Experts' corner

Rahul Reddy

The Steamy Expanded Format

Rahul goes over Expanded and his tournament report of St Louis Regionals with Volcanion-EX

14. 03. 2017 by Rahul Reddy


Hey there 60cards readers, it's me Rahul, back with another article. This time I'll be covering the Expanded format as a whole, leading up to Portland Regionals and recapping the most recent Regionals that took place in St Louis. Along with a recap, I'll be providing a tournament report and an in-depth analysis of my Volcanion decklist that I used to take a Top 4 finish at this tournament.

For those of you who enjoy visuals and videos, I'll be leaving a link here to my video where you can check out my report, but for those who love to read and enjoy the details, let us carry onwards!

Without further ado, here's my Third Place list.

3 Volcanion/4 Volcanion-EX

The fundamental core of any Volcanion-EX deck is to make sure you can fuel the board with Energy and use Volcanion's Steam Up Ability to do massive amounts of damage with a very low Energy requirement. Having three of the baby Volcanion was important in all stages of the game to build up the board and be able to constantly reset the Energy that are lost when a Volcanion-EX is Knocked Out.

2 Shaymin-EX/0 Jirachi-EX

All of these Pokémon-EX can be easily grabbed with Hoopa-EX, so the engine is very consistent and fast with a single Ultra Ball. Jirachi-EX is a must-have in almost any Expanded deck, but I chose to exclude the card because of Bench space. The deck already relies on having a myriad of Pokémon Benched: usually 2-3 Volcanion-EX, a single Volcanion, a Hoopa-EX, a Shaymin-EX, and maybe even a Keldeo-EX. With the need for all these things and an already fast draw engine, Jirachi seemed like the first cut to make when deciding the final list.

1-1 Starmie

The Starmie was a card that my testing partners and I were torn on leading up to the tournament. 6 of us took the Volcanion deck into the tournament, but only 3 of us played the Starmie line. While the card is insanely good when you set it up, you don't always set it up. Only having a 1-1 line and no recovery cards means that discarding a piece of the line early equals no Starmie for the whole game. In any game where I set up a Starmie, especially in a late game scenario, I would always be N-proof. I would always have the Energy needed for a Steam Up or simply to attach for the turn. The idea was to combat Item-lock. Starmie would provide the Energy recovery under Item-lock that Superior Energy Retrieval wouldn't be able to. The Staryu also has free Retreat which gave me options with the Max Elixirs and deciding what move to make for the turn without expending my Float Stone. If I had to go back and play the tournament again this is a line I would not cut. 

2 Colress/1 N

When it comes to shuffle-and-draw Supporters, N is one of the best cards in the game. When looking at Expanded, however, Colress becomes one of the best cards in its place. Being able to draw up to 16 cards is something that simply cannot be overlooked. The initial list had 2 N and 1 Colress but after realizing that the Volcanion deck was a quick deck that would almost never be falling behind, we cut down to 1 N and utilized Colress as a more potent draw Supporter.

2 Blacksmith

Volcanion has always had subpar results in Standard causing everyone to think the deck is bad, and I agree with a majority of them; the deck is bad in Standard. But in Expanded, Blacksmith exists. Blacksmith gives the deck firepower throughout all stages of the game and allows you to do 220 out of nowhere in a single turn. The power of this card cannot be underestimated and having 2 feels like too much, but only playing 1 felt like I was playing too few.

2 Superior Energy Retrieval

In Standard the card that is in every Volcanion decklist is Energy Retrieval, but why play a card that only gets you two Energy back when you can play a card that brings four back to your hand? With the power of Propagation, only one card is ever really being discarded, allowing you to conserve resources while getting value for 3-4 Steam Ups with a single card.

3 Sky Field/0 Rough Seas

Rough Seas allows Volcanion to have a shot against Trevenant decks, and negating spread damage or even healing a small margin against other decks can be huge throughout a game, like against Fright Night Yveltal. Ultimately, though, the Stadium decision came down to how important the early game setup phase would be. I deemed it to be the most important phase of the game. In the first 2 turns, if I don't have a complete board set up and am forced to play with a limited Bench, I will struggle. This was displayed in my Round 14 match vs Andrew Wamboldt on stream, which I'll talk about later, but Sky Field is crucial for early game setup and allowing you to abuse Hoopa-EX.

1 Dowsing Machine

The choice of ACE SPECs came down to Dowsing Machine, Computer Search and Scramble Switch. When weighing the options I looked at what each card could potentially become. Computer Search is an early Sky Field or Hoopa-EX and late game any resource in my deck. Dowsing is relatively useless in the early game, but after there are cards in the discard it becomes anything that has already been used, for example a 2nd Tool Scrapper, a 4th Sky Field or even a 3rd Superior Energy Retrieval. Scramble Switch is a cute Supporter that can allow you to power up a Volcanion-EX out of nowhere and take a few quick Prizes, but it offered nothing in consistency. The decision was a tough one but ultimately Dowsing made the cut because of how quickly I anticipated moving through my deck and how swiftly I would be burning resources.

Now that we've covered all the nitty gritty of the decklist, it's time for the full tournament report.

Day 0

Leading up to the event, my main discussion partners were Ryan Sabelhaus, Michael Slutsky, Grafton Roll, and Dan Richard. We usually sit in an XBox party and throw some ideas around until something sounds good, try it out and then decide if it is worth pursuing. Until about Wednesday before the event, I was set on Vespiquen/Flareon as the play because I anticipated a plethora of Toad and Yveltal decks to assert their dominance on the Expanded format, as they have done so time and time again. After discussing with a majority of players and teams what they were considering, I realized that Vileplume would be a popular pick for the weekend leaving Item-heavy decks like Vespiquen facing a problem. On Wednesday night before the event, Ryan said to me "Hey, why isn't Volcanion good in Expanded?" I responded that Greninja and Toad were problems for it and Ryan simply laughed and brushed off the idea of Greninja being popular. While talking that night, I threw together a rough draft on PTCGO and played a few games with it. The deck's consistency was unparalleled and I was stunned at how often I would set up and Blacksmith on the first turn. I, in turn, sent the decklist draft to both Ryan and Grafton and told them to play a series with it and instantly all of us knew that this was the play heading into the event. The list was rough to begin with, but we knew that this could make it through 14 rounds of play consistently.

Thursday before the event, all of us had met at Dan's apartment to play a few games and figure out how would like to approach the event and after building Volcanion and playing a few sets with it we were more than convinced. Friday we arrive at the event and after some quality Mexican food, the lot of us meet up with Azul GG, Brad Curcio, and Drew Bennett who were all on board the Volcanion hype train with us. As we perfected the list for the event we disagreed on the Starmie but otherwise shared a 58 card list heading into the event. My game plan was to hit the right matchups as Expanded goes or hit a bunch of Toad decks and drop to hang out with everyone.

Day 1

The first day of play rolls around and I was quite nervous to be playing a deck that was completely out of my comfort zone. I was used to playing decks that rely heavily on one-Prize attackers and this deck was something that employs big Pokémon-EX to play the game. Pairings for Round 1 go up and after exchanging pleasantries with each other I head to my seat to play my first round.

Round 1 vs Speed Dark

This matchup is extremely favorable as I can begin taking one-shots on his field before he can do it to me.

Game 1

The first game was a little close because I was forced to Bench a single Shaymin-EX without Sky Field out, leaving that Shaymin-EX stranded on my Bench. My opponent targeted it and after not whiffing a single Max Elixir and hitting a majority of his Dark Patches, he was able to compete with me in the one-shot war. He was left with a single Prize and no way to N me and I had the final Superior Energy Retrieval so I could close out a close game.

Game 2

This game was a complete sweep as my opponent played his entire first turn hitting Energy on his board and setting up as Turbo Dark does. He had 4 Energy on his board by the end of his first turn and he passed with a Darkrai-EX Active. I was able to dig through my deck and get a Turn 1 KO on his Darkrai-EX, using a combination of Steam Ups and Blacksmith. My opponent swung into my Volcanion-EX hoping to take a knockout the following turn. But I was able to set up a Keldeo+Float Stone combo so I could keep resetting my Volcanion-EX's attack. After taking my 2nd KO and my 4th Prize of the game I knew the game was sealed up. My opponent began to Hex and hope for the best but I Retreated into the Volcanion and just set up until he was out of Hex Maniacs and I took the game. (1-0)

Round 2 vs Dark/Dragons

Game 1

The first game I went first allowing me to set up my board in a way that I could take a KO on whatever my opponent brought out as a threat and he came at me with an early Salamence-EX. After being able to respond to his Turn 1 Salamence and taking another swift KO the following turn, he conceded and we moved to the second game of the series.

Game 2

This game he went much more aggressively with the Salamence-EX and I was unable to play around it. I went down 4 Prizes before I could deal with the Salamence but luckily for me I had set up 2 Volcanion-EX that could deal with his entire board. He proceeded to Shaymin-EX for 6 fresh cards to find one of his last two VS Seekers and Lysandre my Shaymin-EX to seal out the game but was unable to and I was able to take the KO on my turn. (2-0

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