Experts' corner

Igor Costa

A look at Volcanion in Standard and Expanded

Igor Costa discusses Volcanion for the Standard and Expanded formats.

10/01/2016 by Igor Costa

Hey, it’s Igor here. Thanks for coming back to read another one of my articles. I hope you enjoyed the last one. I’m really excited to compete this season. I think the new 500 CP cap will make it harder for everyone, and especially for European players to get the regular invite since they have less tournaments. Overall, I approve of the change because it was too easy to get 300 points last year, and this will make Worlds a more exclusive tournament.

I’ve been playing a lot of Pokemon, in person and on PTCGO. My favorite deck for this season so far has been Volcanion. I won an LC last week in expanded and got 15 points with the deck.

Volcanion is really strong because the deck has a lot of synergy, since baby Volcanion powers up your Pokémon and Volcanion-EX's ability, Steam Up, makes it so you can one-shot any Pokémon-EX in the format.

Lots of people underestimate this deck because they haven’t played it or against it. This seems to be the most consistent deck in the format for standard at the moment.

Before we discuss the Volcanion list, let’s take a look at some decks in the current metagame. The following decks are popular in Standard right now, so I will discuss how Volcanion does against them.

1. Mega Mewtwo/Garb

This is a really close matchup, but I would say that it’s unfavorable since Garb can be such a pain in the ass for Volcanion to deal with. However, Volcanion can easily one shot Mega Mewtwo by only discarding 3 Energy while attacking with Volcanion-EX. This matchup is the reason why Faded Town is in the deck: we can discard only 2 Energy if we have the Stadium in play, dealing 130+60+20 or just enough to knockout that Mega Mewtwo with 210 HP. This makes the matchup actually seem pretty easy since we can one shot everything without too much trouble. When I say this, it’s because Volcanion deals 190 damage with no problem since it’s so easy to have 2 Energy in your hand. However, with Garb on their side, it makes it so the matchup is impossible until you can deal with Garb. Because of this I would aim to take the Garb off of the board, or get early kills on Trubbish with the baby Volcanion. Lysandre is going to be one of the key cards in this matchup. Also, leaving our Volcanion one Energy away from being able to attack makes it so our opponent needs more than 3 Energy on his mega Mewtwo. It’s easy for them to get 3 Energy but it gets harder to get more than that on each Mewtwo.

It’s not a favorable matchup by any means, but it’s still close if Volcanion is able to deal with Garbodor. Other than that, the only way to lose is by dead draw or N.

2. Rayquaza

Rayquaza seems to be Tier 1 at first glance, but there’s something wrong with it. I feel like the deck is able to power up 2 Rayquaza and that’s why Volcanion can beat it. Basically, after the first 2 Rayquaza the deck runs out of steam, unlike Volcanion.
So they are going to take the first KO, unless they start with Shaymin-EX and can’t retreat, so make sure to have a baby Volcanion in the Active spot at the beginning of the game so they won’t take two Prizes. Either that, or make them waste a Lysandre. After attacking with baby Volcanion and powering up a Volcanion-EX or two with help of Max Elixir, it shouldn’t be hard to one shot every Rayquaza, unless they keep using Hex maniac. N will be our go-to Supporter for this game. We are looking for Stadiums to follow up the KO in combination with a N. That play is just game changing against Rayquaza, because it takes so much out of them. It takes Pokémon and Energy off of the field and replaced the Stadium. It’s not hard for them to build an attacker, it’s just hard to attach Energy and keeping refilling the Bench.

In conclusion, Volcanion will fall behind in the beginning, but it’s entirely possible to make a comeback with N and any Stadium. Of course, Parallel City or Silent Lab would be the best Stadiums to counter Rayquaza but we can’t afford to play any of those in this deck because they also hurt Volcanion a lot. If you’re having a hard time with Rayquaza, even with the N and counter Stadium plan, one Enhanced hammer should be enough to prevent the second Rayquaza from attacking by one turn or even the third Rayquaza if need be. I would say the matchup is 60-40 in Volcanion’s favor. If they don’t miss anything, they’ll win but that usually doesn’t happen.

3. Rainbow Road

This matchup is pretty similar to the Rayquaza one, but Xerneas is a non-EX so we’ll be taking one Prize instead of two. The only thing we can take for our advantage here is that our baby Volcanion is able to one shot Xerneas if they don’t have a Fighting Fury Belt on them. The way to do this is to Steam Up three times and attach a Fury Belt to one of our baby Volcanion to deal 20+90+10=120 damage, or just enough. They usually have a bunch of Exp. Share, so don’t worry a lot about Fury Belt since they would rather have the other Tool. Also, killing three Xerneas with DCEs on them makes it really hard for them to get the fourth one. Just don’t let them trade the one prize Xerneas for the two prize Volcanion-EX. Of course, that trade is going to happen no matter what, but it’s best if you force them to make that happen. This means they have to be the ones bringing the Volcanion to the Active position with Lysander, and it’s actually hard to KO multiple Xerneas with baby Volcanion. I would say one is easy, but for the second one, either you use Steam Artillery and a Steam Up or you’re going to have to use a Pokémon-EX.

In conclusion, the matchup is also about 55-45. It’s more manageable for Xerneas to get a follow up attacker than it is for Rayquaza, mostly because of Exp. Share, but Xerneas is way more squishy or easy to KO. Since our non-EX Pokémon can have a lot of value to them, trading a baby Volcanion for a Xerneas is really well worth it. If they hit everything right on time, there’s no way to win, but the best way to go is for fair trades and hope that they’ll run out of attackers.

Other options to consider in this matchup would be countering the Stadium and trying to KO the double types on the Bench. Keep in mind that they usually play their own Volcanion-EX, and Volcanion-EX one shots other Volcanion without any Steam Up because of Weakness given by the dual-type.

4. Scizor-EX/Garbodor

This matchup is so easy, weakness takes care of everything for us!
Baby Volcanion can take a KO on a Pokémon-EX without needing a lot, and that is just devastating for Scizor-EX.

Not having Special Energy in the deck and not caring about discarding some basic ones since we can easily get them back with baby Volcanion really helps us here. Garb effectively does nothing since Volcanion one shots Scizor-EX without any Steam Ups, making it so they don’t have anything going for them against Volcanion. It’s really one sided matchup and Volcanion should win every time.

5. Zoroark/Yveltal

I actually think that the Fright Night Yveltal is one of the best counters to Volcanion. That’s why I’m playing Escape Rope instead of Switch, so that Yveltal can't just lock Volcanion. So in this matchup it’s extra crucial to know what to Bench not only to prevent Zoroark from OHKOing a Volcanion-EX, but also so that your Volcanion don’t get stuck by Yveltal. So I usually don’t Bench more than one/two Volcanion-EX. Usually one won’t die that easily, but it’s always good to have a second attacker. Never Bench more than one Shaymin and baby Volcanion, but try to discard them since Poké Puff is in the format but Target Whistle is no longer in the format.

I feel like this matchup is pretty easy, about a 70-30 or 65-35, since their damage is limited by your Bench and their HP is so low. The only way to lose this is to Bench too much stuff or get stuck with something heavy in the Active spot while baby Yveltal takes easy Prizes. So, try to discard Lysandre as soon as possible so you can make use of the VS Seeker to get them back. Be smart about using Escape Rope so that the attacker doesn’t really matter. Baby Volcanion puts on a lot of pressure and can one shot a Zoroark, so you can take time building your Volcanion-EX.

6. Giratina/Darkrai

This matchup is pretty favorable as well. Volcanion actually one shots Pokémon-EX nonstop once it starts going, so any heavy EX-based deck is gonna have trouble dealing with Volcanion especially if they can’t one-shot it.

Discarding one or two Energy to kill any Pokémon with Volcanion is really easy and effective. The only way they can make it harder is by playing Garb, but that just makes the deck worse against a lot of stuff, and I’m pretty sure they’ll still lose since Volcanion has time to stop OHKOing Pokémon-EX to KO a Garb. DarkTina can’t one shot Volcanion any time soon, and whenever Garb is out of the board you just have to go after the Energy so they’ll never one shot a Volcanion with the new Darkrai. I would say this matchup is 80-20 without Garb and 65-35 with Garb.

7. Volcanion

This mirror matchup is all about powering up Volcanion-EX as soon as possible to contest the opponent's Volcanion, since Weakness makes it so neither of you needs to Steam Up. The first player that has two Volcanion-EX powered up is usually going to win, since the third Volcanion powered up means that N won’t do anything. The matchup usually is one sided in favor of whoever builds the most Volcanion-EX.

So let’s get to the list. This is my list for Standard, although Volcanion can do very well in Expanded as well. I’ve been working on tweaking this list a lot, and it has gone through many changes since my first list.

If I’m going first, my goal sometimes is to just start powering up a Volcanion-EX to start taking KO’s because sometimes having the first attacker in this format can put enough pressure to just win the game with it.

If I’m going second, I always aim for baby Volcanion to start powering up the other Volcanion-EX. Sometimes my opponent has a Shaymin in the active on my second turn, and I can take two Prizes with baby Volcanion by discarding 3 Energy. That doesn’t usually happen, but it’s a possibility, and there’s no reason to not go for it if your opponent starts with Shaymin. Three Steam Ups plus Power Heater is 90+20=110.

I’m not playing Ranger at the moment because I really want to Lysandre every turn that I have Energy in hand, or if I don’t, I need to Sycamore to get Energy for the KOs. I also have one Fisherman if I need to discard too many for each KO.
I’m playing one Flareon-EX just because of his Ability that makes my leftover Energy have a purpose. It powers up itself without baby Volcanion with his Ability, and unlike Volcanion, it doesn’t need a Float Stone to keep attacking. This means that one of the Fury Belts can be freely attached to Flareon-EX.

Faded Town is there just because of Mewtwo. It sometimes helps against Rayquaza too. I tried Sky Field and Scorched Earth, but without the Hoopa and Keldeo combo in the deck, Sky Field is not as good, and Scorched Earth is not that easy to use since we need to use our Energy to OHKO Pokémon-EX and we can’t afford to discard them to draw just two. Since most of the cards we’re looking to draw are actually Energy, it doesn’t really make sense. Our opponent usually just counters it the turn after so it won’t help us against N either.

Here’s a quick list of cards I would like to include in the deck if I had the space:

1 Enhanced Hammer
1 Professor’s Letter
1 Hoopa-EX
1 Ranger

I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to make room for that Hammer since it really helps against three of the most difficult matchups (Mewtwo, Rayquaza, and Rainbow Road).

As far as Ranger goes, I haven’t felt the need yet but it depends on your play style. I usually never attach a Fury Belt to my Volcanion-EX because I want them to retreat after the first attack, and only my last attacker is going to have a Belt attached.

Hoopa just makes it harder to have open Bench spots for additional Steam Up usages, but at the same time makes it easier to get Volcanion-EX. Since we don’t want to get Flareon out early on, it makes it so Hoopa can only search for Shaymin and Volcanion-EX. Our consistent deck build allows us to quickly set up multiple Volcanion. We might as well get a Shaymin with the Ultra Ball. Don’t get me wrong, I love Hoopa as a card and would appreciate having it in the deck, but the Bench space is too valuable to give up.

Now that we’ve talked a good bit about Standard, let’s take a quick look at Volcanion in Expanded. I think Volcanion is still a very good deck to play in Expanded, and the main reason behind this is Keldeo-EX. It allows us to attack with Volcanion over and over without needing to look for an Escape Rope every time, and it also makes it so every Volcanion can take a Fighting Fury Belt instead of a Float Stone, giving Volcanion +40 HP and making it much harder for our opponent to KO.

Even though Volcanion gains a lot in the Expanded format, there are also a lot more threats such as Seismitoad-EX and Accelgor/Wobbuffet. Trevenant isn’t favorable either since it has fast Trainer lock and ways to stick Keldeo, but against most things Volcanion is still very good. In Expanded, usually people like to play Jirachi to search for a Supporter, and it’s very easy for a baby Volcanion to KO that. For one Energy, we can take two Prizes and power up our Bench at the same time if they ever play down Jirachi.

The list doesn’t change in Expanded that much besides adding megaphone to be able to better deal with Garbodor. It’s kind of crazy that Standard has no Tool Removal!

Like I mentioned, Keldeo lets us Volcanic Heat with the same Volcanion by just having a Float Stone on the Keldeo. We also have Blacksmith to power up our Volcanion out of nowhere so it replaces the Flareon, and it’s obviously way better as we can use it whenever we want to throughout the course of the game.
Of course, since we have a way to deal with Garbodor now, we can change our Stadium for Sky Field since we’re going to need a lot more Bench spots to Bench Keldeo and Hoopa.

I would say there’s a lot of lists for this deck but I’m going to give you one that usually can deal with everything. I want to try a more speed-oriented one for Expanded, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable playing it in a big tournament if I have autolosses to lock decks that actually are pretty popular in Expanded.

I feel like playing an Escape Rope because I’m tired of the baby Yveltal stopping Float Stones. I added an AZ from the last list I played and makes a big difference against lock decks since you can use it multiple times with VS Seeker. I still think Toad is almost impossible to beat so I’m not talking about Trainer Lock, but it’s possible to beat decks that play one or two Toad, Like ‘Tina/Toad and Dark with Toad by just having a powered up Volcanion and being able to one shot a Toad or other Pokémon-EX. Once the deck gets going you only need Energy to get KO’s, making it very resilient.

I would recommend playing 4 baby Volcanion if Night March is too popular, and other than that I would try to add the second Keldeo-EX since we cannot afford to prize it.

I went to two League Challenge last weekend and got first place in one of them playing Volcanion for Expanded format. The deck went pretty smooth, as it should. I even played against Garbodor that day, but I kept using Lysandre to KO Trubbish before my opponent got Garbodor out. Even with Wobb in their active spot, as long as we can find Lysandre it's not that bad of a matchup.

Round one I played against Dark, and baby Yveltal was really good against me as he got him a turn where I couldn’t retreat and use my attack again so I had to dig for Lysandre to try to take Yveltal out of the Active in order to retreat my Pokémon with Keldeo-EX combined with Float Stone. I got a quick comeback by knocking out any Pokémon-EX with only one attack and didn’t even have to worry about taking prizes on those baby Yveltal.

Round two I played against Trevenant, and got a quick Volcanion-EX ready to attack and on my second turn I KO'd his only Trevenant making him having no other Trevenant on the board. He quickly got another one and since I didn’t have Float Stone on my board I had to Lysandre to be able to use Trainers to get the Float Stone on the board. As I got it and used VS Seeker to get back my Lysandre he scooped.

Round three I played against Mega Manectric/Garb/Wobb. My opponent started with Wobb and I had kind of a dead hand with only Lysandre. She made a little misplay by attaching a Float to the active Wobb and made me have an out by Lysandre the Trubbish with no float and played Shaymin-EX for 2 and still got nothing. However, since she didn’t have a way to retreat she had to N to dig for it and gave me a way better hand, and still no Float Stone to retreat the Trubbish. I took a KO with baby Volcanion on that and the turn after got another KO on a Trubbish with the same baby Volcanion while powering up 2 Volcanion-EX to follow up for the last 4 prizes. It was easy to one shot every Mega without Garb stopping Steam Up.

Round four I played against Ho-Oh/Jolteon. I actually have nothing on my deck against Jolteon what is another reason why Ranger should be in the deck. But I got an insane start: T1 I powered up a Volcanion-EX with 3 Energy, and he had to retreat the Jolteon and Bench another Pokémon-EX so I wouldn’t Bench him. I missed the Lysandre to KO the Jolteon EX so that could’ve got out of hand, but fortunately for me he just did the same where he Benched another Pokémon-EX, Retreated, and attached again to the Jolteon, but this time I had Lysandre to KO the Jolteon since it was the one threat in his Deck. Since he didn’t get to attack with it, I won.

I also went to another LC but got demolished by baby Yveltal so I had to add an AZ. I still got to 1 Prize against him but there was no way I could deal with 4 of those Yveltal if I’m not drawing Lysandre every turn.

We've talked a lot about Volcanion, so before I call it quits let's take a quick look to another really good deck in Standard: Mewtwo.

The reason I want to talk about this deck is because I think it has a good matchup against Volcanion. It's an option if you don't want to play the fire deck yourself. This is another tier one deck since it one shots a lot of the Pokémon in the format since they use more than 3 Energy. It powers up attackers pretty fast, and also disrupts a lot of decks by using the Stadiums and Garbodor, as well as moving the damage with damage change.

Here’s a list so we can talk about it:

This is the list I’ve been playing with, and it’s really strong against Volcanion but if you want to make sure to beat it I would consider adding a second Parallel City or Silent Lab.

Usually the deck struggles against decks that are able to OHKO the Mewtwo-EX such as Rayquaza, Volcanion, Rainbow Road or even Scizor because of all the Energy-removal that they usually play.

Those are a lot of decks in the meta and most of them are really popular too, but there's always a way to beat them. That is where Garbodor and the stadiums come in. Parallel City is a ridiculous card against Rayquaza-EX and Rainbow Road. I would definitely add the second one if I had enough room in the deck. Making your opponent having three or fewer Benched Pokémon is game changing because it makes it impossible for them to OHKO Mewtwo. They can always counter it, but at least it gets to discard most of the Pokémon and makes them have the Stadium. This combined with N for at least 4 and a Knockout can be devastating, since Garbodor prevents Shaymin-EX's Set Up Ability, making it hard for the opponent to find the cards they need to return the KO or power up another attacker.

As for Scizor, it's such a horrible matchup because not only do they have a ton of ways to discard Energy with Trainers and Mega Scizor’s attack, they also aren't affected by Garb as most times they play their own Garb. They also have Resistance to Psychic, so that makes it really hard for the Mewtwo deck to take any Prizes. Although I don’t think Scizor is a really good deck, I would say it's tier 2 or 3, so I wouldn’t be too afraid of playing against that matchup.

The Volcanion matchup is all about having Garb or any of the disruption Stadiums in play. Parallel City needs to be turned with the red side facing our opponent so Volcanion deals less 20 and that’s a huge deal since Volcanion has a hard time having Fighting Fury Belt on since they need to keep retreating and with 210 HP minus 20 makes so they actually need to discard 4 Energy in order to OHKO a Mega Mewtwo. Keep in mind that Mewtwo one shots Volcanion if both Pokémon have 3 Energy on them and no Fighting Fury Belt, and we also have Garb in this deck that might make it impossible for them to ever one shot a Mewtwo.

Whenever your opponent is trying to two shot a Mewtwo he’s going to have a hard time doing it since we play Shrine of Memories we can use Damage Change to heal our Mewtwo. Usually the best Pokémon to use damage change is Shaymin-EX because we can be healing to full HP and taking a KO.

As for the list, these are some cards that I would like to include:

Enhanced Hammer: Mewtwo is a really good deck, and there's not a lot we can do against mirror to have an advantage since we already teched a Psyburn Mewtwo for this matchup so Hammers would definitely help.

Third N: this deck just suffers from some inconsistency. Not all decks have the same consistency even if they have the same number of Trainers. Garbodor variants that play 7 Tools and 4 or 5 Stadiums and four Mega Turbo have a lot of unplayable cards. By this I mean that they play cards that can't be played out of hand at any time, they require specific board conditions. These cards clog up your hand. There's actually a list of cards that usually makes decks more inconsistent since we’re not able to play them down whenever we can, and we might see the same card over and over again and there's nothing we can do about it.

Everyone is starting to realize the true potential of Volcanion in both Standard and Expanded, and I think it will be a big contender in upcoming events. So if you’re looking to counter Volcanion I feel like Mega Mewtwo is the best option for Standard.

As for my season, I may be going to Florida Regionals, but I am definitely going to Philadelphia Regionals, which is Expanded. If you see me there, make sure to say hi! In the meantime, you can connect with me on Twitter and Twitch. Thanks, and see you next time!


[+12] okko


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