Experts' corner

Ryan Sabelhaus

"Certain State of Mind" - A look at 5 Standard Decks to Play for State Championships

Ryan gives a look at five possible deck choices to play for the upcoming State Championships, with the strengths and weaknesses for each option.

03/22/2016 by Ryan Sabelhaus

Hello, 60cards readers!

This will be one of my first premier articles, so I’ve decided to put a heavy focus on five of my favorite deck choices at the moment, along with the strengths and weaknesses of these decks in the current metagame. State Championships are just about to begin this weekend and there seems to be a lot of confusion about possible decks to play. With new card combinations coming out and old favorites coming back into play, there’s certainly a large amount to consider before filling out a deck list.

State Championships are a big momentum swing towards getting a World Championship invite, or possibly towards pushing into the top 16 for the country. Everyone can’t guarantee a huge amount of points from four good Regional Championship showings, so the last couple of spots are greatly filled with extra points from State Championships. Earning 100 points from winning one of these tournaments is about the equivalent to making top eight at a Regionals. Just remember, the lowest amount of stipend that was given out last year was $500, so it pays very well to put up good results at these big tournaments.

Personally, I will be attending three State Championships and have been testing a good amount in preparation for these events. The five decks that I’ll focus on in this article are going to be Night March, HexRay, Garchomp, Entei/Charizard, and Trevenant Lock. I will say that one of my favorite choices at the moment is Yveltal/Darkrai/Gallade, but that has seen a good amount of article space from other writers and seems to be getting repetitive. These five deck choices utilize newer cards very effectively and should give people a new perspective on options to play in upcoming tournaments. With many helpful trainer cards coming out, such as Puzzle of Time and Fighting Fury Belt, older decks can put a special twist into their strategies and become more powerful. Let’s get into the article!

Night March

Night March has been a true powerhouse in the past, with a large amount of success at almost every level of Pokémon events. I was able to personally win a City Championships with a similar deck to this, but with one big difference between the two. That difference would be the Pokémon Tool cards being used, with Fighting Fury Belt now coming into play. One of the biggest weaknesses in the Night March deck was the very low HP that every attacker has, with Pumpkaboo only having 60 HP and Joltik hoisting up an extremely weak 30 HP. Even with the blaring weakness from every attacker getting knocked out after doing damage, the speed and power of Night March allowed it to succeed anyways.

To discuss some of the card options that I’m using in the deck, I’ve always said that my favorite card addition in this type of build was a single copy of Teammates. That supporter has humongous upswing potential during the games, allows a player to never run out of steam from getting necessary Energy or another supporter for the following turn, and can be used repetitively with attackers that keep getting knocked out. In Night March, almost every turn after getting a large knockout, I just expect to need a new attacker with a new source of Energy. This can be done with just one Teammates and makes life so much easier.

Another card that I’ve added to this deck, which wasn’t in any of my previous Night March decks, would be the Buddy-Buddy Rescue. I felt like with this addition, Battle Compressor could be utilized to get out a Shaymin-EX and possibly solve a dead-drawing problem, while also being the solution to getting back a Night March attacker in other situations. With both of these situations in mind, this card could definitely be a Revive or Super Rod, but it’s completely up to the deck builder. Through the testing that I’ve done with this deck, the Buddy-Buddy Rescue has been very helpful.

Now to talk about the biggest change from adding a new set of cards, the addition of Fighting Fury Belt. With adding 10 extra damage to attacks, certain difficult numbers can now be met with more ease. A good example of this would be the difficult 210 HP that comes with a M Manectric-EX. Without any way of adding damage to an attack, 11 Night Marchers are needed in the discard pile to take the knock out. Fighting Fury Belt solves this problem, but doesn’t even begin to explain the OTHER huge upside of the tool card. Giving a Pokémon 40 more HP can be game-changing, but works very well with this deck for a multitude of reasons. Allowing Joltik to escape from a Shaymin-EX Sky Return is crucial, getting both attackers out of range from a Yveltal XY and its Oblivion Wing can be huge, and there are plenty more situations that could be added to this list. Overall, more HP makes this deck more lethal from attackers possibly living to take multiple prize cards.

With enough speed and finishing potential to run through an opponent with extreme ease, the only problem comes with susceptibility to trainer-locking. Without the use of trainers to get Night March Pokémon in the discard pile, attacks never gain enough strength to take out threats and games become impossible to win. It also becomes very difficult to find supporter cards without the use of Battle Compressors to get them in the discard pile. Let’s get into the strengths and weakness of this Night March deck to easily portray what makes it strong and could possibly be a problem.


• This deck is extremely fast and can end games very quickly. This could be great for large-scale tournaments in which players can’t afford to take multiple ties.

• Night March can hit up to 230 damage, which can knock out almost any possible threats (even most of those bulky mega-evolutions).

• There is a huge amount of consistency cards to help burn through the deck, which leaves nothing but vital resources during the later portion of the game.

• With the help from Fighting Fury Belt and the addition of 40 more HP, attackers are now more difficult to handle and can take more knockouts.


• There is a big weakness to trainer-locking decks, such as Trevenant, Seismitoad, and Vileplume. When this deck can’t play trainers, there most likely is going to be a big problem with getting out strong attacks.

• With only one form of switching in the form of a Float Stone, there can sometimes be occasions where Bronzong becomes trapped in the active spot.

• There are only 7 energies in the deck to use, which can sometimes make it difficult to hit a Double Colorless Energy on a turn where it may be needed.

• While there is a way of getting an attacker out of the discard pile (Buddy-Buddy Rescue), there may come situations in which it gets discarded too quickly in the game and there are no more attackers to use.

• This deck can be extremely weak to damage-spreading attacks, as everything has a low amount of HP.



This deck is extremely fast in every possible format and has certainly proved its strength during Regional Championships. Ryan Peterson just recently had a strong performance with HexRay during the Florida Regional Championships, in which he also utilized the strength of Puzzle of Time. Since this deck already relies heavily on burning through the deck and discarding plenty of resources, it only makes sense to play a card that can get back those resources to finish off an opponent. Need a Double Colorless Energy and a Lysandre to finish off the last two prize cards? Puzzle of Time can solve that problem with ease.

Let’s go over some of the card options that I’m using in this deck to realize what makes it so strong. With 4 Shaymin-EX, there isn’t very much need to draw cards through the use of supporters. This makes it possible to draw an extremely high amount of cards during the first turn, while also playing down a Hex Maniac to shut down an opponent’s abilities. HexRay utilizes a strategy that can get out a M Rayquaza-EX on the very first turn of the game with an attack that can reach up to 240 damage. Is there any way to make this even stronger? Yes, to shut down an opponent’s abilities on that first turn to make it even harder for any chance of retaliation.

A big reason for the success of this deck comes with the ability of Hoopa-EX. Getting out three Pokémon-EX becomes extremely strong, especially from Rayquaza-EX being able to evolve on the very first turn of the game. All it takes to get the ball moving with this deck is one Ultra Ball, which lowers the hand size for a Hoopa-EX, which gets out a Shaymin-EX and multiple Rayquaza-EX, that lets a player keep drawing into more resources that can be used to burn through the deck faster. This snowball effect may take a while on the first turn, but it’s a powerful strategy to deal with for an opponent.

Another strong reminder when playing this deck is the ability to discard useless Pokémon-EX when a Sky Field is replaced. Any Hoopa-EX, Shaymin-EX or other possible hindrances can be discarded to avoid any stalling behavior out of an opponent. With ways of getting Pokémon back into the deck (Sacred Ash and Puzzle of Time), there shouldn’t really be a problem with running out of Benched Pokémon to fuel Rayquaza. This also comes with an important lesson while playing this deck, which is to hold any extra basic Pokémon to help with the aftermath of discarding a Sky Field. There is never a need to over-Bench while getting a knockout.

With a strong deck, usually comes a difficult weakness to deal with. This is also the case for HexRay, which can’t deal very effectively with trainer-locking decks. If HexRay can’t utilize the Trainers’ Mail, Ultra Balls, Puzzle of Times, VS Seekers, and Battle Compressors in an effective way, the deck usually can’t setup and get knockouts. With Trevenant becoming more and more popular, this inherent weakness of the deck may be too difficult to handle during a large-scale tournament like State Championships. It’s hard to believe that a player could win a State Championship without seeing one trainer-locking deck along the way. Just remember, all HexRay really needs is just one effective turn of trainers to make the matchup winnable, though. Time for the strengths and weaknesses.


• Extremely fast. This deck burns through cards in a fairly effective way, which also doesn’t necessarily need to involve a supporter card being used.

• Ability blocking in the form of a supporter card every turn can shut down the entire strategy of an opponent’s deck, which can make it very hard to deal with a 220 HP M Rayquaza-EX.

• HexRay has a serious snowball effect that can be started with just one trainer card or Pokémon. One Trainers’ Mail can hit the Ultra Ball for a Hoopa-EX and the rest is history.

• Puzzle of Time allows this deck to have a fantastic late game, with the ability to grab back crucial cards. The real strength of this card is that it allows a player to take ANY two options out of the discard pile, which gives a player plenty of flexibility with their choices.


• Trainer-locking is difficult to deal with. If HexRay can’t play their trainer cards and thin out the deck before being locked, there aren’t enough supporter cards to draw through the deck and get out the intended strategy.

• If a player has one unfortunate Shaymin-EX and doesn’t keep the snowball effect going, the deck is extremely weak and can’t deal with many threats. 

• Silent Lab can be a huge stadium to deal with on the first turn of the game, as the deck isn’t thinned out yet and Sky Field may be hard to find. This one stadium card can stop the entire strategy of HexRay without a counter-stadium to play.

• Having only a single copy of Lysandre can make it difficult to pick off threats on an opponent’s Bench. This usually isn’t a problem since M Rayquaza-EX can knockout almost anything, but its sometimes better to hit an attacker that’s being charged up on the Bench.



Ahh, the first deck that is based entirely off of a card from the new set. Garchomp is an extremely strong attacker that can utilize Energy out of the discard pile. This becomes powerful since it isn’t just Basic Energy cards, but also includes getting Strong Energy out of the discard pile as well. With an almost constant addition of 20 or more damage on attacks, the damage output really begins to pile up.

This deck actually reminds me of the M Sceptile-EX build that I used during City Championships, as it uses the same type of strategy. Garchomp is very difficult to knockout, especially with the four copies of Focus Sash to prevent one-hit knockouts. With every attack, another attacker is constantly being powered up, which helps the deck to never run out of steam. One of the main strategies that is used to get around Focus Sash is through hitting a small amount of damage, such as a Shaymin-EX using Sky Return. With this build playing two copies of Max Potion, that damage can be negated and the Focus Sash becomes re-engaged. Not only that, but any Energy discarded can now be attached to a possible attacker on the Bench.

The main difference between the M Sceptile-EX deck and Garchomp comes with the secondary attack of Garchomp. With Strong Energy and Fighting Stadium to push extra damage, almost every Pokémon-EX can be knocked out in one shot. Sceptile never had the chance to take big knockouts, but instead focused on just gradually wearing down an opponent with healing. This luxury of hitting for a huge amount of damage for just two Energy cards can swing the game almost instantly.

Another big advantage to this deck is the ability to prolong the game with attackers that aren’t Pokémon-EX. Forcing an opponent to deal with five Garchomp and two Hawlucha that can’t be one-shotted is a tough task for any player. They must invest a good amount of resources into constantly bringing up attackers, which usually means that Pokémon-EX will be involved and the prize exchange will swing into the favor of Garchomp.

As it seems with most other decks in the current metagame, there is one blaring weakness to deal with in the form of trainer-lock. Without access to using Rare Candy, Focus Sash, and Level Ball, the number of attackers will decrease and the game will end much sooner than usual. There needs to be a steady stream of Garchomp to effectively use the strategy of the deck, which can’t be done without the help of skipping Gabite (Rare Candy) and grabbing Gible (Level Ball). This deck struggles much more against trainer-lock than HexRay, as this build of Garchomp relies heavily on using Rare Candy and only plays two Gabite. Let’s get into the strengths and weaknesses.


• It is very difficult to knock out so many non-EX attackers, especially with four copies of Focus Sash to prevent one-shot knockouts. An opponent must use two different attacks to take out each of our Garchomp, while one-shot potential is still possible for this deck.

• Through the use of just one Korrina, a player can get out Rare Candy and Garchomp to start powering up attackers on the Bench. Korrina is an extremely powerful card in almost every fighting-based deck.

• Fighting type can come in handy for some good decks in the current metagame, such as hitting Darkrai-EX for double the damage.

• Constantly recycling Strong Energy allows this deck to hit for a good amount of damage and keep one-shot potential for Garchomp’s second attack. This also helps against any decks that rely on running an opponent out of Energy cards, which isn’t really possible when facing this build.

• Every Pokémon in this deck basically has free retreat or can evolve into something with free retreat, which is very useful. This allows a player to confidently send something active after a knockout and later Retreat to whichever attacker is going to be used.


• If a quick trainer lock happens, there is almost no response that Garchomp can muster to keep up. This build relies heavily on using Rare Candy to get out multiple Garchomp and needs to get setup in order to win.

• The abilities of Golbat and Crobat are difficult to deal with, as they negate the effect of Focus Sash. With the small amount of damage being placed on Garchomp, it can then be one-shotted and the prize exchange doesn’t swing.

• For the first couple of turns, it can be difficult to get Energy in the discard pile, especially with no Ultra Balls in this deck from having too much Pokémon-searching methods. Professor Sycamore is the only way to get Energy in the discard pile, although it isn’t very necessary to accelerate Energy in the early game to get wins.

• Just four copies of Professor Sycamore as a reliable way of getting cards can cause this deck to run out of steam on occasion. Professor Birch is always a chance at getting a fresh seven cards, but could just as easily leave a player out of steam at four cards.


Entei/Charizard saw a pretty good amount of play during the latter part of City Championships this year. During my experience on the Georgia Marathon, there was certainly a good amount of this deck roaming around and getting wins. The biggest strength that this deck utilizes would be the ability to draw while discarding Energy cards, which is done by using Scorched Earth or Ultra Ball (presumably for a Shaymin-EX). Not only is a player drawing into more resources, but they are fueling up a possible attacker by getting Energy in the discard pile for Blacksmith. Just as HexRay utilized a heavy trainer-based draw engine to not use a supporter card right away, Entei/Charizard does this same task and attempts to play a Blacksmith on the first couple of turns to get out multiple attackers.

The older version of this deck played a good amount of Assault Vest in order to counter the Special Energy-heavy metagame. These tools have now been exchanged for Fighting Fury Belt, which can bring up some fantastic combinations with Giovanni’s Scheme. With two Fighting Fury Belt, Entei now hits for 150 damage. Adding 20 more damage to that attack with Giovanni’s Scheme can allow for a one-hit knockout on Pokémon-EX, while also giving Entei the added boost of having 80 more HP. Hitting 180 damage can also be attained by just switching one of the Fighting Fury Belt’s for a Muscle Band.

One of the biggest factors in relation to playing Entei/Charizard is the capability of just instantly overwhelming an opponent. Since this build uses mainly non-EX Pokémon to attack, this also utilizes swinging the prize exchange and staying ahead throughout the game. If an opposing player starts with a Pokémon-EX, they must be extremely worried of a potential knockout coming about. Getting a turn one Blacksmith with multiple tools and a Double-Colorless Energy is actually fairly easy with the help of Battle Compressors, Acro Bike, Trainers’ Mail, Ultra Ball, Shaymin-EX, and Scorched Earth. Entei can also help to decrease the hand size by allowing a player to drop almost every tool that they draw into.

It seems like the biggest weakness that can come from this deck is eventually just running out of steam. Since this build relies on drawing through the deck very quickly, vital resources can sometimes get discarded that may be needed to win the game. After the first couple of turns, managing resources becomes vital to last until all six prize cards can be taken. Just always remember to keep count of major supporters and energies during the later stages of each game. Let’s get into the strengths and weaknesses of this build.


• Playing against Entei/Charizard would be a good surprise for opponents that might not fully grasp how to play against the matchup. It can be very difficult to win against this deck, but becomes even harder when opponents don’t figure out the real threat to deal with.

• Entei only gives up one prize card and can create a favorable prize exchange with an opponent that is using Pokémon-EX to attack.

• This deck is based off of creating an attacker on the first turn with a good amount of precision. The large amount of item-based draw, along with stadium-based draw and ability-based draw in the form of Shaymin-EX, give this build plenty of opportunity to use a Blacksmith on the first turn.

• An Entei can now have up to 210 HP, while also being able to reduce damage through the use of Flame Screen. This makes it very difficult to knockout an Entei without using a good amount of resources.

• With five stadium cards, it is very easy to win the stadium war and deny an opponent from attacking Shaymin-EX with the Parallel City discarding Benched Pokémon.


• Getting out an attacker on the first turn can sometimes be difficult when starting with a Shaymin-EX. If this happens, it is usually just better to take the slow route and setup multiple attackers on the Bench (Blacksmith) while using a Sky Return to prevent two free prize cards.

• With having a draw-based engine that relies on two pieces (Scorched Earth and Fire Energy), there can sometimes be awkward situations in which only one piece is available. This can sometimes cause the deck to stall and not draw into vital resources.

• Relying on Shaymin-EX to draw can sometimes come back to bite this deck, as an opponent can just get easy prize cards to try and even up the prize exchange.

• The deck can just run out of steam at the end of the game and vital resources may find the discard pile in the early turns. Not having a VS Seeker to finish off the game is usually the case that ends up happening in these situations.

Trevenant Lock

With all of the talk about trainer-locking decks, it’s about time to discuss one of these options. There are two main versions of Trevenant that are being played, which are the Burst Balloon method that utilizes damage spreading, or the Red Card and Delinquent version that focuses on locking an opponent out of resources. Since Jose Marrero just discussed the damage spreading version with Burst Balloons in his most recent article, I’ve decided to focus on the other version. This build can be very fun to play, while also being a nightmare to play against. Completely taking an opponent out of the equation by discarding their hand size and not allowing trainer cards to be played is just game-changing. This doesn’t even begin to mention the annoyance that comes with constantly discarding Energy cards that are attached and denying attacks through the use of Head Ringers.

With this new set coming out, Phantump now has an attack that allows it to evolve and get out the trainer-lock even without the Wally. Locking an opponent out of a large portion of their deck can actually just win a good amount of games on its own, but also including a Red Card to reduce their hand size to four becomes extremely strong. In a perfect world, the Trevenant deck will get out a turn one Wally to lock out the trainer cards while also using a Red Card. If they don’t draw into a Professor Sycamore or Shaymin-EX, they should play some sort of cards out of their hand, such as an Energy card or a Basic Pokémon. This will then be followed by a Delinquent from the Trevenant deck to discard a large majority of their hand, or possibly the entire hand that they had left. At this point in the game, it just comes down to spreading enough damage to knockout everything that they have on the board.

This version of Trevenant puts a big focus on discarding Energy cards and making it very difficult for an opposing Pokémon to attack. With the help of Xerosic, Team Flare Grunt, Crushing Hammers, and Head Ringers, the hope is to eventually create multiple turns of not attacking that leads to an opponent’s board being cleared with the spread damage from Trevenant BREAK. Even if an opponent is getting attacks off, they still need to reach 160 HP in order to knock out a Trevenant BREAK. This should give multiple turns of spreading damage for each of the BREAK evolutions, which should eventually be able to clear off any threats.

There are a couple of big problems that come from playing this deck. The first problem would come with not getting out the Trevenant fast enough. Giving an opponent enough time to play crucial trainer cards and thin out their deck can come with dire consequences. There is a good amount of Wally, switching cards, and Trainers’ Mail to almost assuredly get out the evolution on the first turn, though. The other big problem with this deck is the small amount of Energy cards that are played. With only five psychic and a Mystery Energy, the chances aren’t extremely high of consistently drawing Energy cards on each turn. Let’s get into the strengths and weakness of this Trevenant Lock deck.


• The obvious strength of this deck would be the ability to shut down opponent’s trainer cards. Trevenant is extremely powerful and can be used from the very first turn to take control of the game.

• The ability to spread damage with every attack is also very strong, as many decks in the current metagame use Pokémon with small amounts of HP (Night March, Trevenant, Greninja, Vespiquen). This can allow multiple knockouts to be taken with repeated attacks from Trevenant BREAK over time.

• The use of Red Card in this build can shut down an opposing player completely. If they don’t get a non-trainer form of drawing, they will be forced to have inefficient turns, which can eventually lead to all of their Energy cards being discarded.

• With such a small amount of Basic Pokémon, there are good odds towards starting with a Phantump (4/7 of the Basic Pokémon).


• An obvious weakness of the deck would be the actual type weakness to dark Pokémon. Yveltal/Darkrai is pretty popular in the current metagame, which can be a tough matchup to handle.

• As stated before, the small amount of Energy can be a big problem that leads to Trevenant not getting off attacks. The point of this deck is to capitalize on their wasted turns, which can’t happen if there aren’t Energy cards on the attacking Trevenant BREAK.

• Discarding Energy comes with a coin flip for the Crushing Hammer, which doesn’t always work out. If an opponent gets enough Energy cards on their attacking Pokémon to get off consistent attacks, the situation could get out of hand and Trevenant will lose board control.

• With only seven Basic Pokémon, there is a fairly high chance of drawing into a mulligan, which could give the opponent an extra card or two. This isn’t too much of an annoyance, but can come into play if an opponent goes first and is able to thin out their deck efficiently.


I want to thank everybody for reading this article on five of my favorite decks at the moment. Hopefully these options can help out some players in the deck-making process for upcoming tournaments. State Championships are a big deal and shouldn’t be taken lightly with regards to preparation time. Getting a large chunk of points from these tournaments can put a player in good position for the travel and award stipends. There is also a good amount of weekends in which to get these points, so figure out which deck plays the best and work on it for future tournaments!

The first week of State Championships is definitely going to be the week to watch. The first weekend for any of the large-scale tournaments helps to define the current metagame and what will come into play afterwards. If there is a huge shift in people to play a Darkrai/Yveltal based deck, then obviously playing Trevenant isn’t the right move. Perhaps Garchomp would be the better choice to test and try to figure out, as it has a very good matchup against Darkrai-EX based decks with the weakness and prevalence of Pokémon-EX.

There could be some possible new decks that make a good run at State Championships. With a new set comes brand new combinations of cards together, which someone may have thought to play for these tournaments. Strange rogue decks have shown good performances at large-scale tournaments in history, which just goes to show that nothing can be counted out. This also comes with another good lesson to remember, which would be that everyone can’t be prepared for each deck that is going to see play. Players can’t effectively tech for as many matchups as possible because their deck will lose consistency. Having a consistent build is vital towards winning these bigger tournaments so make sure to not over-tech for every possible deck that may be seen.

If anyone is attending the State Championships in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Alabama, I should see you there. Hopefully we can all just meet in the top cut and strengthen our CP counts to get that Worlds invite or to move further up on the ladder for Top 16 in the country. Thanks for spending the time to read what I’ve written and feel free to message or comment with any questions that you may have!

-Ryan Sabelhaus <3

[+9] okko


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