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Cards to Watch Out for in Expanded

A look at some of the cards—and decks—that are likely to make an impact in the upcoming Expanded Regional Championships.

07/26/2015 by Pikachu's Hideout

The recent announcement that the Fall 2015 Regional Championships would be held exclusively in the Expanded format made big waves in the Pokémon community. Opinions were mixed, but many players were quite upset, citing concerns about having two separate formats to test instead of one, the need to reobtain large numbers of rotated cards, and the risk of overpowered card combinations ruining the format.  A number of players even discussed quitting due to their frustration with this change.

However, the shift to exclusively Expanded Regionals has a lot of potential.  Though players are going to have to devote extra attention to this additional format, a tradeoff is that they will no longer have to worry about preparing a separate deck for Day 2 and Top 8 of Regionals.  Now they can build and test just one deck and play it for the duration of the event—just as Regionals have worked for over ten years.  In addition, forcing players to test Expanded more extensively will almost certainly lead to Expanded becoming more legitimized as a format.  Rather than defaulting to their Day 1 deck, perhaps with a couple Level Balls or Dark Patches thrown in, players will be able to focus on fine-tuning decks that fully utilize the deep card pool available to them, which could very well lead to an emergence of some exciting and innovative new archetypes.  It will be a challenging season, but it's still an exciting time to be a Pokémon player.

This article will serve as a gentle introduction to the upcoming Expanded format, highlighting some of the immediate standout cards and presenting a handful of decks which could make an impact in the coming Regional Championship. Hopefully this article inspires players to look into Expanded and start testing some deck ideas of their own!

1.  Shiftry NXD

Let's start by addressing the elephant in the room.  It was mentioned that "overpowered card combinations" was one of the major concerns with the Expanded format.  After the Expanded news broke, players quickly turned their attention to this long-forgotten bulk rare and its potentially game-breaking synergy with the upcoming Forest of Giant Plants from Ancient Origins.  For those who haven't hopped onto the Shiftry Hype Train™ just yet, the premise is fairly simple.  Shiftry's Giant Fan Ability allows its player to shuffle any one of the opponent's Pokémon back into the deck—assuming they flip heads—once it's played from the hand to evolve a Pokémon.  Using Forest of Giant Plants, the Shiftry player can evolve the Grass-type Seedot FLF into the Grass-type Nuzleaf FLF, which then can evolve into Shiftry, all in one turn.  With Super Scoop Up and Devolution Spray thrown into the mix, this allows the Shiftry player to fire off multiple Giant Fans per turn, and if they can flip enough heads, they can shuffle all of their opponent's Pokémon back into the deck, Benching them out and winning the game.  Here's an example of a basic Shiftry deck.

The list is streamlined and efficient.  It's based entirely on burning through the whole deck in one go to find an early Forest of Giant Plants and then play down multiple Shiftry, and as many Super Scoop Up and Devolution Spray as possible. Recycle serves to recover Devolution Sprays for more Giant Fan flips and Battle Compressor thins the deck of extra Pokémon and Stadiums once the ideal setup is obtained.  The deck has no need for Energy or attackers and no qualms about burning through all of its resources at once.  It either donks the opponent or goes down in flames.

Initial concerns were that this deck would be a dominant force, turning Regionals into a sea of ten-minute first turns and one-sided games, and players were quick to call for a ban, either of Shiftry itself or Forest of Giant Plants for making the deck possible in the first place.  However, there's a very good chance that this deck won't quite live up to the hype.  In fact, it likely won't make much of an impact on the Regionals metagame at all.

The deck has a handful of weaknesses which are easily exploitable.  The first is its absolute reliance on an Ability to win.  As a result, Wobbuffet PHF completely shuts down the deck.  If Shiftry's opponent is able to open Wobbuffet, they can comfortably sit behind it without Benching another Pokémon, either aiming to run the Shiftry player out of cards or simply stalling until they can play down a board insurmountable for Giant Fan.  Baltoy AOR is another hard counter: its Θ Stop Ancient Trait gives it complete immunity to the opponent's Abilities, blocking Giant Fan altogether.  Should Shiftry prove to be a viable deck going into Regionals, players can easily respond by running some Wobbuffet or Baltoy, both of which will put a major dent in Shiftry's win percentages.

Of course, Wobbuffet isn't a natural fit into just any deck and Baltoy may prove to have no use other than countering Shiftry, so both of these counters can be a bit unwieldy.  Fortunately, players can also counter Shiftry by running decks with higher Basic counts.  Sky Field decks like Mega Rayquaza and Raichu variants already run a fair number of Basics, giving them a greater chance of opening with three or more in hand.  Though Shiftry certainly can Giant Fan its way through even a totally full Bench from time to time, the number of flips needed to pull that off will ensure that it won't happen consistently, so just playing down a lot of Basics will give you a great chance of surviving the donk.

Another weakness of Shiftry is just the nature of the deck in match play.  If the opponent has more than a couple Pokémon in play, Shiftry's chances of winning drop considerably.  This means that Shiftry will win a very low percentage of the games in which it goes second, just because the opponent will have a turn to dig for as many Basics as possible.  Then, if Shiftry doesn't win outright on the following turn, all those Basics will be back in the deck for the opponent to Bench anew, whereas Shiftry's resources won't be coming back.  This effectively reduces Shiftry's success to the coin flip at the beginning of the match; if Shiftry goes second on the first game, they've likely already lost the whole thing.  When you factor in the amount of variance the deck will face over a long tournament, from runs of bad flips to Prizing four Nuzleaf, the deck begins to look far less oppressive. While it's possible that a player or two might arrive upon a particularly refined Shiftry list and ride a wave of decent luck to Day 2, don't count on seeing too much Shiftry at the top tables.

2.  Exeggutor PLF

Following Exeggutor's domination of the BCR-PRC format, players were given an appreciation for exactly how devastating Supporter-lock can be, so when Vileplume AOR and Forest of Giant Plants were announced, players feared that the combination of Vileplume's Item-lock and Exeggutor's Supporter-lock would completely take over Expanded.  Here's a sample of such a deck.

In theory, the deck is very powerful.  Vileplume's Irritating Pollen Ability locks down Item cards while Exeggutor's Blockade attack shuts down Supporters.  Once both are in play, the opponent is left with nothing to play other than Pokémon and Energy, both of which they're forced to topdeck.  If the opponent draws nothing but Trainers, they'll be completely helpless as Exeggutor wears them down.  Ariados is there to get some extra damage on board with its Ability, which inflicts Poison on the Defending Pokémon and Genesect-EX can be used to drag choice Pokémon Active, where they'll likely be stuck, unable to move without manually Retreating, which requires Energy that the opponent will, again, have to topdeck.

Unfortunately, that gameplan doesn't run quite so smoothly in practice.  For one, the setup is easier said than done.  The engine here presents an interesting paradox.  Exeggutor/Vileplume quickly loses power for every turn that passes without locking down the opponent, so it's crucial to get set up as quickly as possible.  However, the most effective way to set up quickly is through Items and the quicker Vileplume hits the board, the sooner all those Items become dead. At the moment, Battle Compressor and Ultra Ball seem essential, though.  The former gets Exeggcute into the discard quickly (where they can be brought to the hand via their Propagation Ability) and will serve to dump Items from the deck just before Vileplume comes down.  Ultra Ball is essentially free thanks to Propagation, but it too can dump excess Items from the hand.  However, there still remains the potential that Vileplume will hit the board with a majority of those Items left in th deck, creating issues for later in the game.  The above list is completely unrefined, and the deck will require a lot of testing if it's to become consistent.

The other issue with the deck is its terrible damage output.  Blockade itself only does 10 base damage, which is totally unacceptable, so the damage will need to be augmented considerably.  This list runs Muscle Band as part of a solution, but this is still questionable, as its viability relies entirely on whether it's drawn into before Vileplume hits the board.  Ariados helps too, but it relies on Poison, which needs Virbank City Gym in play to really make an impact.  Virbank, in turn, means that Forest of Giant Plants won't be in play, making it harder to quickly replace Knocked Out Exeggutor.  And of course, running more Stadiums cuts into this deck's already limited space.

This deck also has an issue with Energy-efficient attackers.  An Yveltal-EX with a couple Energy attached quickly becomes a huge threat that's hard to answer.  In the past, Exeggutor lists ran Crushing Hammer, but it's just not viable alongside Vileplume.  A potential solution would be for the deck to run a couple copies of Team Flare Grunt to discard an Energy (and hope the opponent doesn't topdeck another).  This presents the problem of drawing into them at the right time, but by switching the Shaymin-EX over to Jirachi-EX, that issue could be smoothed over.  

A simple tech going against this deck is Kangaskhan-EX.  With a Kangaskhan in play, one can just Triple Draw repeatedly to dig for playable cards, and Kangaskhan will be sticking around a while with its 180 HP.  Getting a Kangaskhan with an Energy attachment is a fairly low-maintenance play, so it can prove very effective in swinging the matchup.  Another issue for the deck is Virizion-EX. Verdant Wind shuts off Poison, cutting off the bulk of Exeggutor's damage output, while Emerald Slash spits Energy into play, powering up an attacker capable of tearing through Exeggutor after Exeggutor.  Unfortunately, there's really no fix for this weakness.  Silent Lab will shut off Verdant Wind, but it comes at the cost of Virbank, significantly weakening the Poison, and it's not really feasible to run enough disruption to stop the Energy acceleration.  Once the first Emerald Slash happens, the game is essentially over.

In theory, the combination of Item-lock and Supporter-lock is very powerful, but Exeggutor/Vileplume has quite a few significant problems.  The player who is able to fix these problems could very well find themselves positioned for a deep Regionals run.

3.  Accelgor DEX

Accelgor was a very dangerous card for its entire lifespan in Standard.  It saw a fair amount of success partnered with Vileplume at the tail-end of the 2012 season, and it won U.S. Nationals in 2013 alongside Gothitelle EPO and Worlds in 2014 (Seniors division) alongside Trevenant XY.  The common factor here is Item-lock; when paired with the automatic Paralysis of Deck and Cover, it can create a loop that prevents the opponent from ever attacking.

The most obvious partner for Accelgor at the moment may be Vileplume, as people will definitely be eager to replicate the successful 2012 archetype.  This variant has a couple major advantages.  The first is Forest of Giant Plants, which can get the lock going from turn one, allowing the Accelgor player to evolve into both Vileplume and Accelgor right away.  The second advantage is that Vileplume's lock is very hard to break.  With the Trevenant variant, the lock only held while Trevenant was Active, but Vileplume holds no such restriction, giving the opponent fewer turns of Items over the course of a game.  The fewer Items the opponent gets to play, the more likely it is that they'll end up losing.

Of course, Vileplume comes with its drawbacks too.  The fact that it shuts off both players' Items means that Accelgor/Vileplume will face the same consistency paradox as Exeggutor/Vileplume: it's hard to set up without Items but equally hard to keep Deck and Cover coming once Vileplume is up and all those Items are dead draws.  The 2012 Accelgor/Vileplume had access to Twins, enabling the Accelgor player to search out two combo pieces effectively every turn.  In 2015, our closest approximation is Teammates, which isn't nearly as effective in a deck designed specifically to prevent opponents' attacks.  Thus, we're left playing draw Supporters and hoping for the best.

Another issue is Vileplume's vulnerability to Lysandre.  Though dragging Vileplume Active won't break the lock in itself, it does force an immediate response, lest the Accelgor player miss an attack and give the opponent an opening to get back into the game.  There is no perfect solution to the problem, either.  AZ can pick up Vileplume so it can be played back down again, but this only works if there's another Deck and Cover ready to go; if not, there won't be an attack that turn either way.  Darkrai-EX could also solve the problem, its Dark Cloak giving Vileplume free Retreat if it has a Darkness Energy attached, but this presents the problem of finding an opening to actually find and attach the Darkness Energy. This is much easier said than done, as it's likely that every Energy attachment will need to be a DCE onto an Accelgor.  Even if a window is found to get an Energy onto Vileplume, Darkrai will then be the next Lysandre target.  Float Stone is likely the best solution, but this returns to the issue of running too many Items in the deck.

Accelgor/Vileplume is likely to be a serious contender in Expanded, but working out a consistent list that works around the aforementioned issues will be a challenge. However, Trevenant is also a viable partner for Accelgor and a working list for that variant is a little easier to come up with.

This version of the deck aims to get a reliable turn-two Trevenant and Deck and Cover.  There is plenty of Pokémon search to get early Basics as well as to keep the stream of Accelgor going consistently.  The deck runs Tropical Beach to help get set up in the early turns and Silent Lab to deal with otherwise troublesome Abilities like Aegislash-EX's Mighty Shield and Virizion-EX's Verdant Wind.  This particular variant runs Ninetales; virtually every Expanded deck is likely to lean on a powerful Stadium, so winning the Stadium war is going to go a long way toward winning the game, especially because Stadiums like Rough Seas and Steel Shelter can be particularly detrimental if they're allowed to stick.

(It should be noted that Ninetales can backfire.  If the opponent plays a Hex Maniac to shut off Barrier Shrine and proceeds to play down their own Stadium, Ninetales will then lock that Stadium in place when its Ability is back online.)

Because of the reliance on Silent Lab, the deck runs only one Mew, instead relying primarily on Accelgor to attack.  Mew is there as a backup and it can certainly pull its weight when its Versatile Ability is online.  Startling Megaphone is an out to Garbodor, and if Garbodor doesn't prove to have a major presence in Expanded, that slot can easily be freed up for a better card.  The deck also runs a single Wally.  This tech is largely a concession to Archeops NVI (more on that later), although with so much Pokémon search in the deck already, a Jirachi-EX has been included to allow for a potential turn-one Trevenant play.

It is also possible to build this deck to emphasize the first-turn Forest's Curse.

Whereas the other version emphasizes the late game, this variant goes all-in on the turn-one Trevenant.  A heavy count of Wally, along with Trainers' Mail and Shaymin, facilitates this play, and the deck favors Computer Search over Dowsing Machine.  Should Expanded be overrun with faster decks, this may prove to be the superior Trevenant/Accelgor variant.  (For what it's worth, turn-one Item-lock happens to autowin the Shiftry matchup.)

Fortunately, players have some options for combatting Accelgor decks that weren't available a couple years ago.  Against Trevenant, Lysandre can force the Trevenant out of the Active spot, freeing up Items for a turn, and against both Trevenant and Vileplume, Hex Maniac can come in to shut off the Item-lock altogether.  With a Switch in hand to get out of Paralysis, there's suddenly an opportunity to start a counterattack.  In addition, Pokémon Center Lady can completely wipe away all the effects of a Deck and Cover, leaving the Active Pokémon healthy, while AZ or Cassius can move them out of the way so something else can come in.  Since these cards are Supporters, they're searchable via Jirachi-EX too (provided Silent Lab isn't in play).

Even with the prevalence of playable counters, Accelgor is a very powerful Pokémon that's sure to have a role in the Expanded format.

4.  Sableye DEX

Junk Hunt is easily one of the most powerful and versatile attacks in the history of the game, capable of boosting consistency, disrupting the opponent, and putting free damage on the board by recycling powerful Item cards.  For most of its time in the format, Sableye DEX was a staple in Darkness decks, and it played a key role in Darkrai's win at Worlds 2013.  This next deck draws inspiration from Andrew Wamboldt's Top 128 list from Nationals 2013 as well as Dustin Zimmerman's now-legendary "Hovertoxin," which made Fourth Place at Worlds 2013.

This deck aims to get Garbodor online early and then continuously disrupt the opponent with Hammers and Lasers, recycling them with Sableye's Junk Hunt.  The deck gains a lot from VS Seeker; now Sableye can effectively Junk Hunt for the Supporter of choice every single turn, giving the deck considerable consistency. Note that the deck effectively has two gameplans: it can either wear down the opponent's Pokémon with constant Laser damage and take all six Prizes, or it can stall the opponent out with lots of Hammers, Sleep flips, and Lysandre plays, while burning through their deck with Trick Shovel.  The cards suited for furthering one gameplan are applicable to the other as well.  As noted, a heads on Hypnotoxic Laser can cost the opponent a turn of attacking, which can amount to a couple more cards milled from their deck, and if Trick Shovel reveals a dead draw, the Sableye player can return that card to the top of the deck, forcing the opponent to draw it and leaving them with no options as Lasers go to work.

Life Dew is vital to both of these gameplans.  There's really no other ACE SPEC for the deck.  Thanks to Life Dew, the opponent will likely have to grind their way through well over six Sableye as the Items wear them down.  This deck could very well give up four or five Prizes before running the opponent completely out of resources, and that's all due to Life Dew.  With the ability to recover it repeatedly with Junk Hunt, it's easily the most powerful card in the deck.

Unlike "Hovertoxin," this deck runs no real attackers whatsoever.  Sableye does all the heavy lifting in the deck and Super Rod ensures that the deck always has a steady stream of Sableye to work with.  Bunnelby is basically in here as a backup, capable of shuffling back in key cards if Sableye is out of reach.  If Super Rod is Prized, it becomes essential to get Sableye back and keep the game moving.  Of course, it can also mill the opponent's last few cards with Rototiller, decking them out just a bit faster than Junk Hunting for two Trick Shovels and having to wait a turn to actually use them.

The deck has access to one cool little play via Red Card and Ghetsis.  The combo can be very effective: Red Card shuffles in the opponent's hand and makes them draw four cards, while Ghetsis strips that new hand of all its Items.  Thanks to VS Seeker, that play is always just a Junk Hunt away.  Another play that Sableye can facilitate is repeatedly using Lysandre to drag up a Benched Pokémon while hitting it with Hypnotoxic Laser.  With Garbotoxin in play, many decks that rely Abilities to help Retreat Pokémon will find themselves stuck, and though they can always use Switch, they only have a finite supply at their disposal.  Once they whiff the switching out, or their Pokémon stays Asleep from the Laser, Sableye is free to Junk Hunt repeatedly for Hammers to strip the board of Energy.

Battle Compressor is a surprisingly effective consistency card here, essentially loading up the discard pile with prime Junk Hunt targets. Though the deck runs no Skyla, Battle Compressor is a solid stand-in; an extra copy could be a very solid addition.  The deck has some room for changes.  A number of other tech Supporters could be thrown in, a Tool Scrapper or Startling Megaphone would be nice, and Head Ringers are always a great fit to combat fast Pokémon-EX.

The deck faces a steep uphill battle against Item-lock.  Seismitoad decks are a near-hopeless matchup.  Sableye's best chance there is to stick Confusion on a Toad and hope they miss a Quaking Punch, opening up a window for the Sableye player to go off with Hammers and Lasers.  Failing that, it's going to be a bad time for Sableye.  However, if Vileplume and Trevenant decks are the dominant flavor of Item-lock, the Sableye player could tech in a Hex Maniac, giving them an opportunity to shut off the Item-lock for a turn and get Garbodor up and running.

Of course, against a field full of Item-lock, this probably just isn't the best deck to play.  However, in a more open field, this is a flexible, disruptive deck that rewards smart, tactical play, and it can certainly make a big showing at Regionals.

5.  Klinklang BLW

After winning Canadian Nationals and placing prominently in the Top 16 at U.S. Nationals, Metal decks popped up prominently on everyone's radar.  Perhaps the most noteworthy Metal list was the one Dylan Bryan piloted to a Top 8 finish, backing up his Bronzong with Klinklang PLS.  This was Dylan's second time taking Klinklang to the Top 8 at U.S. Nationals.  His first was in 2013, where he partnered his Plasma Klinklang with Klinklang BLW—good old Shift Gear.

Shift Gear Klinklang rose to prominence after winning the U.S. National Championship in 2012.  Following the release of Plasma Klinklang, it re-emerged as one of the best decks of the BLW-PLS format, and it went on to finish its season with several noteworthy performances at both U.S. Nationals and the 2013 World Championships, before quietly rotating.  The Klinklang deck combined Plasma Steel's potential completely to lock unprepared opponents out of the game with Shift Gear's ability to transfer Energy around and heal damaged Pokémon, resulting in a near-unbreakable deck.

Should Metal decks retain a presence in Expanded—and as long as Special Energy and Pokémon-EX are around, they very well might—Shift Gear Klinklang is a natural fit, opening up a number of additional options for the already-solid Bronzong/Klinklang archetype.  Here's a sample list adapted from Dylan Bryan's Nationals list to incorporate Shift Gear.

Shift Gear adds a whole new dimension to Metal decks.  Once it's set up, Metal players no longer have to worry about Retreating their Pokémon to the Bench to power it up, as they can just Metal Links onto any Benched Pokémon and transfer the Energy to the Active.  This lessens the reliance on Keldeo (which only provides a Bench target that doesn't benefit from Plasma Steel's protection anyway) and allows the Metal player to quickly transition between attackers.  In addition, AZ and Max Potion become more valuable cards, healing Metal Pokémon without compromising board position.  A fully-loaded Aegislash with immunity to Pokémon-EX and access to healing is a very big threat for a lot of decks to overcome.

Aside from Shift Gear, Metal gains two huge cards in Heavy Ball and Tropical Beach.  Heavy Ball searches every single Pokémon in the deck for free (did you remember that there was a random three-Retreat Bronzor in Next Destinies?), allowing for quicker and more efficient setups, which helps in a deck that aims to get multiple Evolutions into play.  Tropical Beach, meanwhile, gives the deck the Stadium it's wanted all along.  Dylan Bryan's Top 8 list ran Sky Field, allowing him to play down Shaymin and Jirachi without fear of clogging his Bench because he knew he'd be able to discard them when his Stadium was bumped.  However, Tropical Beach gives the deck a much more efficient way to set up, refilling the hand each turn without the reliance on Shaymin drops.  Tropical Beach was always a great card because of the support it provided for Stage 2 decks, and this Metal deck is hopefully one of many which can now flourish with access to the Stadium.

Max Potion is the other significant addition; with AZ and VS Seeker, Metal Pokémon now have access to a fair bit of healing, which goes well with their natural bulk and built-in protection from so many different attacks.  The deck no longer runs Keldeo, partly because Shift Gear fills its role and partly because finding enough Bench space is difficult.  In the past, Klinklang decks have gotten by with no Energy acceleration whatsoever, and it may well be the case that having just a single Bronzong on the Bench gets the job done just fine.  If so, it might make sense to pare the Bronzong line down to a 2-2, returning Keldeo in the process.

Keldeo is certainly a valuable card against Accelgor.  Historically, Klinklang decks have struggled with Accelgor decks.  Now they have Aegislash to cut off Accelgor's damage output, but they'll need to tech more heavily to consistently weather the Paralysis lock.  Aside from Keldeo, Steel Shelter could be a viable answer, not only bumping Silent Lab out of play, but also shutting down Paralysis entirely.  Of course, Supporter techs like Pokémon Center Lady and perhaps another AZ could also get the job done.

With access to so much multitype Special Energy, it's also possible to bring back another old friend.  Reminiscent of John Roberts II's Nationals list, this variant runs Prism Energy, Blend Energy, a toolbox of attackers, and a whole bunch of Max Potions, getting maximum value out of Shift Gear.  The deck may not be viable anymore, but it has potential.  Here's a skeleton to mess with.  Hopefully a couple creative people can resurrect this classic.

6.  Eelektrik NVI

Easily one of the most beloved Pokémon of the early Black & White era, Eelektrik was the heart of top-tier decks from its release in Noble Victories up until its rotation after Worlds 2013.  When Expanded was first announced, one of the most common reactions was, "I get to play Eels again!"  After nearly a year of waiting, the 2014-2015 season rolled around and Black & White-on returned (for Day 2 of Regionals, of course).  Legak once again, and after a whole season of waiting, Eelektrik proceeded to...do nothing.

Despite all the hype Eelektrik saw going into the season, very few players were actually willing to commit to playing it to decide their Regionals run.  A large part of this was likely due to the mid-tournament format shift.  Having not played Eelektrik for a whole season, a lot of players were likely unsure of how it fit into the new Expanded format and lacking the time to test it adequately, they instead defaulted to safe decks for Day 2 (often the same Deck they played for Day 1).  Eelektrik had a handful of Day 2 slots, but it never took down a Regional Championship. Eelektrik's longtime partner in crime Rayquaza-EX DRX even managed to claim a Regionals win in Virginia, but it was partnered with Mega Manectric-EX instead of its old friend.

Despite the cold reception Eelektrik has seen in Expanded thus far, it's still a great card with a very powerful Ability and it's difficult to imagine that it won't see any play in the upcoming Expanded format.  For one, the recent success of Bronzong has put a spotlight on Energy acceleration from the discard pile, something Eelektrik does just as well as Bronzong.  In addition, Lightning is a more versatile type than Metal, giving Eelektrik access to a wide range of supporting Pokémon.  And with access to support cards like Level Ball and Tropical Beach, Eelektrik can get the fast setups that Bronzong could only dream of this format.  Given the versatility of the card, a skeleton will be provided, followed by a discussion of some of the many viable cards one could partner with Eelektrik.

The whole point to this skeleton is to get multiple Eelektrik into play as early as possible to get Dynamotor up and running.  With four Level Balls and four Ultra Balls, the deck will have frequent explosive starts consisting of multiple Benched Tynamo and a couple Lightning Energy in play.  Keldeo and Float Stone are used to move Pokémon in and out of the Active spot, making it much easier to power them up with Dynamotor.  Jirachi-EX is here largely because its 90 HP makes it searchable via at least eight Trainers in the deck.  That kind of consistency is hard to turn down.

Now, let's discuss some cards that can be used to fill those remaining spots.

Rayquaza-EX DRX
Historically, this has been an excellent partner for Eelektrik.  With three Eelektrik in play, Rayquaza is able to fire off Dragon Bursts for 180 one after another.  Though 180 isn't quite the magic number it used to be, it only takes an additional Lightning attachment from the hand to hit 240, enough to OHKO any Mega Evolution (barring nonsense like Hard Charm).  Should you go this route, Tropical Beach is an ideal Stadium card, along with three or four Fire Energy.

Mega Rayquaza-EX (Colorless)
If Bronzong could power up this Pokémon, then why not Eelektrik?  This card has potential both as a primary attacker and as a tech alongside the classic Rayquaza-EX.  Should you focus on this card, the deck will need to run Sky Field, which tends to go hand-in-hand with a few Shaymin-EX.  In addition, the deck should run some Double Colorless Energy (although it could probably trim down on Lightning Energy a bit).

Zekrom BLW
The classic ZekEels deck is almost certainly past its prime, but Zekrom is still a nice tech attacker, dealing a quick 120 for three Energy (which takes a handy OHKO on anything Weak to Lightning).  Of course, if you're determined to make a ZekEels-type deck work, it would be best to partner Zekrom with some other attackers, like Mewtwo-EX, Seismitoad-EX, and Bouffalant DRX.  (These attackers aren't quite as good in the other Eelektrik variants, which focus on OHKOs.)  The deck will obviously work best with some DCE alongside the Lightning Energy, and Virbank City Gym accompanied by some Hypnotoxic Lasers might be a good fit.

Raikou-EX
Though a lucky Thunder Fang flip could buy you a turn, the star here is Volt Bolt, dealing a clean 100 snipe damage to any Benched Pokémon.  This is a great way to deal with Benched Accelgor and Garbodor before they become too big of an issue.

Mega Manectric-EX
This seems like an unusual fit considering its Turbo Bolt overlaps in efficacy with Dynamotor, but Mega Manectric is an efficient, bulky attacker that can usually take a couple hits while grabbing an easy Prize or two, and it's a great way to set up bigger attackers while Ability-locked, either by Garbodor or Wobbuffet.

Victini NVI 15 (aka "Benchtini")
In an Eelektrik variant running Fire Energy, this Pokémon makes short work of most Grass and Metal Pokémon it comes across.  Though it's a rather tiny Pokémon, it tends to pay for itself after one attack and if need be, Super Rod can always recycle it.  (Remember that you only need five Benched Pokémon for V Create to work—even if Sky Field is in play!)

Kecleon PLF
Should Mega Rayquaza be a serious force, this is another card that you can tech to help swing the matchup.  Like Zekrom, this Pokémon will need three Energy to get the OHKO, but unlike Zekrom, Kecleon isn't hindered by Altaria.

Eelektross PRC
With its Energy Connect Ability, this Eelektross can move as much basic Energy as you like from your Bench to your Active Pokémon.  This could be a good tech to power up your attacker for one big push and it's the only way to give Fire Energy any mobility in the deck, but playing this card down also locks you out of one of your Eelektrik, making it a bit harder to use effectively.

Magnezone-EX
Sometimes considered the worst Pokémon-EX of the XY block, Eelektrik makes it feasible for Magnezone to actually use its Dual Bullet attack, which could make it actually worthwhile.  A single Dual Bullet can easily pick off a pair of weak Benchsitters like Joltik PHF, Bronzor PHF, or Zubat PLS, and with the help of a tech Wide Lens, it can hit for up to 100 on any Benched Pokémon Weak to Lightning.  Magnezone isn't quite so terrible when it's taking out two Golbat in one go.  It may prove to be too slow for the format, but it's at least worth another look because if Eelektrik can't help it, nobody can.

7.  Archeops NVI

What do all of the previous entries have in common?  They're all Evolved Pokémon! (Well, Sableye isn't, but its deck runs Garbodor, so that sort of counts..?)  With so many successful decks in Standard relying on some form of Evolution and so many promising cards for Expanded being Evolutions themselves, Archeops is perfectly positioned to do some major damage in the upcoming Regional Championships.

Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick gave this card a new lease on life.  Due to the impracticality of Restored Pokémon, it was previously very unreasonable to consistently get this card into play, but with Maxie's help, it can be done fairly easily, and as early as turn one.  Any deck that can fit in a turbo Battle Compressor engine is capable of teching an Archeops, but the ones that do it best are those that rely on fast, hard-hitting attackers, overrunning the opponent with early pressure while denying them their own setup.

One of the Pokémon most synonymous with "early pressure" is Yveltal-EX, and indeed, Yveltal/Archeops is a proven combination in Expanded already, taking second place in the Arena Cup Salzburg way back in February and taking a number of Top 8 spots in North American Spring Regionals, including a First Place finish in Seattle, piloted by 60cards' own Chase Moloney.  Chase's winning list is available on YouTube courtesy of TeamFishKnuckles (a new 60cards partner!), so here's a slightly different take on the deck.

This deck is built for pure aggression, overwhelming evolution decks with the power of Archeops and attempting to overpower everything else with a fast Yveltal-EX.  Apart from thinning the deck and facilitating the Archeops play, the Battle Compressors in this deck serve as a means to dump Darkness Energy into the discard for Dark Patch.  With Trainers' Mail to help dig even deeper into the deck, it's not unreasonable to get three Energy into play on turn one, making for some very scary Evil Balls.  Yveltal XY is still here too and with all the damage modifiers available in the deck (i.e. Bands, Lasers, and Virbank), it's able to trade evenly with non-EX attackers while softening up big Pokémon-EX—all the while spitting Energy into play to get the big attackers going.

Bouffalant DRX is another nice Pokémon Yveltal picks up from Expanded.  Most decks are now able to outpace Bouffer with their average damage outputs, but Gold Breaker is still as strong as ever, slamming Pokémon-EX for a big 120, damage which quickly adds up alongside Lasers and Muscle Band.  The deck eschews Seismitoad, but it's an easy addition if you want a bit more of a control element to the deck.

In order to emphasize the turn-one Maxie-into-Archeops play, the deck runs very few Supporters, instead favoring a collection of quick, burnable Items so hands can be played down to one more easily.  Of course, Jirachi-EX serves as an Ultra Ball out to Maxie.  The Shaymin slot could also be swapped for a second Jirachi if need be (and some would advocate cutting it altogether), but Shaymin is truly too good to exclude from virtually any deck right now.

There's little more that needs to be said about this deck.  It's a strong deck with proven success, and it will definitely continue to see play in the coming months.

Of course, Yveltal is far from the only deck capable of exploiting Archeops...

This seems like such a natural fit.  So many Night March decks are already optimized toward pulling off the big turn-one Empoleon, and a swap of just a couple cards yields this new Night March variant.  Though Archeops doesn't bring the consistency of Empoleon, it more than makes up for it in utility.  One of Night March's worst enemies is Crobat, but a turn-one Archeops stops Bats dead in their tracks, leaving the opponent wide open for a Night March sweep.

This deck is also very Item-heavy and consequently, it's rather soft to Item-lock.  However, a turn-one Archeops is capable of keeping Vileplume and Trevenant off the board, lessening the threat of lock completely.  Of course, Archeops still leaves Quaking Punch on the table and there's little to be done about that short of a near-miraculous turn one, but historically, Seismitoad has tended to underperform in Expanded anyway (its brief moment in the sun with Trump Card and Shaymin notwithstanding).  Essentially, Archeops contends with everything that hard-counters Night March while Night March overpowers everything else.

The Fighting Energy in this list are actually pretty flexible.  If there's a read on a lot of Mega Manectric, then Lightning might be the ideal choice instead, allowing Mew-EX to use Turbo Bolt for a single Lightning (plus Dimension Valley).  On the other hand, simple techs for the deck include Virizion-EX and Latios-EX ROS, which require Grass and Psychic Energy, respectively.  That's really all there is to be said about the list.  Night March has truly been discussed to death by now.

It will be interesting to see how Archeops and Vileplume impact the Expanded metagame.  The two stand as the predominant locking strategies going into Regionals, and they effectively counter one another, with Archeops shutting down quick Evolution into Vileplume via Forest of Giant Plants, and Vileplume shutting off all of the Items typically needed to successfully pull off Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick.  If these cards prove to be as effective as they initially seem, we could very well see an arms race of techs break out, as the two strategies both contend to see which can get their lock to actually stick. Of course, it could also happen that they're both hated out of contention by decks designed to hard-counter both gameplans.

On the subject of countering lock strategies, this next list is a bit unusual and completely untested, but it's presented as a challenge to those interested in fine-tuning the concept.

The theory behind this deck is quite sound.  If a format is full of lock decks, Virizion/Genesect is automatically a strong play.  The combination of Verdant Wind and Red Signal is capable of outmaneuvering a majority of the tricks have to offer while Emerald Slash sets up a big Genesect to just overpower them completely.  Even protective Abilities like Plasma Steel fall to G Booster.  There's just not much any lock deck can really do to keep Genesect down.

On the other hand, Virizion/Genesect has problems with a fair number of Pokémon in the format.  Pokémon like Eelektrik, Raichu, Garbodor, and even some Mega Evolutions can all make life hard for Genesect.  Archeops squares away those threats, creating a simplified game state prime for a Genesect sweep.  A Virizion/Genesect list able to consistently play down Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick on the first turn or two could find itself with a lot of positive matchups going into Regionals.

Again, the above list is based pretty much exclusively on theory and as such, it will need a lot of refinement before it's ready for competitive play.  In order to pull off the early Maxie combo consistently, the deck will need to run a relatively low count of Supporters and a high count of burnable Items, on top of four Battle Compressors.  Unfortunately, Battle Compressor fits awkwardly into Virizion/Genesect, as there aren't too many things outside of Archeops and Maxie that the deck consistently wants to discard.  (It should be noted, however, that Battle Compressor can be used to dump Shadow Triad and G Booster, effectively allowing VS Seeker to search out the deck's ACE SPEC.)

Two Super Rod is a necessary evil.  Eight Grass Energy is entirely too low for comfort, as bad Prizes or early discards could leave the deck with very little left for Emerald Slash.  Unfortunately, running more Grass further increases the risk of it clogging opening hands and blocking the early Archeops.  The two Super Rod serves as an uneasy compromise, allowing the deck to run a low count of Energy without being overly reckless.  As an added bonus, Super Rod is more burnable in an opening hand than Basic Energy, as it can be played down to recover even a single Energy or Pokémon discarded with an early Ultra Ball or Battle Compressor.

Trainers' Mail is obviously there to dig, but the card may well be a staple in Virizion/Genesect regardless.  In a deck that thrives on getting a turn-one Virizion-EX in play with a Grass Energy and a Muscle Band, having more ways to dig for missing combo pieces increases the chance of that ideal start.  Regrettably, however, the deck just can't fit Energy Switch.  Though it's typically a staple in Genesect lists, it's a very difficult card to recklessly burn in an opening hand and again, the deck needs to run as smoothly as possible early on to get that turn-one Archeops.

Two Float Stones are in the list because Archeops has a very unpleasant Retreat Cost of 2.  It's imperative to stick a Float Stone on it early enough to forestall a Lysandre-stall play that would otherwise result in a couple of miserable turns of manual Energy attachment.  The second Float Stone comes at the cost of the third Skyarrow Bridge, which leaves the deck slightly more susceptible to Silent Lab, but there's little to be done for it.  This is definitely a high-risk, high-reward Virizion/Genesect variant, but it's certainly one worth testing.

8.  Conclusion

That'll wrap up this article.  If you weren't giving much thought to the upcoming Expanded format before, hopefully this article gave you some ideas and maybe even got you a little excited to delve into this new format.  Best of luck to all who will be competing in the 2015 Pokémon World Champions, especially the competitors in the First Annual 60cards Invitational.  To the rest of you, happy testing.

Until next time, 60cards readers.

60cards Team

[+19] okko


 

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