Cup Considerations

So in 2 weeks time we are hosting our first ever League Cup in Southampton Pokémon League. In a departure from our regularly scheduled madness, it is going to be in Standard format.

The last Standard event (barring pre-release on the 27th, where I was judging anyway) I attended was Reading League Cup. As you can see here, didn’t go too well!

There’s only 5 decks I’m considering unless something amazing comes out of the woodwork

1) Gardevoir-GX

 

Aka ‘Brokenvoir’ – Gardevoir with Max Potions. For some reason this has fallen out of favour despite no actual prevalence of metal in the format. However it does suffer from a lack of consistency, and an inability to hit for big numbers (Zoroark’s or Golisopod’s 210, even Buzzwole’s 190) without investing a lot of energy.

On the plus side it can have Gallade which greatly helps against the aforementioned Zoroarks and generally works by having a more efficient Energy:Damage ratio (1 energy for 30 damage is good, 1 energy for 30 damage + 30 for each of your opponents energy is much better). Additionally Gardevoir is resistant to Dark making Zoroark need a 3 hit KO without a Choice Band. There’s a lot of psychic tech too though which hurts Gallade

I find that the deck can stall out if you loose an overinvested Gardevoir and then fail to recover due to the lack of energy. It is not a deck I would like to play against, and due to the lack of meta prevalence, I’ve not really played against it a lot except at Bournemouth’s League Challenge.

2) Buzzwole-GXBuzzwole-GX

I want to like Superfly. 30+30 to the bench for Fighting Energy is pretty strong, but the Fighting EnergyFighting EnergyFighting Energy requirement for anything else hinders reliable escalation.  I don’t know if it needs mixing with Po Town, Tapu Koko Promo and Espeon-EX to run in a separate kind of spread deck, rather than the current partnership with Midnight Lycanroc-GX. Online and further afield some strong players do highly rate this deck but I’m not those players and I cannot necessarily replicate their success with this deck in a different meta.

Accordingly, I am going to test it out in the next few weeks and I really, really want it to work – I’m just not sure what to couple it with – Lycanroc is a liability to Golisopod and the deck rarely hits for max damage even when Bloodthirsty Eyes pulls in a victim to get those OHKOs. Garbotoxin might help shut down opponents, and Espeon-EX starts making it into a spread deck. Zoroark might make it a more efficient version of Pawpatrol (Fly-snapper?) although the energy types don’t really synergise.

3) Tapu Bulu-GXtapu bulu

My Po Town amigo Michael Feeney put me onto this deck well before Christmas and I have been trading for the parts to give myself the option. This has been around since the last rotation thanks to Vikavolt and is consistently able to hit for 120 base +60 (Discard Energy) +30 (Choice Band) +20 (Prof. Kukui) knocking out any format-relevant threat.

 

Having been beaten by it at Reading in round 4 and having faced against it early in the meta (Cat plays this deck) I know how vicious it can be. However it does suffer from bricking like any comb0-based deck, affectionately termed ‘Bulu hands’. The key with Michael’s variant is to improve consistency by having multiple outs via Skyla et al.

However I’m still not sure that anything is more consistent than TordPod (Zoroark / Golisopod with loads of trade and setup cards)

4) TordPodGolisopod GX

This deck rarely hits for more than 120 , but is extremely consistent and requires only 1 attachment to do 120 damage. 4 Brigette, 4 Puzzle of Time and lots of Trade abilities makes the deck highly efficient. A couple of hammers can hinder Paw-patrol or Buzzroc variants. The low energy investment allows for the option of Max Potions and techs like Mewtwo – as used by Joe Bernard (Omnipoke) to win both Cardiff and Reading League Cups.

 

Xurkitree GX5) Anti-Meta Troll Deck

With the exception of Bulu and Volcanion, every standard deck runs DCE, fighting decks have strong energy. Some run only DCE. To this end Xurkitree and Stardust Jirachi can cause severe problems. Couple with the fact that every deck except Greninja uses either EX or GX Pokémon too, baby Hoopa can indefinitely wall. Combine with hammers, team flare grunts, and other trolling cards, there’s probably a very Yoshi style deck that could do well if piloted by a capable player.

A part of me would like to make this deck but I don’t feel that I have the time needed to learn (or contempt for my fellow players) to play this deck well!

Conclusion

Unless something really goes crazy I’m probably going to look at TordPod or Bulu. Grass is a good matchup in terms of type advantage, although each has weakness (Pod to volcanion, Vikavolt and Zoroark to fighting). I need a deck that can carry most of the weight since I cannot rely on statistical outcome of things like elixirs or even finding energy.

What Deck To Play?

What deck should you play?

Considerations

There’s many different factors to consider when choosing a deck to play in any format. In many ways the Expanded format is less subject to the whims of the local metagame. Today we’ll look at the following considerations which are worth taking into account when deciding which particular deck you should play.

  • Metagame
  • Playstyle
  • Flexibility
  • Expense

Metagame

Generally the first factor to consider in Standard format, the metagame is an important but not as an important factor in Expanded. In Standard a weaker, clever, anti-meta deck with a really good player can dominate (Audino-EX 2016 anyone?). In Expanded such a deck would get crushed as the power level of each deck is simply much superior.

This isn’t to say that a careful analysis of the metagame and running a good choice isn’t worthy of consideration, simply that it’s less of a factor in Expanded where the format is more mature and the metagame changes more slowly.

For example if no one is running fighting, and there’s a lot of Yveltal then Raikou/Eels is a pretty good choice. However even if there’s not a lot of Yveltal, this doesn’t invalidate Raikou/Eels by any means.

PlaystyleJunk Hunt Sableye

Generally we play games for fun – weather that’s fun from winning, socialising, creating or simply playing. The only factor your deck doesn’t influence is the social side. (I’m reliably informed that everyone will hate me for playing Junk Hunt Sableye!)

Some decks win by taking 6 prizes faster than the opponent, some by decking out the opponent, others by limiting their options. A key factor in deciding what deck to play in expanded is looking at how the deck will play out.

Flexibility

Taking the previous two factors into account, can the deck deal with a variety of threats and matchups? If you have a deck that randomly wins 50% of the time but almost automatically looses the other 50% you may need to reconsider how it works. Unless of course you are happy with the 50% win rate!

Some decks can only be played in a very specific way (Junk Hunt Sableye for example!) whereas others are more flexible. Some decks are more of an archetype (Turbo Darkrai for example), which adhere to a set core of cards that work together but are less fussy about some of the other Pokémon and Trainers in the deck.

Almost every deck will have variations. People constantly make little changes to even the top decks in all formats because only by trying out new things can we overcome new obstacles.

ExpenseTropical Beach Promo

Unfortunately for most of us money makes the world go around! Consequently some decks are more expensive than others to construct. They may require a lot of hard to find EX/GX or cards that only appeared in limited releases such as promos. The textbook example is Tropical Beach – a promo card that was only distributed at Worlds events. There is a Groudon-EX that requires FOUR!

A good tool for comparing deck prices is the Pokemon Goldfish website. Don’t be put off by some of the high prices for some decks. You may be able to substitute trainers for a functional reprint, or a similar effect.

Lele-GX. While Lele is more expensive (making Jirachi cheaper!) it is also easier to get hold of as it is in a widely printed set in the standard format. Shaymin has dropped dramatically in price due to imminent rotation.

A main attractor for expanded is that it is arguably cheaper in the long run. You may only need a couple of cards from each new set to stay ‘up to date’. Your deck is unlikely to be rendered obsolete by any one (or two or three..) sets. Cards are still relatively easy to acquire and not as expensive as the legacy format which tends to be more ‘solved’ (IE there are only a limited number of viable decks).

While worlds and many of the top tournaments are in Standard format, expanded is a great way to play the game casually or for leagues as it allows a lot more freedom – 99% of the time, a Standard deck will be legal in the Expanded format – notable exceptions being Archeops, Forest of Giant plants and Lysandres Trump Card. (Which we covered here)

Our local League plays Expanded except for special events. Whereas the next town over is Standard all the way. If you’re looking to upgrade from casual Pokémon TCG but aren’t sure about committing to the time/cost of Standard you could do a lot worse than try Expanded. It is not the flashiest of formats but it can teach you a lot about the game and is a lot more tactical and fun due to less reliance on judging the metagame.

Still Can’t Decide?

If you’re still not sure on what deck to even consider you could do a lot worse than trying this handy flowchart:

Expanded Deck Flowchart