with no downside.

Two Enhanced Hammer, One Field Blower, One Rare Candy

For tech cards I’ve included these guys. Likewise, these could be the most cuttable cards in the list. Enhanced Hammer helps a lot against the huge slew of Expanded decks that play Special Energy, and can help you gain an advantage in the late game with Enhanced Hammer, N plays that really disrupt your opponent’s board. Field Blower is a card that’s been getting more phased out lately, as Garbodor with Garbotoxin is at an all-time low. It’s nice to bump counter Stadiums, but a fourth Brooklet Hill might just be better overall. Rare Candy is a cute card that lets you recover when you Prize multiple Frogadier, and it’s easy to pull off when you’re running Teammates like I am. It has been decent in testing, but it might be a bit too fancy for my taste overall.

One Rescue Stretcher, One Super Rod

This recovery split works in the Standard format, and it also works great in Expanded. I love the versatility of Rescue Stretcher as you can pick up just a single Pokemon from your discard pile when you want to, and Super Rod is always there to bail you out in the late game if you’re running low on Energy. With a high Splash Energy count, both cards aren’t as needed as they may have been in the past, but both are still extremely important to winning games and a long-lasting approach to a match.

Three VS Seeker

I cut a VS Seeker from my list, because I was drawing into them too early in games and not being able to use them effectively. Most of your draw is based off thick Supporter counts anyways, so it’s not so important to be playing a lower count of VS Seeker. I generally find myself using them for tech Supporters, which I will cover in a minute.

One Ace Trainer, Four N, Four Professor Sycamore

Consistency is king in a deck that will go south if you don’t set up well every game. Ace Trainer is absolutely amazing, and can punish an opponent early for taking a Knockout on one of your frogs. I think that two Ace Trainer could even be strong, but I don’t know what to cut yet, maybe the Rare Candy from earlier. Four N and four Professor Sycamore will keep you running smoothly into the late game.

One Fisherman, One Guzma, One Teammates

For tech Supporters, I think these are optimal. Fisherman provides you with much needed Energy recovery in the late game to fuel Giant Water Shuriken drops and Guzma can make Knockouts easier by hand picking which Pokemon you want to knock out. Teammates is fantastic at all points in the game as you can take whatever cards you want from your deck following a Knockout. For example, you could grab something like two Greninja, or a Greninja BREAK and a Splash Energy. The options are endless, and it really helps a lot with consistency and hanging with aggressive decks.

Two Choice Band

Choice Band is better than Muscle Band or any other option in the Expanded format for Tools in Greninja BREAK (Bursting Balloon?). Hitting the numbers against things like Zoroark-GX is super important, and most non-EX/GX decks you can run over anyways, so Muscle Band isn’t something you need. Bursting Balloon is too susceptible to being played around, so I would much rather have a card that works for you right away with an instant damage boost.

Four Splash Energy, Six Water Energy

This is the correct Energy count in both the Expanded and Standard formats. Getting your frog lines back with Splash Energy is amazing, and six Water Energy is really all you need to get those Giant Water Shuriken drops going in full force. Beyond any doubt, I believe this is the optimal Energy lineup for this deck.

The Options

Starmie

This card is still amazing in Greninja BREAK. To fit it you would cut Fisherman, for starters, and maybe the Rare Candy.

Talonflame

In the past, this was a very popular inclusion. Is it still strong? Absolutely, but I don’t like investing so much space into a card you’re not even guaranteed to start with, personally.

Counter Catcher

This is a neat card in Greninja BREAK since you can fall behind a lot of the time. I think it could be decent as a one-of.

Silent Lab

This is great if you expect a lot of Giratina, but that shouldn’t be a popular inclusion in most decks.

Counter Energy

This is a super wacky idea that I saw have some success in Japan. The idea is to play Counter Energy and tech Pokemon to counter certain matchups. I don’t like this very much because if you start with any of those not-Froakie Basic Pokemon, then you’re in a world of hurt. It seems too fancy overall, and forces you to cut back on your Splash Energy count, too, something I’m not too fond of.

The Statistics

A Greninja BREAK deck wants to accomplish three general goals in the first few turns of setting up. On your first turn you want to get at least two Froakie down, on your second you want to use Frogadier and its Water Duplicates to get at least three Frogadier on your Bench and as for your third turn, you’ll want to get at least one Greninja into play (while it is mediocre, it’s something you can live with). These are “favorable outcomes”, and those are the results we looked for when conducting our simulation one million times via programming software.

To explain the rationale here, starting off, two Froakie on your first turn is all you can ask for. Having two basically ensures that you won’t lose the game on your opponent’s turn. As for your second turn, getting off a Water Duplicates is the best scenario. Now, there are still opportunities for this Water Duplicates play to backfire on you. You could have a Frogadier or two in your hand, or a couple of them in your Prizes. That said, a favorable outcome here would be a yield of three or more Frogadier in play.

Gauging what’s a “favorable” outcome for Greninja is a bit harder, but I would say that a single Greninja in play is on the very edge of favorable. Obviously, two or more would be much better, but most games that you get at least one you’ll be in decent shape if you can start using Shadow Stitching right away.

 

Look at the numbers! These numbers are proven over a deep analysis virtually, so you can take them as fact. Remember, these statistics are based off the deck list that I’ve posted in this article, so changing things to be even more consistent can only improve these numbers. While a probability study can’t cover every in and out of the game, this is about as close to a clear-cut rationale for playing Greninja BREAK if I’ve ever seen one. Overall the numbers are pretty darn good! The deck sets up most games based on them, and while the odds of more Greninja by turn three could be better, that’s the only topic for debate.

Greninja is not an inconsistent deck, it’s a complicated one. If one thing goes wrong, things can spiral out of control and you will probably lose. If you average the three favorable outcome percent’s, you get ~82.37%. This is very strong! That figure represents how often you will set up effectively.

With knowledge of other deck’s consistency models, the high end of setup is generally around ~75%. Greninja BREAK actually surpasses that, but here’s where you need to remember that while you don’t have a built-in consistency engine like Zoroark-GX and its Trade, you’re more at the mercy of what you hit off of draw Supporters to keep things going. Overall, using all of this, I can say that Greninja BREAK is right there with every other deck in terms of consistency, so it’s a matter of you getting over the bad games and learning to play the deck fast so you know when to scoop things up.

The Matchups

Gardevoir-GX | Favorable

The onslaught of Giant Water Shuriken drops is too much for Gardevoir-GX. Your opponent is easily penetrated by the pressure you can put on as soon as you have Greninja BREAK down, and Shadow Stitching makes things even harder for him or her. Gardevoir-GX won’t be taking one-hit Knockouts, the whole reason why the deck is even strong, and you will be able to keep flitting around and doing chip damage, supplemented by Giant Water Shuriken. Most Expanded format Gardevoir-GX decks don’t play Sylveon-GX, which is basically the only way that a Gardevoir-GX player can stand a strong chance against a Greninja BREAK deck.

If you’re running low on Energy, you can even just use Moonlight Slash to return Energy to your hand and make it even harder for your opponent to knock you out. With no Energy attached, your opponent will have to do a ton of damage to knock you out, and he or she will need to majorly overextend Energy and resources onto a Gardevoir-GX. Once you take down that fully loaded threat, then it should be free sailing for you to win the game.

Gallade can pose a bit of a problem in the early game if it starts running down Greninja, but Enhanced Hammer can slow down your opponent a lot and force them to start finding more cards. Ace Trainer really burns your opponent early if you have the chance to use it as well. This matchup is very positive overall, and I’d be happy to face it at an event.

Greninja BREAK | Even

The mirror match is super annoying; you will never want to use any attack other than Shadow Stitching. If you want to win the matchup outright, you can play a Pokemon Ranger to swing things in your favor and regain the ability to use your Abilities. A Max Potion could swing things in your favor too, as you can outlast your opponent. Rare Candy can be very helpful to get more Greninja into play after one is knocked out.

You want to Retreat amongst your Greninja and avoid Knockouts, and since some lists don’t use Guzma, you might be able to gain an advantage by playing your own. In doing so, you can Guzma up a damaged Greninja or Greninja BREAK and finish it off when your opponent doesn’t expect it.

Remember to conserve your cards that replenish your deck in this matchup. N, Rescue Stretcher, Super Rod and VS Seeker are all extremely important to ensuring a long-lasting game where you won’t run out of cards. When you and your opponent only are doing 40 damage a turn, things get drawn out super long really fast, so keep that in mind.

Gyarados | Favorable

This is one of your easiest matchups. Gyarados can take you down in one hit, but you are free to use Giant Water Shuriken to knock out your opponent’s Magikarp on your opponent’s Bench. You’ll be able to score quite a few easy Knockouts in this way, so you should be able to cruise to victory. Much of the pressure your opponent puts on early can be offset with your Splash Energy. Splash Energy is amazing against aggressive decks since you can keep working your way up to Greninja BREAK by re-Evolving your Pokemon with those that were returned to your hand.

Your disruption tactics in this matchup will be devastating for the Gyarados player. An Ace Trainer with an Enhanced Hammer (followed by a Shadow Stitching) can pretty much win you the game, so be aware of that if that opportunity presents itself. Once you have two Greninja BREAK in play, you can take at least two Prizes a turn by knocking out two Magikarp on your opponent’s Bench.

Gyarados won’t be able to hit the numbers it needs to in order to keep things competitive if you’re taking down Magikarp, so you should walk away with the win. Shadow Stitching is very strong against your opponent since their deck relies on Octillery, Shaymin-EX, and Tapu Lele-GX to keep things moving. Without Abilities and a steady flow of damaged Magikarp, your opponent’s deck will crumble and you should win.

Sableye / Garbodor | Favorable

Sableye thrives on disrupting its opponent’s Energy cards. When you’re using Moonlight Slash to return your Energy to your hand, this becomes a whole lot more difficult. Most Sableye lists aren’t using Team Skull Grunt, so it becomes even more tricky for your opponent to win. Garbotoxin will slow you down, but if you hold your Field Blower for the right turn you can wipe it off the field with Giant Water Shuriken. While Sableye can normally compete against decks that can knock out a Sableye every turn (Turtonator-GX decks, for example), Greninja BREAK is a whole different animal. Return Energy to the hand is one thing, but there are virtually no targets that a Sableye player can lock into your Active spot!

Each Froakie can eventually Evolve into the zero Retreat Greninja, which will then be free to start spamming Moonlight Slash. There’s not much a Sableye player can do to combat that. One thing is if you get into a situation where your opponent can use Delinquent to clear your hand or punish you with a Ghetsis, leaving you in Delinquent range as well. Both of those options are very difficult to pull off however, so I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

All stall or troll decks, depending on what you might want to call them, are beatable by a select few decks. Greninja BREAK can run with the best of them, but that’s not to say you can’t lose. I recommend playing at least just a single game against Sableye / Garbodor and maybe the Wailord-EX deck that’s been running around just to feel it out and see how you need to play. Most times your strategy will be the same each game, so getting a plan mapped out is nice to have in the back of your head.

Trevenant BREAK | Unfavorable

This is not a good matchup without Talonflame and Rough Seas, old favorites that made this matchup a whole lot better. First of all, you’re very reliant on Item search cards that get out your frog pieces. Second of all, without Rough Seas the damage from Silent Fear will add up quickly and you won’t be able to win. There’s not much you can do about this matchup unless you miraculously set up under Item lock. If your opponent goes first and gets the turn one Wally, things will be over very quickly. I would hope to avoid this matchup in general; there’s not much you can do without different cards in your deck list that would ultimately make it worse off overall in the current metagame.

Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX | Slightly Favorable

Shadow Stitching is incredibly good against all Zoroark-GX decks. Trade is the central draw engine for all of them, so shutting it down is obviously strong. Enhanced Hammer and Ace Trainer early are both great as well and can prevent your opponent from even getting an early lead. In the beginning of the game your opponent is going to try to use Lycanroc-GX to Bloodthirsty Eyes around your Frogadier with a Splash Energy on it to knock out a different Frogadier so that it sticks in the discard pile.

Lycanroc-GX can use Dangerous Rogue to take an early Knockout since you’ll usually be filling your Bench to maximum capacity, so that’s nice from your opponent. Aside from that, Sky Field being in play will be your opponent’s only out to taking one-hit Knockouts on Greninja or Greninja BREAK. This means keeping your Stadiums and Field Blower handy will be super useful in trying to win.

When a Zoroark-GX deck runs hot, you’ll probably lose, but games where that doesn't happen you should be winning. As long as you get your Stadium-discarding cards when you need them and N to put your opponent’s hand size down, you’ll be in great shape to run away with the game. Enhanced Hammer can wrap things up as well since your opponent will need even more cards. A way to discard Sky Field, an Enhanced Hammer and Shadow Stitching makes it so that your opponent needs three Basic Pokemon, a Sky Field and a Double Colorless Energy to respond with a one-hit Knockout against a Greninja BREAK. That’s a lot to ask for if you’re putting your opponent’s hand size down considerably with an N. Don’t sweat any games you lose to this deck in testing too much, since it isn’t an extremely common occurrence.

Zoroark-GX / Night March | Favorable

The Night March matchup is one of your best. The low HP of the Night March Pokemon makes them easy prey for Giant Water Shuriken Knockouts, and if you’re using Shadow Stitching it will make it hard for your opponent to do anything and keep things moving. Enhanced Hammer is super nice in this matchup as well since it can stop an attack for a turn or two and buy you more time to set up and get your Greninja BREAK in play.

Ace Trainer is amazing in this matchup, since it will put Night March back considerably and force your opponent to get lucky to get back into the game. An Enhanced Hammer is particularly strong against a Pumpkaboo, since if you also have a way to discard your opponent’s Dimension Valley you can probably stave off an attack for a turn. Without Dimension Valley in play, that’s a lot of cards to ask for in your opponent’s position (Dimension Valley and Double Colorless Energy) while being Ability locked.

Zoroark-GX becomes an easy two-Prize Knockout if you Guzma it and keep your opponent locked down with Shadow Stitching. Your opponent will regret playing it down quickly, as it will literally be free Prizes waiting to be taken. Riotous Beating won’t even be able to take a one-hit Knockout since Night March decks aren’t playing Sky Field like other Zoroark-GX decks. I don’t mind this matchup one bit, and while you may fall behind early, you can always come back in the late game and pull things back to an even playing field.

Zoroark-GX / Seismitoad-EX | Slightly Favorable

This matchup is pretty similar to the Lycanroc-GX version, but your opponent won’t be able to switch around your Frogadier as easily. This said, you might be able to set up a bit more fluidly, so this matchup will be a little bit better than that of Lycanroc-GX. Your opponent only plays Special Energy as well, so your Enhanced Hammer will be even stronger. Aside from that, many of the same things apply. Shadow Stitching is pretty dang good, especially when coupled with Ace Trainer or N play. 

Thoughts on Giratina Promo

I didn’t mention Giratina in any of my matchup analyses because it makes it too complicated to comprehend. A good rule of thumb is that the decks that are weak to Enhanced Hammer and Shadow Stitching are still winnable even if your opponent is playing Giratina. Otherwise, it will be a lot tougher. I wouldn’t expect many people to be playing the card in the Expanded format with almost no Greninja BREAK hype going into this event so far.

The Exit

All right everyone, it’s been nice touching base with you again! Greninja BREAK is one of the best-poised Expanded format decks right now and I’m considering it for Texas Regionals. I would try the deck, especially if you don't have that much time to prepare for the event. Greninja BREAK is one of the strongest plays if you’re not sure what to do for a tournament. I’ll be back really soon with more Expanded format plays that I’m thinking about. Thanks for reading everyone, take care!

~Caleb

[+19] okko


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