With Philadelphia Regionals right around the corner, many players are now shifting their focus to the Expanded format. We don’t typically see a big shift in the metagame from one Expanded Regionals to the next, which can make the format feel sort of stale and cause players to default to whatever deck their comfortable with. However, a combination of Greninja’s recent success and the release of Karen are certainly going to shake up the format quite a bit. Karen is going to allow some of the EX-based decks that couldn’t keep up in the Prize trade with Night March to see the light of day once again. Some players think Karen is actually going to make Night March unplayable, while others would adamantly disagree. Some players are also split on whether Greninja is a huge threat heading into Philadelphia or if the hype will die down once players start teching things like Garbodor and Archeops. Regardless of who ends up being correct, it clearly illustrates that the metagame is going to be filled with variety and a bit unpredictable.
While many players, including myself, are excited about playing in a metagame that appears to be wide open, it can be difficult to know exactly where to start. This is doubly true for any players that are newer to the game, as the huge card pool can be a bit overwhelming at first. My personal approach begins with accepting that there’s going to be some sort of counter to any archetype with such a huge card pool available. While it’s still fine to tech for some popular matchups we expect to see, the important takeaway is to not over-tech in an attempt to beat everything. Over-teching is going to make a deck too inconsistent to perform well over the course of a long tournament, leading to some disappointing losses in otherwise favorable matchups.
Next, I would personally recommend focusing on testing a few different archetypes that ideally have different good and bad matchups between one another. While in an ideal world we could playtest everything extensively, it’s simply impossible to find the time to play 50-100 games with ten or more viable decks. It’s certainly fine to pick up a deck for a handful of games to see if it’s worth investing more time in, but playing 10-20 games with every deck is going to be pretty sub-optimal. This means that going into Regionals a player has only played every matchup once or twice, or a player has a ton of experience in certain matchups, but is going to be figuring out other matchups on the fly. While I’ve certainly been guilty of picking up a deck last minute in an attempt to counter the metagame, any of my success is a combination of testing a similar idea in the past in addition to having experienced so many card interactions in my years of playing. I certainly don’t regret any of the crazy deck choices I’ve made in the past, but I definitely could have avoided a few mistakes in the early Swiss rounds or made a few more optimal card choices with a bit more preparation.
The reason why we want to focus on testing different archetypes, with different good and bad matchups, is that we want to avoid being pigeonholed into making a bad meta-call for the tournament. For example, if all our decks suffered from a bad Trevenant matchup and we find out last minute that Trevenant is going to be more popular than expected, we’ve already lost before the tournament has begun. We either have to dodge a ton of bad matchups throughout the day or will likely perform sub-optimally by switching to an untested deck last minute. If our decks take different bad matchups, we’re never going to be stuck making a bad meta-call if a deck gains a ton of hype seemingly overnight. Following this logic, it’s easy to see how having different favorable matchups across the decks we’re testing is very valuable. This allows us to essentially target specific decks as the metagame becomes more defined close to the date of the tournament, while still feeling very confident in our well tested deck.
Lastly, it’s important to think about which cards slots are flexible and how impactful certain techs are when testing different matchups. For example, this could mean comparing how often a deck beats Night March with Karen versus how often a deck beats Night March without Karen. Another possibility is how often an extra Enhanced Hammer makes the difference between closing out a game against a deck relying on Double Colorless Energy, such as M Rayquaza. Night March might end up still being a very difficult matchup with Karen, which would lead us to conclude that we should either accept the loss to Night March or tech additional cards to beat it. Testing with both one and two copies of Enhanced Hammer, we might find that we don’t actually beat a deck like M Rayquaza that much more often. This would allow us to conclude that we should cut the second Enhanced Hammer as it’s a win-more card, instead opting to play an extra consistency card that helps slightly in every matchup, or, perhaps, a more impactful tech card for a different matchup. Identifying which cards are underperforming is an important part of the testing process, as it allows us to both optimize our list in addition to opening up flexible card slots for any last minute techs before a tournament.
With all that being said, I’m in the middle of the testing process myself, trying to figure out the best play for Regionals next weekend. While there are a ton of viable decks in the metagame, I don’t think there’s very much value in making this article a deck list dump with a couple paragraphs for 10 or so decks. I’d either be pretending to be an expert on decks I have little experience with, or simply repeating information readily available elsewhere. Instead, I’m going to focus on discussing the two decks I’ve invested the most time in thus far, which are M Manectric and Trevenant. M Manectric has a ton of potential with the release of Karen, but I’m still tinkering with some creative builds outside of the Tool Drop version myself. I’ll likely be discussing M Manectric in my next article before Regionals once I put in more testing games in order to present a list I’m confident in.
On the other hand, Trevenant has been around Expanded for quite a while to many players’ dismay, as it’s never fun sitting across from a Turn 1 Trevenant with a hand full of Items. Despite not being a newcomer to the Expanded metagame, I still disagree with several card choices I see players making, which should make for a unique perspective on the deck.
Table of Contents
• Approaching Trevenant
• Traditional Trevenant
• Turbo Trevenant
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