Experts' corner

Mark Dizon

Level One - Expanding Your Choices

Trying to figure out a deck for an Expanded Events? Take a look at how to process the information before looking at decklists and making choices.

10/22/2018 by Mark Dizon

Hey, 60 Carders! 

Here we are preparing for the first expanded regionals of the year to take place in Portland. If I wasn't on vacation right now in the Philippines, debating whether I want to fly to Singapore this coming weekend for a League Cup. I would definitely be heading to the west coast to play the one true format. With that being said I wanted to make this week about how one should go about choosing a deck for this format when it comes to thinking about how to figure out what to play. By going over what we think the possible options are we can make informed decisions on how the Metagame might shift and how our playstyles fit with what decks we have available to us. 


The Expanded Format 

I love the expanded format. I know that a lot of players do not enjoy it because of the number of high roller decks, but I love the variety in the format. Being able to play multiple different decks in the tournament is extremely exciting as you are testing your mettle every round against almost a different challenger. In the standard format you might play against 3-4 different decks in the whole of the first 9 rounds, in expanded you could play against 5-6 decks. I truly love the variety of the format and what it brings to the players around.

1.       It lets you play the decks of yesterday’s past. If you really like a deck in a previous format and it is consistent it might be good enough to play in expanded.

2.       It rewards knowing the format, if you play a fair bit of expanded you generally have the ability to gain advantages that you cannot in standard. As standard is a format meant to always present new roadblocks, expanded sometimes rewards players for playing the same deck until it is obsolete or banned. For example night march has been good since the inception of the format and has “night-march” specialist who know they can play the deck at any expanded tournament and have a great shot at making day 2, due to their knowledge of the deck and the matchups involved with it.

3.       The format still rewards innovation, in continuing our example of night march with had a great showing in Fort Wayne, the deck innovated as players added Zoroark into the deck to make it consistent. In terms of new decks and being able to make new strategies with them, Xander Pero a well-known Psychic Specialist for the most part in Standard, was able to take Buzzwole to new heights in Roanoke based on the plays involving it.

4.       If your deck is good enough in standard, adding expanded cards might just make it good enough to play. We saw this in Fort Wayne last year when Standard Champions Golisopod and Gardevoir made it into the format with added cards for consistency. This allows players playing standard decks to compete in expanded tournaments without having to buy too many new cards.

5.       Even if the decks are the same, the techs can be different. By looking at the decks available you can see often that card difference in archetypes can be quite different. If we look at the example of Trevenant there were multiple different builds that made the top 8 of Roanoke. Some of the Trevenant decks ran Rescue Scarf while the others chose to omit that play and run weakness policy in those events.

6.       Expanded rewards good players. If we look at last year’s expanded season we see a player like Chris Siakala who was able to top 4 Fort Wayne with Turbo Darkrai. At this point, Turbo Dark was seen as the best deck in the format due to its consistency and the lack of fighting support. The banning of Archeops in Maxie’s Yveltal dealt such a strong blow to the deck that a Maxie’s Yveltal Gallade deck was just not strong enough for the format. Trust me, I went 4-3-2 with that deck at Fort Wayne aha. After his top 4, Chris again played Darkrai to a 40th place finish at Daytona, where the Tool Drop Garb decks reigned supreme. In Roanoke, he came 11th with Trevenant running weakness policy to be able to have a chance to beat the Zoroark decks. His choice at Roanoke shows that understanding the format and seeing the demise of the dark decks, as there was only one big dark deck that could be inconsistent and there would be Buzzwole decks, allowed the psychic typing of Trevenant to come to fruition.



The Fair Deck vs Un-Fair Deck Conundrum 

With being a non-rotating format, expanded puts you into a different deck choosing situation then standard. Instead of deciding on the best deck for the weekend sometimes. You must decide between playing a Fair Deck or and Unfair Deck.

Fair Deck = A deck that interacts favourably and trades favourably with an opponent allowing the advantage for one side to take over and eventually win the game. They have a good chance versus any deck as long as they can get to a point that they can start trading resources.

Drampa Garbodor – This decks work on trading small advantages and stripping you of your special energy if you are a special energy deck and then relies on the opponent eventually having to play items for your Garbodor to be able to clean up the game. Garbotoxin is used to slow down opposing decks by turning of their abilities and having Drampa Chomp away to leave the opponents no options.

Zoroark Decks – Zoroark decks rely on setting up multiple Zoroarks to set up the trade abilities to be able to find the answers they need every turn. When a Zoroark deck does not set up it is extremely underwhelming slowly getting overwhelmed by the opposing decks.

Golisopod Decks in the Fort Wayne Meta – These decks just looked to recycle Golisopod and heal, doing that every turn to create a loop. If you were ever able to take a knockout, you would slow down the decks game plan and be able to give yourself the advantage back.


Unfair Decks = Decks that do not care what you are doing and only care about establishing their game plan. Once they establish their game plan they can run away with the game and they are hard to stop. The other side of the edge is if they cannot set up, they will most likely be conceding to move to game 2.


Night March = Night March cares about one thing, can you stop what they are doing? All they want to do is use night march every turn and trade favourably with their one prize attackers and your two prize attackers. Playing against Night March in the past is one true example of anxiety when playing to figure out what they had or hadn’t prized. Time will show if this deck can survive the puzzle of time ban.

Blacksmith Decks = The Original Blacksmith deck popularized by Rahul Reddy that ran Keldeo into Blacksmith into Volcanion was another example of an unfair deck. All it wanted to do was continuously run the same combo every turn. If you were taking a knockout every turn and your Keldeo was surviving you would eventually overrun your opponent in your consistency.

Archiestoise = Quite Possibly the unfair deck to come, this deck only cares about establishing Blastoise through Archie’s on Turn one in any way possible. Once it gets to that point, it only cares about taking knockouts and ensuring the water-energy needed are available. It does not care if you are drawing multiple cards per turn as long as it is taking knockouts.


When you have to unfair decks playing against each other it is almost like you are watching two ships in the night racing, seeing which one can get to the other side of the water.
When watching to fair decks play against each other it is like you are watching two ships in the water racing but this time to see who can build a bigger boat.


What do I play? 


Play what I know?
This is generally where I would start with. When I went to Fort Wayne Regionals, I played a Maxies Yveltal Gallade deck. I saw that Darkrai would be the most played deck and I had such a soft spot for Yveltal because it was the main reason when I got into Pokemon. I ended up going 4-3-2 with 3 wins coming from beating Darkrai and one beating Trevnant. The problem was the deck could not handle Gardevoir or Golisopod both decks that had been making great strides due to what it had done in the standard events. I was underprepared for this and had no plan. I really missed playing archeops at that moment.

If we take a look at the example at Zach Lesage’s Expanded Tournaments in Fort Wayne where he received a top 16 with Turbo Darkrai and the Darkrai list he piloted to top 64 in Daytona the biggest addition was Darkrai Gx and Hypnotoxic Laser. Having Hypnotoxic Laser actually gave an edge in the mirror. While the other deck would try to go faster, the Hypnotoxic Laser version could take a knockout out of nowhere and even if they did not have the combo they could get an additional turn if the opponent missed the sleep flip. This sort of innovation can lead to so many edges in the mirror especially if the opponent was not prepared for it. In Standard, it is much harder to be able to accomplish this as most decklists are so tight. Here he took something he knew and found a way to improve upon the concept.

If we look at Kyle Lesniewicz who took Sylveon to a top 16 finish in Fort Wayne and then continued to play it all the way to Worlds in both standard and expanded. Knowing one deck inside out was well rewarded. It was even better because he recently top 4d Memphis regionals and I can assure you that a good amount of his opponents probably assumed he was on Sylveon allowing him to surprise him on some wins.

I would always suggest that if you cannot find what you want to play and you have a deck that you have been playing for some time this is the deck to fall on. I would check the lists available even some of the ones behind a paywall here to try to figure out what you want to play. This regional is very reminiscent of Fort Wayne last year as we have had some big banning’s that have taken out a lot of the decks that people would have defaulted on.

Play the best deck?
This is always interesting as even I have had a hard time playing the best deck. I would say that for the most part, I always fall upon the deck I know the best. However the truly elite always just find the best deck or know the counter to the best deck to play.

Fort Wayne – Michael Pramawat – Night March
Spe Bilbao – Nico Alabas – Turbo Turtonator
Daytona – Ryan Sablehaus – Tool Drop Garb
San Jose – Azul Garcia Greigo – Night March
Dallas – Riley Hubert – Zoroark
Costa Mesa – Igor Costa – Drampa Garb
Sindelfingen – Pedro Torres – Zoroark
Salt Lake – Kaleb Sommers – Sableye Garb
Roanoke – Xander Pero – Buzzwole

We see that multiple different archetypes would come in and out of the format. With this being a brand new regional in a brand new format after the bans. I would find it hard to single out the best deck. By finding out what is the best fair deck and best un-fair deck leading up to the format it should help you make an informed choice

Play something new?
From Turbo Turt, Gardevoir, Glaceon, Lucario, Wailord, there were new archetypes showing up in almost every expanded top 8. The biggest things to take away from here is showing that there is room to win through surprising opponents and winning.  Archie’s Blastoise did not show up in waves but with the banning of Ghetsis and Hex Maniac it has opened up the floodgates for this deck. Not being able to turn off its abilities and not taking away it items allows the deck to consistently establish the Turn one Archies. As an unfair deck, it truly snowballs. When thinking of that, that does put both Garbotoxin and Traschlance into the light as a deck that handle this deck. Most of the attackers in the deck are two prizers so it does allow you to be able to trade favourably with the fair deck. On the other hand, another deck that could do well even with the ban of Wally is that of Trevenant. I consider Trevenant as an unfair deck because once it establishes its lock it can be hard for your opponent to play Pokemon itself, let alone break the lock. A lot of players playing their first expanded regionals might not even know how to play around this deck giving the pilot a stronger edge. Greninja also seems to be well positioned as an unfair deck. Not playing versus this deck for the past three months, players might of forgotten how to play against it and are not expecting to play Giratina promo (you should play giratina promo) the reason being that it has not been talked about recently. When it comes to unfair decks it has everything you want, an almost unbreakable lock once the game plan is established, as well as the ability to trade one prize attackers to trade up with two prizers. Buzzwole is also an unfair deck worrying only about setting up its attackers and then adding beast ring once a Buzzwole Gx is knocked out. This deck is extremely powerful and has shown it has the ability to beat Trevenant. I would think this deck is going to be a big fall back for a lot of players especially after Buzzwole’s showing at the last Standard regionals. Even though it seemed like a good matchup for Drampa Garb I can assure you after playing versus it in Roanoke and it accounting for all three of my losses, I have no interests of playing that matchup multiple times. I also feel that this tournament will be harder for Zoroark. Though Zoroark has been okay in Standard, the speed and consistency of expanded actually just makes it harder for it to keep up. If your opponent is establishing multiple attackers that can take one-shots, is your draw engine going to really help you in this format?

If I were going, I would default to Drampa Garb, but I would definitely try to find a way to be able to deal with Buzzwole with maybe an Ex Ball Mewtwo – Ex , being able to take a knockout immediately after the Beast ring turn is imperative as multiple beast rings would be able to slow you down. Having another backup attacker other than Drampa is important in the matchup because just attacking with Traschalanche isn’t always easy. Maybe finding a way to fit Espeon would be able to buy you time and spread some damage to be able to take multiple knockouts. Tool Drop Garb might even be better as maybe with the rise of the unfair decks and the loss of Puzzle of time there will be less Double Colourless Decks. Would an expanded version of Fighting Zoroark be possible as a way to take on other decks? Is Zygarde-GX a good counter because there are currently no Grass Attackers at the moment? Can dark make a comeback to be able to take down Trevenant but would it just lose to Buzzwole? That is what excites me the most about this format is all the options available to you. It is almost like a puzzle to figure out how to answer the questions presented.

This is definitely a tournament to watch but it might be short-lived because of the release of Lost Thunder so take this tournament as a great starting point because the format will change quickly. Standard will be changing too as a lot of these cards will have an impact on the format especially the prism stadiums that cannot be taken off by field blower. With that being said I hope if you are going to Portland you have a great event and find ways to get wins. If you are not going, I wish you well on your league cups, I am sitting here looking if I am going to Singapore.  Pokemon is truly a global game and it is great to always meet new people.  




[+0] okko


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