Experts' corner

Ryan Sabelhaus

"Birds, Eels, and Trees...Oh My!" - A Look at Three Options for the Expanded Format

Ryan takes a look at some updated lists for the expanded format...

04/25/2016 by Ryan Sabelhaus

Ryan takes a look at some updated lists for the expanded format, which focuses on Yveltal/Archeops, Eelektrik/Raikou with Jolteon-EX, and Trevenant BREAK. These decks will see heavy amounts of play in the upcoming Regional Championships.


Ahhh, 60cards readers! It’s great to be writing another premier article for everybody during this wonderful break from Pokémon events. This is the time of the season directly after State Championships that allows us to reflect and build on current decks for upcoming Regionals, Nationals, and eventually the World Championships. Throughout this pause from tournaments, we also have a new set coming out in May with some possibly exciting additions to the game.

As for a current update about my season and results, I decided to be content with my invite to the World Championships and not push for a top 16 finish this year. With my graduation from college coming around, I couldn’t afford the time to visit multiple State Championships to try and get more Championship Points. The only States that I attended didn’t seem like a very fun format to play in, which made that decision a little easier to make. I have been preparing for the upcoming Regional Championships and definitely can’t wait to try out some new cards from “Fates Collide.” Hopefully this set can find a way to add some diversity into the lackluster Standard format.

To help make sure that everyone is on the same page (for anyone that may have been living under a rock for the past couple of months), let’s go over what is happening in the Pokémon community right now:

1) Almost everyone hates Night March and the current Standard format. Night March won a huge amount of placings during State Championships. The format is too fast and creativity isn’t even an option with decks hitting for 180 damage on the first turn.

2) Almost everyone ALSO hates Item-lock variants that are countering Night March. Vespiquen/Vileplume and Trevenant are a nightmare for most people during tournaments, as the entire game can just be decided from a bad opening hand that is now being locked from playing Items.

3) The Expanded format is what most people are excited for, which will be the format for upcoming Regional Championships. The upcoming set Fates Collide will also be available for some of the Regionals, adding an unexpected surprise to this very diverse metagame.

4) The Supporter card N is coming back! This should allow for some comeback potential to return in the game, which will certainly help to punish speed-based decks that haven’t thinned out their deck completely.

5) Currently, players are trying to accumulate as many Championship Points as possible to earn their Worlds invite, or just to rise further into the rankings for stipends. Although they haven’t exactly been announced yet, most players are certainly assuming that cash stipends will be handed out for placings before the World Championships.

6) The U.S. National Championships are returning to Columbus, Ohio! This is big news for anyone that has been playing the game for a while. Pokémon has had a great history of fantastic National Championships in Ohio, which will only look to grow with the upcoming tournament in July.

7) Pokémon has just announced a “Win-a-Trip to Worlds” tournament at Origins, which will be in Ohio during the convention that is taking place from June 15th-19th. This seems like a great concept, but not many people are going to be in the area of Ohio to compete in this event. It seems a little strange to not hold this as a large side event during the National Championships, which should have more players ready to compete.

A lot of happenings for the Pokémon community right now! With a huge amount of articles coming up recently about the Standard format and recent tournament performances, I felt like it would be a good idea to focus on the Expanded format. Since this is the new favorite format that will also help players to seal up their Worlds invite or possibly propel them towards the top 16, it’s important to show strong finishes at these big tournaments. We all need to start preparing for upcoming Regional Championships, so I figured it would be smart to focus on possible deck choices that I have been considering. I’ll go over some decks that have shown good success in the past Regionals for the Expanded format, which will also be my top three choices at the current moment.

For this article, I’m going to talk about Yveltal/Archeops, Eelektrik/Raikou, and Trevenant BREAK. I’ll also cover some of their strengths and weaknesses, along with highlighting some important additions that help the decks to function better. These choices all showed strong results at previous Regional Championships in the Winter, which was especially strong for Trevenant BREAK that had just recently come out. There hasn’t been much tournament experience for the Expanded format with the addition of BREAKpoint, with also the Generations set to consider. The lists that I am going to cover will be updated to include both of these sets. While looking at the brand new set, I didn’t see any cards that would fit into these deck choices, so no cards from “Fates Collide” are going to be used. Overall, there seems to be plenty of fun ideas to try out with all these sets coming together for the Expanded format that certainly deserve some testing. Let’s get into the article!


This deck will just NEVER leave the format. Without using Dark Patch, the deck still finds some success with just Yveltal-EX attacking for huge amounts of damage. For the Expanded format, Dark Patch can be added in again for maximum speed and burst potential. The transition of this deck from Standard format towards the Expanded format is what truly sets this deck apart for the upcoming Regional Championships. Not only do we get to use Dark Patch again, but we also regain Jirachi-EX to more consistently hit the Maxie’s Hidden Ball Trick, we get Keldeo-EX back to allow for more fluent retreating and easier transitions between attackers, and we get Computer Search to find any card needed to pull off some fantastic combinations.

With the addition of BREAKpoint, there has been another Darkness-based deck to consider, which is the turbo Darkrai-EX deck that focuses on Energy-acceleration. The deck is usually just a definition of speed, with 4 Max Elixir, 4 Dark Patch, and just around 11-12 Energy cards. These numbers usually correspond with getting out very large sums of Energy to make Darkrai-EX BKP hit for big damage. When comparing this deck to a Maxie’s Hidden Ball Trick version of Yveltal/Darkrai, I just can’t get over the strength that comes from an Archeops hitting the field. Not allowing an opponent to evolve their Pokémon can just completely shut down some matchups, which is certainly a good thing to consider in 9 round tournaments. Even if this deck doesn’t hit as hard, the advantage of stopping an opponent from evolving is just too great.

If you also look, this deck doesn’t revolve around the combination of Hypnotoxic Laser and Virbank City Gym. Instead, this build focuses on abusing Fighting Fury Belt and Reverse Valley to add damage, while also making the attackers bulkier. While “LaserBank” certainly is a good way of adding damage, it does come with some disadvantages. Some of these disadvantages would be that Hypnotoxic Laser can’t be played under Item-lock, this combination involves using two cards together instead of just working individually, and it also involves taking much more space for the deck list. With the added space from not playing these cards, we can afford more consistency and attackers that can help in more matchups.

This deck has some great matchups and has shown to be a powerhouse during recent Regional Championships. I can honestly say that this deck is one of the only options in the current Expanded format that has around 50/50 matchups (or better) with the entire field. Let’s talk about some of the strengths and weaknesses of this build.


50/50 Matchups: As stated before, this deck is one of the only decks that I would accurately say has around even or better matchups with the field. Regardless of what deck you sit across; players can know that they at least have a decent shot of winning. On the spectrum of what decks would be considered a “safe” play for Spring Regionals, this would be at the very top.

No Evolving: I feel like this strength speaks for itself. When an Archeops is on the Bench, Tynamo can’t become an Eelektrik, Bronzor can’t grow up to become a Bronzong, Pikachu never gets that lightning stone and will never turn into a Raichu, the millions of Zubat in caves everywhere will never evolve into Golbat and Crobat. For decks that rely on evolving, this hindrance results in a much easier game for the person piloting Yveltal/Archeops.

Type Advantage: With most of our attackers being dark, it would figure that all weaknesses would be the same. This build has an answer for almost every type of problem with different weaknesses across the board. If you’re playing against a Manectric-EX build, the options of Darkrai-EX BKP and Gallade can both demolish that matchup without getting one-hit KO’d. Gallade can almost single-handedly swing the matchup by hitting for weakness. If you’re playing against a Landorus-EX build with fighting attackers, the options of Yveltal XY, Yveltal BKT, and Yveltal-EX are available. With built-in Resistance, these Dark birds can help to swing that matchup as well. More attackers mean more options!

Bulky Attackers: One of the most annoying things to deal with about this deck would be the extreme bulk of basic attackers with Fighting Fury Belt attached. Yveltal XY and Yveltal BKT are already bulky at 130HP, but now have their HP increased by 40 and swing for more damage. After an opponent has to swing multiple times into these attackers, they still only take just one Prize card.


Missing T1 Archeops: Without a first turn Archeops, this deck can struggle against some evolution based decks, such as Eelektrik and Vespiquen. If those decks get off to fast starts with multiple evolutions coming down, they can swing for huge amounts of damage and overwhelm the board before Yveltal/Archeops is ready. Having to deal with more than one Raikou is extremely difficult for this deck, especially with added Energy acceleration. Luckily, this deck doesn’t miss the T1 Archeops much and is very consistent towards using Maxie’s Hidden Ball Trick.

Item-Lock: Playing against an opponent that is using forms of Trainer lock is extremely annoying. Although this deck has good matchups against Seismitoad-EX variants and Trevenant, Vespiquen/Vileplume could be very annoying to deal with. I’ve also even found myself losing to Trevenant decks at times from just drawing dead. This deck plays a good amount of Item cards that would be shut down, but also does have bulky attackers that can survive big hits. I’d say that playing against Vespiquen/Vileplume would be the most difficult, but this deck could also just go first and get an Archeops down to solve that problem.

Mirror Matches: An extremely unfortunate part about playing the most popular deck in the current metagame would be the mirror matches. They can inevitably be swung through whichever player is drawing hot, which isn’t how most players would like to spend their tournament rounds. If you are going to play this deck, make sure to test the mirror match and find an effective strategy to incorporate.

This deck will definitely be seen at Spring Regionals, especially with Dark Patch back in action. Either test playing this deck or test playing against it, because these dark-based decks have found multiple Regional Championships wins in recent history. Let’s move on to the next deck, Eelektrik/Raikou.


This is another deck that had strong showings at some previous large-scale tournaments, with at least three Top 8 placings at Regional Championships this year. In previous formats, Eelektrik was able to dominate with speed and Energy acceleration capabilities. Unlike Yveltal/Archeops, this deck can’t really show a good comparison from Expanded to Standard, as the main component of the deck (Eelektrik) is already part of the Expanded format. With the addition of Raikou as a main attacker, Eelektrik was able to flourish again by using multiple non-EX Pokémon to swing the Prize exchange against decks that utilize EX attackers. Through using Eelektrik to constantly power up new attacking Raikou, the cycle never stops and opponents struggle to deal with the onslaught.

My version of the deck is a little different from builds that were played in previous Regionals, as I’m including some new attackers from the Generations set. Jolteon-EX is a great way to deal with many of the problems that this deck faces. Any decks that can just constantly knockout Raikou with overpowered basic Pokémon would definitely fall on the list of problems for Eelektrik/Raikou, such as possibly Night March or Speed Darkrai-EX BKP builds. Jolteon-EX provides a way of shutting down opposing basic Pokémon and is very easily setup through using two Dynamotor abilities. Another possibility is to stand a fighting chance against an opponent that gets out a quick Maxie’s Hidden Ball Trick for an Archeops. Without the ability to evolve until Hex Maniac is drawn, Jolteon-EX can now provide an option for surviving and possibly just sweeping the matchup. I understood that one of the main advantages for this deck was utilizing non-EX Pokémon to attack, but Jolteon-EX synergizes extremely well with Eelektrik and provides great utility. Just one Pokémon swinging an entire matchup, while having a great attack and providing a free-retreating option, just seems too good.

Previous versions of Eelektrik/Raikou also incorporated a copy of Eelektross, which I didn’t think was necessary. I felt like the purpose of this deck was just to constantly cycle with attacking Raikou, while trying to survive with bulk from Fighting Fury Belt and healing from Rough Seas. Eelektross could certainly add a big attack to finish off the game, but most matches usually end with taking two Prizes off of an opposing Shaymin-EX. Another possible addition that has been seen in previous versions would be Tropical Beach. I certainly wanted to fit in multiple copies of Tropical Beach, but only found enough room for possibly one copy, which isn’t enough to make an impact. To actually utilize that Stadium card, we would need multiple copies to draw into them for the early game when it would be the most impactful.

In testing, this deck has performed really well and is extremely fun to play. While it definitely has some weaknesses that can’t be overlooked, the strengths that come from this deck are noticeable and possibly enough to win a Regional Championship. Let’s get into the strengths and weaknesses of Eelektrik/Raikou.


Prize Exchange: This is the best part about playing Eelektrik/Raikou. Opponents usually have to use multiple attacks to knockout a Raikou with a Fighting Fury Belt, while a Raikou can one-shot just about anything with the required energies attached. This allows for some uneven Prize exchanges that involve slowly grinding out the game and finishing ahead on Prizes being taken. Even other decks that rely on non-EX attackers, such as Night March, require playing down multiple Shaymin-EX. As long as this deck doesn’t lazily Bench any liabilities, the Prize exchange almost always swings in the favor of Eelektrik/Raikou.

Possible Auto-Wins: Jolteon-EX provides the possibility of just sweeping a matchup. If an opponent is playing a deck that revolves around basic Pokémon with no answers, the game can actually just end with one attack being constantly repeated. Using Flash Ray can also effectively stall against decks that use basic Pokémon that has an answer, which makes for awkward situations of not being able to attack for a turn. It’s always nice to find any free wins during a nine-round tournament, which could be a possibility with these new attackers.

Healing/Cycling: Thanks to having 160 HP and an ability that reduces 20 damage, Raikou has a pretty good shot of surviving many attacks. Through constantly healing with Rough Seas, while also retreating to a new Raikou, this deck can eventually heal away all damage and become unbeatable. This may not apply against all opponents, but certainly becomes a nuisance to any decks revolving around swinging multiple times at an enemy. Another big upside is a near auto-win to Trevenant because of multiple Rough Seas and damage reduction. Their entire deck is made for spreading low amounts of damage, which isn’t even an option against this build.

Speed: The ideal setup revolves around getting down multiple Tynamo on the first turn, which should hopefully be easy with 4 Ultra Ball, 2 Level Ball, and 4 Tynamo. Even with just one Tynamo, the next turn could end with an attacking Raikou to begin the cycle. All this deck needs is just one turn of preparing towards evolving and getting Energy in the discard pile. After that turn is done, the fun begins and the cycle never ends.


Shutting Down Abilities: This has to be the worst weakness of a deck based around an Energy acceleration Ability. Even just one crucial Hex Maniac can be game-changing towards keeping up on the Prize exchange. While shutting down the Abilities of this deck though, an opponent is usually limiting themselves also. This could be in terms of playing Hex Maniac to use their Supporter for their turn and possibly not setup more attackers, or could be through a Wobbuffet being active which would shut down their own consistency in not being able to play Shaymin-EX. For Eelektrik/Raikou, if they can consistently shut down Abilities without hindering themselves too much, it’s usually not a fun time.

Possible Fighting Buff: For this new set that is coming out, there seems to be a big focus on buffing fighting type Pokémon. Zygarde-EX is a very good attacker that can hit for a lot of damage, which spells doom for the cycle of fighting-weak Raikou. Overall, I’m not sure how relevant this will actually be in terms of the Expanded format, but more fighting type decks coming around would not good for this deck in a tournament. Eelektrik/Raikou is able to flourish in the Expanded format because there aren’t any fighting type decks around right now, which would be extremely difficult to deal with.

Can’t Evolve into Eelektrik: This weakness focuses around any opponents that are playing an Archeops deck. If they are able to hit a fast Maxie’s Hidden Ball Trick and stop evolutions from being played, this deck will certainly struggle. There are ways of stalling until the Hex Maniac is drawn through trying to attack with Jolteon-EX, but the intended strategy of this deck is not being carried out and the Prize exchange probably won’t be in favor of Eelektrik/Raikou at that point.

Not Drawing Tynamos: As with every evolution deck, matchups will be extremely hard if the basic Pokémon aren’t hitting the board early enough. Most times that this deck is struggling would be from not finding enough Tynamo in the early game. Not really much to do for this weakness, aside from possibly adding in more consistency cards such as Level Ball.

I can’t really think of many reasons for why this deck won’t see some play. It is extremely consistent and easy to play, while also having a good strategy that is annoying to deal with. Multiple 160 HP non-EX attackers that can constantly heal and reduce damage sounds pretty good to me! I would definitely expect to play against at least one of these decks at the upcoming Regional Championships, so don’t be surprised to see them sitting across the table from you. Let’s move on to the final deck being discussed, which is the Trevenant BREAK deck.

Trevenant BREAK

Trevenant BREAK became a very popular deck as soon as the card came out, which isn’t very hard to see happening. With a huge amount of HP, a great attack that spreads damage for just one Energy (with a Dimension Valley), and a fantastic pre-evolution that shuts an opponent down from playing Items, the upsides just seem to keep going on. Currently in the Standard format, Trevenant BREAK is performing well and has even won a State Championship from being piloted by my good friend Santiago Rodriguez. The transition from Standard format to Expanded format now allows Trevenant to gain the use of Jirachi-EX, Mewtwo-EX, and Computer Search. The most important addition would almost definitely be the Jirachi-EX, which now allows a player to almost assuredly get out a turn one Item-lock with just an Ultra Ball and a decent hand.

The previous version of this deck that I talked about in a recent article was more focused on discarding Energy and locking an opponent out of the game. This updated version for the Expanded format is focused on spreading damage and winning through taking multiple knockouts from damage accumulation over time. From playing both of these decks, I can personally say that this version is my favorite when playing Trevenant BREAK. There are more Energy cards to throw around in this build and the entire strategy isn’t based on flipping coins to discard Energy. Through having a straightforward strategy of just spreading damage and constantly Item-locking an opponent, this updated list can be a real annoyance to deal with.

The strategy of this deck is very simple: Get out a turn one Item-lock by any means necessary. After that lock is established, try to never let an opponent play Items through constantly having a Trevenant active. Use a combination of Trevenant BREAK, Trevenant, and Wobbuffet to knock out any threats, which will be much easier thanks to a slow Item-less start from the opponent. With some added tech cards to deal with an opponent using Shaymin-EX to stall, there shouldn’t be many obstacles that can get in the way of a fast start. Just the Item-locking in itself can win many of the games against an opponent that draws dead. Most fast-paced decks with Battle Compressor flounder the worst against this lock, as they don’t play many Supporter cards to help them draw.


• Item-Lock: The biggest strength of this deck is also the most obvious strength, which would be the Ability to Item-lock an opponent from the first turn of the game. Shutting down an opponent from playing Item cards is extremely powerful and can completely take over a game. Most matches can even be decided from just the first turn of the game; as certain matchups literally can’t deal without playing their Items to setup. A great example would be against Night March, which physically can’t do enough damage without their Pokémon in the discard pile. As I’ve said before, having some easy wins in a 9 round tournament is always very welcome.

Spreading Damage: With the ability to spread damage to every Pokémon on an opponent’s board, knockouts became much easier and can happen simultaneously through one attack. In the Expanded metagame, there are plenty of low-HP Pokémon that can be punished from Trevenant BREAK’s attack and get knocked out quickly (Night March, Frogadier/Froakie, Vespiquen/Combee, etc). This becomes even better with Bursting Balloon to add more damage and cause an opponent to knock themselves out through attacking. The concept of spreading damage is certainly an advantage to love, but can also be a weakness (which we’ll see in that section).

Consistency: I do realize that I said one of the weaknesses of this deck would be consistency problems, but what I’m referring to here is the consistency in getting out Item-lock on the first turn of the game. With plenty of Mystery Energy and Float Stone to Retreat, along with a Jirachi-EX, Level Balls, and Ultra Balls to search out the Wally, the chances of getting a Trevenant out on the first turn of the game are high. Once the lock is established, the game will slowly edge towards the direction of the Trevenant player.

Low Energy Costs: Attacking for just one Energy card is a crucial strength of this deck. Being able to spread 30 damage across the board for just a single Psychic Energy helps a player to utilize other energy cards on the next attacker, which may be another Trevenant or a Wobbuffet. It also allows for missed Energy to not decide a game. With other decks, missing an Energy drop on the first or second turn of the game can actually just cause a loss, which isn’t a big concern for Trevenant BREAK.


Darkness-Based Decks: I’ve mentioned it plenty of times before, but the actual type Weakness of the main attackers can be a deck’s biggest weakness as well. With Yveltal/Archeops being a big deck in the Expanded metagame of previous Regional Championships, it’s hard to say just how much of a deciding factor this will be. Players should obviously expect to face a Darkness deck at least once in nine rounds, but Trevenant can honestly beat Yveltal with a fast lock and some dead-drawing. I wouldn’t say it’s a completely even matchup, but it certainly wouldn’t be an autoloss for Trevenant.

Slow Item-Lock: Since the entire concept of this deck revolves around locking an opponent out of playing Item cards, obviously a big weakness of this build would be to miss the turn-one Trevenant. Without slowing down an opponent, they set up big threats that can’t be properly dealt with. This is hard to come by with all of the ways to get out the lock quickly, but it is still a possibility with a terrible opening hand.

Spreading Damage: With some strengths in matchups, there comes some weaknesses for other matchups. Spreading damage can be an extremely effective way of taking multiple prize cards through hitting everything on the opponent’s side of the board. Some matchups can handle this type of attacking through healing, which primarily is the case against decks that use Rough Seas. The ability to heal off an entire attack through just playing a Stadium card is a big disadvantage to deal with, which is the reason for bad matchups against any decks using that card. While we do have plenty of Stadium cards to counter theirs, just playing down that card can completely take away an entire turn of attacking from Trevenant.

Shaymin-Looping: Without a way to deal with Shaymin-EX using its Sky Return attack, an opponent can deal a good amount of damage without allowing knockouts. Although we do have answers in the form of Mewtwo-EX and a Head Ringer, that strategy proves to be effective in stalling until those cards are drawn.


Well, I’d like to thank everybody for reading another one of my articles and hopefully getting some good ideas from the content. I do spend a lot of time testing out these decks and figuring out what works the best, which should be good for both of us in the near future if these decks work as expected. Even if you don’t like any of these deck choices, just build something like these to test against. I’m sure that you will play against these decks during any upcoming Expanded tournaments, so it’s always in your best interest to know the matchups. Sitting down from any opponent and realizing exactly what to do and how to execute that plan is crucial for these long tournament days. This especially fits in with a format that revolves around Item-lock, Ability-blocking, and evolution-blocking decks that can catch people off guard.

Make sure to also not focus on the current Standard format during testing. Night March will probably not be a huge factor in the Expanded metagame, as the most recent Regional Championships showed much more diversity than just one dominant deck. Look at Expanded tournaments of the past to get a good grasp of what to expect. Popular decks from recent tournaments would be Trevenant BREAK, Yveltal/Archeops, Raikou/Eelektrik, Seismitoad/Crobat, Mega Rayquaza, and Primal Groudon. Prepare for these decks and don’t bring the new set into your thoughts very much, as decks based around the new set probably won’t see much play. If you do see any cards from “Fates Collide,” they will probably just be small tech cards that are added in to increase consistency or strengthen a matchup, such as the addition of the Mew for Night March.

I hope that everyone can get their invitations to the World Championships in August, which may come from Championship Points this Regionals season. If you already have your invite, then hopefully you can get enough points to push for top 16 and earning a stipend (if they are handed out this season). For anyone that is coming to Regional Championships, I will be attending the GA Regionals in May to see all of my friends. If I can’t see you there, I’ll certainly be attending the National Championships and World Championships later in the year.

As a last word of advice for any upcoming large scale tournaments that you can’t decide what to play, just remember to pick something consistent that can effectively setup for the entire day. Most decks that I saw at State Championships weren’t built to last an entire day of playing. Consistency is key towards earning that “Champion” play-mat and trophy. Don’t over-tech for every possibility, as that will lead to worse matchups against the rest of the field. Thank you for taking the time to read my article that I’ve written and feel free to message me about any deck lists or questions.

-Ryan Sabelhaus <3

[+10] okko


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