Experts' corner

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Igor Costa

The Three Musketeers - a look at my four decks!

Igor Costa discusses his three favorite decks for Expanded, as well as his top pick for the ECC.

02/03/2016 by Igor Costa

Hello, 60cards readers!

I haven’t played that much in tournaments this season since I’m moving to the U.S., but I’ve been building decks and playing with some friends since they go to tournaments. With this said, I won’t be able to go to the ECC (European Challenge Cup) that will be in February. It is Standard format and first Place gets 500 Championship Points just like Nationals, but doesn’t count as Nationals or Regionals. Every county can attempt that tournament and it’s in the Netherlands.

Since I’m not going to the ECC I’ll be talking about Regionals in the U.S. and this means Expanded. I’m going to some of them here, so I’ll be talking about three of my best deck choices, the matchups, card choices, and of course I’ll do my best to explain them. I’ll also include a Standard format deck that I was playing around with. It’s really good and if I would have gone to any Standard tournaments this last month I would definitely have used it, so consider it for League Challenges or the ECC.

Let’s start off with something simple. I think every player knows this deck by now. It’s a very annoying deck since it’s able to trade Prizes with Basic non-Pokémon-EX for Pokémon-EX with only one attack most of the time, so the strategy is to discard enough Night Marchers (Joltik, Pumpkaboo, and Lampent) to one shot whatever you need to. This also means you can just look for easy-EX Prizes with Lysandre and pick an easy four turn game.

This deck made top four at Worlds last year. It’s also really easy to play and a safe choice against the metagame, and it only gets better in Expanded.

Night March

Let’s talk about some card choices. 

Archeops is a big deal in Expanded since you are able to shut off Crobat from your opponent, which is one of the weaknesses of this deck. You can also shut off other things like Pyroar, Bronzong, Trevenant, Vespiquen, etc. So this card Basically changes your matchup against anything with Crobat/Golbat. For that reason, you don’t go for it every game. It’s not like Empoleon; you just use it in some matches. Jirachi is what helps you get Archeops out. Also, it’s really good late game to get you the Lysandre if it’s not in your discard pile.

Target Whistle is amazing to get the last KO. Even if they don’t leave Pokémon-EX on the field, you can just get one on their Bench from the discard and get it to the active with Lysandre to finish the game. Buddy-Buddy Rescue is like Revive but better since it can get you any Pokémon into your hand. One very common play from this deck is to Compressor a Supporter to use it with VS Seeker since you play more VS Seekers than any Supporter. So you can also use Buddy-Buddy with Compressor to get Shaymin or any other Pokémon you need. Just make sure you don’t counter your Target Whistle with your own Buddy-Buddy!

Basically, all the cards in the deck work together. There are cards to discard your Night Marchers or Supporters that you might need later like Battle Compressor, Acro Bike, Computer Search, Juniper, and Ultra Ball that will get you Shaymin for more cards or any other Pokémon that you need. Also, having Float Stone on the board makes this deck almost unbeatable, since it doesn’t need Mew all the time to attack because you can use your Joltik with DCE or Pumpkaboo with Dimension Valley and DCE, and if you have Float you can just put one Night Marcher on your board and keep another in your hand. This can force your opponent to kill it without being able to kill other ones at the same time since they have really low HP (30-60). I only play only two Lighting Energy because you only play two Mew and the best way to use them is by copying the Joltik. Dimension Valley makes you only need one Energy, plus that is your only way to deal with Aegislash. 

I would love to add at least a 1-1 Milotic in this deck instead of the Archeops, but I feel like Archeops is just better against your worst matchups, which I will talk about now. 

Matchups:

This deck has pretty much a 50-50 matchup versus Vespiquen, since both decks have the same purpose (to discard Pokémon and add damage to an attack using low HP, single-Prize Pokémon). However, since we have Archie’s and Basics as attackers instead of Stage 1s, the deck has an easier time setting up. Another card that will help you a lot will be Target Whistle since it’s almost always a two guaranteed Prizes on a discarded Shaymin. They have to discard them in order to do damage or even play them, so the strategy to use is avoiding playing Mew to attack and Shaymin to draw, but instead to try to get your set up to get Archeops out as soon as possible to deny Evolutions.

The deck’s matchup with Toad/Giratina is pretty hard if they can Quaking Punch turn two, since it will shut off most of this deck since it plays so many Items. So if Night March goes second, you can take KOs on your second turn and you only need one Energy to attack most of the time, so going second is not that bad. If Night March goes first, you need to discard as many Items and Night Marchers as possible since we won’t be able to play them most of the game. Also, Toad plays Super Scoop Up, so we really need to one-shot Pokémon-EX. If Night March gets past Quaking Punch lock, we need to start thinking about our Energy, because Giratina will shut off Special Energy with his attack, so the two Basic Energy will help this situation a lot by just attaching a Basic on Mew and using Joltik’s attack. They will probably have a Stadium, and they also block Stadiums from coming into play so that might be a problem if we don’t have any more attackers. You can consider playing Xerosic in this deck, so if they go to attach Energy to Giratina on T1 you can try to discard it by playing Jirachi-EX to get Xerosic. Also, don’t forget when playing against Toad you can copy it using Mew’s Ability to try to stall Hoopa in the active.

I feel like Yveltal has a 50-50 matchup against every deck if played correctly. They will try to get either Toad or baby Yveltal to start taking easy KOs on the low-HP Night Marchers. Even if Mew joins the party, they can just Y Cyclone with one Darkness, one DCE, and Muscle Band for a KO. So again, NM needs to aim for the Pokémon-EX and go for forcing your opponent into unfavorable trades trading a non-EX for an-EX. Even if they take the first KO, they will need four turns if we don’t play more than one-EX in our Bench. Plus, AZ can help us get two-Prize Pokémon out of play. Mew is okay to play when we can’t use the Night Marchers for the KOs, but definitely keep Target Whistle if you can so you have another way to target an-EX.

Against Manectric decks you actually aim to go first since they need two turns to deal more than 40 damage, and they also need to evolve Zubat. Manectric is actually a good matchup since the attacker is already an-EX. They will try to play with Bats to take more than one Prize per turn, but if there’s no more than one Night Marcher on the board that doesn’t even matter. Play one at a time and try not to play Mew because it will get Head Ringer’d and Knocked Out. Also, if you can get Archeops into play, it is pretty good since it denies the Bats from Evolving.

Giratina/Toad 

This deck is pretty popular already since it’s Toad but better. It not only has more attackers, but you’re also denying more cards from being played like Stadiums and Special Energy. I played this deck in Standard in Portugal Regionals. I lost to Vespiquen and Lucario/Bats because I Prized my DCEs. That got me really upset with this deck, but since its Expanded I’ll talk about it. Toad with Hammers and Lasers is not new. They work so well together since you deny Trainers with Toad and get rid of Energy with Crushing Hammers. You have Lasers to get a lot of damage if they either leave it there or if they stay asleep. Don’t forget about the annoying Super Scoop Ups on Toad to heal it. Giratina is the perfect partner since after discarding Energy for the first couple of turns after attacking with it they won’t be able to play more Special Energy. That’s really good right now when almost every deck plays Special Energy, and it’s also a good attacker. Combining Muscle Band and Laser/Virbank deals 150 damage, and if they stay in the active they will die from Poison since they won’t be able to play any Stadiums. Also, now that Hoopa is played, everyone runs Keldeo with it so it keeps Tools out of the game for your opponent if you don’t miss the lock with Toad and Tina, because both of them deny Pokémon Tools too.

This is not the easiest deck to play, so if you’re giving it a try make sure you play it more than once. It’s a deck that needs to play around your opponent plays to deny what they’re doing with their turns while putting damage on board and denying ways to come back. Some games are so easy with this deck that it’s not even fair to another Toad deck…

The reason this deck only plays two Giratina and two Toad is because Hoopa can get them really quick and Buddy-Buddy or even mitotic can get them back. Jirachi is a tech against the mirror and any other Toad deck since it’s so good to discard Energy against them. It’s also immune while doing it, so it will probably get targeted by Laser. For that we have Super Scoop Up or even Keldeo/Float Stone. As for Milotic, a friend of mine played this on his Tina/Toad deck and it was really good to get Energy back, or anything else you might need, like a fifth Laser. You can even Super Scoop Up the mitotic and use it again. Just be careful of your opponent using Bats on the Feebas since it only has 30 HP, so try to play Hex Maniac in the same turn you play Feebas. Buddy-Buddy can also get you the Milotic or Feebas back if you need to discard it early.

Latios is included because every deck that runs Bats plays the 40 HP ones. Even if they play the 50 HP ones, it doesn’t matter. In Standard I donked two people at that Regionals in Portugal with Latios. It’s really good to take some games by just donking. for example: Combee , Zubat , Jirachi and Jirachi-EX if you have Laser muscle , Night Marchers, Bronzor and any other low HP Basic can be donked. Also, if Latios doesn’t come out early, you can just discard it with Ultra Ball later.

Keldeo is pretty much just for escaping Laser damage and Retreating for free with his Ability Rush In. You can combine it with Float Stone so it gets free Retreat. We have quite the variety of Pokémon here, making Hoopa a big help when setting up our board early on. Hoopa is always the first-EX you want to see in this deck, not to start the game with, but to use on your first turn. The first Ultra Ball is almost always for Hoopa so that Hoopa can get Keldeo, Seismitoad, Giratina, or even Keldeo. Hoops also is a great card to thin your deck by taking three cards out.

As for Supporters, I took one Juniper out for a Colress and I would probably do it again. Colress is one of the best Supporters right now with Hoopa and Bats in the format. People will just fill their Bench so fast. Making Colress able to draw up to ten cards is huge in this deck, with so many playable cards to use. The first list I had also had a Team Flare Grunt to discard Energy but since Jirachi is out, Xerosic is just better. It is because it’s such a versatile card. being able to discard Special Energy and Tools from any Pokémon works pretty well against early Keldeo/Float Stone, against Head Ringer on our attackers, and even if you need to change one of your Tools like muscle for Float Stone in some point in the game to Retreat. I play Hex Maniac because Lasers might not be enough to get past things like Pyroar or Aegislash-EX, and it’s also good early on to stop some Shaymin or prevent a KO from Bats. Not only does Lysandre work to get the last hit on a damaged Pokémon for the KO and to target what we want to attack, it also works to stall time with Seismitoad. It is one of the best Supporters, and that’s why I always play two with Seismitoad. Using a Lysandre on Hoopa or Keldeo without Float Stone and combining it with Quaking Punch is so strong since it buys you more than one turn most times.

Of course this deck plays Virbank, but being able to play Silent Lab early on shuts some decks off, like Vespiquen or Night March. Shaymin is a big deal in this deck, and without it sometimes they can’t even get a Supporter because they don’t play that many. one thing I always do is keep my Stadium turn one because my opponent always play one on their first turns and I just get to discard it for free. Even knowing this deck is played without this Hypnotic Laser in Standard doesn’t negate the fact that this is what makes the deck work. the amount of damage you can deal with Toad and Laser is nuts, plus if they stay asleep without using Trainers, either they have the AZ or Keldeo float and be able to use Ability or the Pokémon is Knocked Out. It also helps you to donk with Latios, but the best way to use them is while Quaking Punching. 

Crushing Hammer is another big card in this deck. Even not knowing for sure that you will discard an Energy is game changing. It’s a 50% chance, but since we play a four count we can expect to discard some Energy with them per game. It’s the card to look for against Manectric and any other deck that needs more than one Energy to attack. Super Scoop Up is one of my favorite cards. it not only works to switch Pokémon, but it works to heal them, and to reuse them (like Shaymin’s set up) and Shaymin just makes it better giving it more use. If it was good at the time that Slurpuff Toad was a deck, now with Shaymin it’s just too good. In some matchups we want to keep it just for healing, like against Fighting decks mostly, because they don’t one shot us and we can just heal everything. If we get heads, it’s game-changing.

I like Buddy-Buddy Rescue a lot with mitotic because gives you one of them back if you need it. Also, we’re only playing two Seismitoad and two Giratina-EX so why not get a third of one of them if we need it? Target Whistle seems very good for this deck because with Lysandre you can just bring back a death wall that you trapped at the active and killed it like Hoopa. After killing Hoopa once this allows us to do it again. also, mitotic can get us the Target Whistle a second time or even a third with Super Scoop Up, but I don’t think we’ll need that many.

Bunnelby is also an okay card to add, since it can give you your Energy back and also discards cards from your opponent. Also, it can get us all of the 50-50 cards back.

Matchups:

This deck is okay against Vespiquen. We avoid Toad and just go with Latios for the first one or two KOs, then Giratina might be able to close the game since they won’t be able to play Special Energy, making them take more time for KOs. Also, look for Silent Lab early. It’s so good to be able to deny Shaymin against Vespiquen early on, but going after Vespiquen is the best option. Also, if the flips go well, Lasers can make it a free game. Against mega Manectric our game is way easier since Giratina’s Ability makes him almost useless. Against any other Manectric variant it’s still the same. We look to go first and to get the maximum amount of Crushing Hammers in our hand, so for each heads it’s a turn that we get for free. Also, Lasers can be annoying, and if they play Bats as a way to one shot us, Super Scoop Up combined with Hex Maniac can also deny that. As long as you can keep discarding Energy and building your board while locking them it’s gonna be an easy matchup.

Night March is a bad matchup if they can discard things early enough, and they most likely will, so look for Silent Lab or Hex Maniac on the first turn if you go first. The beginning of the game will be the hardest part, but once we get Giratina out it will be fine. It takes us two turns to attack, and if they get two Night Marchers powered up we are only gonna be able to kill one and they will just kill our Giratina with the other. There’s no Lysandre’s trump card to change the game, so Bats would make a difference. Basically if you can get past the beginning gf the game it’s gonna be okay. Also, Lasers can change the match once again if they stay Asleep.

Manectric/Seismitoad/Bats

And for the third deck, we have another Toad, but this time with Manectric and Bats. Basically this deck keeps our options open and covers some of our weaknesses, since Night March was a problem for Manectric. Toad and Bats give us with a way better matchup, and also make us a bit better against Yveltal by having the Manectric in for type advantage. The strategy of the deck is just like Toad/Bats where we want to lock our opponent and take Prizes going back into our turn with Laser. You also want to take a KO with Crobat on your turn and still be able to attack a new Active Pokémon. The way this deck disrupts the opponent is by killing the threats by using Lasers combined with Manectric and Crobat, making us able to one shot Pokémon way easier. It gives us so many options by either locking the Opponent or going for KOs. It’s really fast in taking Prizes since we can take multiple Prizes per turn. So let’s take a look at the deck and explain the cards in the list:

We only play two Manectric because we will be using Toad most of the time since Manectric needs two Energy to attack and we need to be fast with this deck. Hoopa is again your way to get bored, but this time it’s a little bit different. Since we’re playing Bats, we need our Bench, so I would say to go for it against decks with Lasers, don’t against other decks, because you still have enough ways to set up but without filling your Bench too much. You’ll need the spots for Zubat and Shaymin early on. Mewtwo-EX is your late-game threat since you can use the rest of your Energy on him while still using Toad to attack and put pressure. Also, it’s really good against NM as it can one shot a mew without anything but a DCE. It’s really good for taking the last two Prizes, but this deck as plenty of ways to do that. Nothing really changed about the Giratina matchup, maybe we have more Basic Energy in this deck and a way to deal with Giratina, but Hammers will still ruin us so Jirachi is here to help with that, and it’s our easy way to deal with Tina/toad. Bats really work well with Manectric and Toad since it creates a lot of perfect math to get some KOs, and since we can play the Bats before attacking, we can even take four Prizes in one turn, and that happens a lot. Also, it’s a perfect way to deal with Night March: being able to take Prizes on low-HP Pokémon and not just trading an EX for a regular Pokémon helps you trade.

For Trainers, Computer Search is just the best ACE SPEC since it gives you anything. And sometimes there’s a missing piece to get that KO like Laser, the Stadium, or even the Muscle Band and Computer Search just gives you that card that you need by just discarding two cards that can be useless. Discard cards like Hoopa late game or Supporters that you want to see in your discard pile or even before using Juniper. The deck base is a lot similar to Toad/Tina because both play Toad, and Toad is a unique card that most decks need to play cards to work with it like Lasers and Super Scoop Up. So, the Trainers list and the purpose of it is almost the same, but this time we’re working with Bats, so some of the Super Scoop Ups can also work as damage. Since we are using Golbat or Crobat again, I would really like to add a Super Rod in this deck. It not only it gives you Jirachi back after it dies to Lasers against Toad/Tina, it also gives you Energy and bat lines that you probably discarded early on. the possible changes I would make would be taking two Float Stone, one Keldeo-EX and one Hoopa for one Super Rod, one Super Scoop Up, one Escape Rope, and one Head Ringer.

Matchups:

Like I said, Bats make this matchup way easier. Just avoid playing with Manectric for this one. Toad and Bats should solve it. The way we win this is to use Bats to KO the Night Marchers on the Bench and our Toad to KO the active, leaving them without any attackers so they’ll need a way to Retreat the new active Pokémon. They don’t usually play more than one and this will make them miss attacks more often giving you more turns.

The Vespiquen matchup is worse than Night March. The strategy is to go first and get as many Zubat out as possible. Toad won't have a big impact in this matchup except if you can use it on turn one to KO a Combee. If you feel like they don't have an answer to it next turn because Toad survives two turns, you can just take the Vespiquen out with Bats and the rest of your Toads. If they can't get them back, because it's really easy to KO Combee, and if they don't play the Stadium to evolve in the same turn as they play it. Going with just Bats is also an option since with surprise bite and Laser bank plus an Energy you can KO a Vespiquen, cards like Hex Maniac and Silent Lab would definitely make this matchup easier.

Against other Manectric decks, Lasers are a big deal since it's the easiest way to KO a Manectric. Also be careful with attaching Tools, since they take advantage of that to deal more damage is fine to have a muscle on Toad but do not Bench Manectric early because they will Head Ringer it, and if you Bench it with Muscle Band, it can just be Lysandre’d out for an easy KO. This doesn't mean you shouldn't play Manectric in this matchup. It’s probably better if you do, because with Crobat and Lasers, the KOs on the opposing Manectric will be so easy if they also have a Tool attached.

Manectric will also have a big impact in the Yveltal matchup, since it can put pressure early on the baby Yveltal, and is also able to one shot an Yveltal pretty easy. They just need to have a Muscle Band attached. Other than that they have ways to trade with Toad so Manectric is definitely the best option and the way to go against this matchup since Yveltal is weak to it.

Against Tina/Toad, it is more of a 50-50 matchup, but with lighting Energy to pass Giratina’s lock and Manectric being able to one shot Giratina it’s pretty good. It just needs a Laser, Virbank and two extra damage if they play it correctly without attaching Tools to Giratina because there's no point against this deck. Also, Jirachi is in there because it’s one of the best counters to Giratina at the moment. If Keldeo becomes annoying, go for it, because it can deny a lot of Laser damage. This also applies against other decks that also run Keldeo float.

I would consider including Silent Lab in this deck and also Super Rod to get either Mewtwo or Bats or even Energy back at some point in the game, also, this is another way to get Jirachi back.

As you guys can tell, most of these decks run Head Ringers in their normal lists, but after worlds and U.S. Regionals that I attempted I'm sure it's a waste of space in the deck. Not only do they always have a way to play around it, like attaching Tools before, AZ the Pokémon, Super Scoop Up it, Xerosic it or even ignore it... And also, the worst matchups are non-ex decks so Head Ringers don’t really help us. Maybe some Hammers would be okay, also the 4th Super Scoop Up is amazing. Cards that I would take out are probably Jirachi if you can win most games against Giratina, if not, then keep it. 

That's it for expanded! Look out for these decks at Regionals and improve the list you’re using by adapting your deck to what's played in your area. Also, some decks can be frustrating to play, like decks with a lot of flips, but it’s part of the game and sometimes when things go your way it's fun too!

So I'm gonna talk about the ECC for a bit because I noticed most American players don't even know about it. It’s Basically like Nationals regarding points, so 500 for first, 300 for second, and anyone can play in it. Most European players go there to get that boost for Top 22 in Europe, but if you’re looking for points it's a good option even if you’re not European. I was supposed to go but I'm not anymore since I'm in the U.S. And I'll probably won't play to make Top 22 in Europe since I won't be able to go to Nationals either, so I want to leave here the list I would use there (it's Standard format.)

Manectric/Crobat

Knowing that Toad won't be an issue without Lasers, the deck strategy is pretty simple. It’s a Manectric Crobat deck that also disrupts your opponent while able to snipe Pokémon on the Bench with your Bats or Manectric’s attack

So here's the list:

Wobbuffet is too good in this deck, since it's our best starter against Night March and Vespiquen. He is also able to do tons of damage against damaged Pokémon for only one Energy if Dimension Valley is in play. There’s no easy way to Retreat it, but we only play three kinds of Supporters so using it again won't be a problem. Also, four Super Scoop Ups also can make it work.

AZ: It makes a lot of sense to combine this card with Bats since we can use the Abilities more than once by getting them back. It also heals Pokémon and it's a way to take them off the board. So against Night March, for example, we can play with only non-EX Pokémon since we have plenty of ways to take our Pokémon out of the field. The same goes for Super Scoop Up and Shaymin.

I was playing one Xerosic before and it was really good, but I feel like Entei was too popular and I should play anything to counter it and megaphone is one of the best cards against it. Against Night March it's pretty huge to discard the Float Stone since if they have it in play they will be able to Bench one Night Marcher at a time, and they will be forced to play two that you can KO with bat damage. Level Ball is only there to get you those quick Zubat and Golbat because we usually go for those on turn one and two.

Discarding Energy with this deck is huge since Crobat can deal damage fast and we can still attack. Since Manectric struggles in the first turns of the game and Hammers can buy us those turns by discarding Energy.

Dimension Valley allows us to attack with Bats or Wobbuffet for one less Energy and makes us able to power up Manectric while using Bats to attack. Since Manectric decks also have that problem, just being able to attack with two Energy most of the time and that takes two turns. Since we don't use water, fire, or grass Pokémon, we don't need to worry about the downside of this Stadium. It is also great against Lucario/Bats since they need Bench space, also against Vespiquen and other Manectric decks it’s really useful sometimes but we only need one.

Since we play so many good Trainers already and we need ways to get Crushing Hammers as soon as possible, Trainer’s mail will also allow us to get Super Scoop Ups at very crucial moments in the game. It accelerates this deck a lot. Also, we play a lot of one of Trainers so when we need them the most we need a way to get them and this also provides us that.

Super Scoop Up not only gives us better matchups against two shot decks, it also give us speed against one shot decks by reusing Shaymin and Bats to take quick KOs, making this deck a lot stronger. 

Muscle Band makes our math a lot easier, making a Manectric able to one shot an ex if they have a Tool and we just need to add a Crobat to deal 30 damage and that's 170. Most Pokémon-EX have that amount of HP, but since there's more non Pokémon-EX nowadays, we only play two. I changed one muscle for hard charm mostly because of mirror. In this way we can still play a Tool and not be vulnerable to get OHKO’d by assault Laser and Crobat combo. They usually play Head Ringer to make us have a Tool. Sometimes it also helps against Night March as they are able to deal 180 but not 200 that easily. They need to discard a lot of Night Marchers, and that give us an advantage since we can get rid of them all with Crobat. Against Entei it ruins their math, and against any Toad decks with Parallel City and Hard Charm it makes them deal 10 a turn.

-Igor

[+11] okko


 

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