While Evolutions is an amazing set in terms of artwork and nostalgia, many of the cards likely aren’t going to have any impact competitively. At the same time, I’d still expect a fairly significant shift in the Standard metagame for these upcoming Regionals. These thoughts might seem to contradict one another at first glance, especially when we consider that the pool of competitive cards only has a few notable additions. However, we have to remember that the success of Darkrai-EX/Giratina-EX, Vileplume, and M Gardevoir-EX took a majority of players by surprise. This means that players were discounting these archetypes during both playtesting and settling on which deck to ultimately pilot. The archetypes that dominated Orlando and Liverpool Regionals are certainly going to stay somewhat relevant, but it would be quite naïve to believe that the results will repeat themselves now that these decks each have more of a target heading into the next prestigious tournament.
It’s next to impossible to predict exactly what will rise to the top, which is reflected in the disagreements between tier lists and the lack of a clear deck to beat. However, we can still make some logical conclusions in regards to trends in popularity for several archetypes. Assuming a player has the time to get comfortable with more than one deck, the inability to predict trends in the metagame and adapt accordingly might be the biggest factor that prevents them from becoming a top player. Nobody is going to get it right 100% of the time and I’ve certainly made several metagame calls, or even more minor tech choices, that each seemed quite silly in hindsight. The key to really improving is to disregard any in-game misfortunes once an event is over and, instead, attempt to honestly reflect on what the best 60-card list would have been. Following that process, we can then look back at the information we had available at the time in an attempt to see what incentivized players to make the deck choices that they ultimately did. While it can certainly be frustrating for some players to dwell on their losses, going through this process is going to drastically improve anyone’s ability to recognize the patterns in the metagame, allowing them to make more accurate predictions as a result.
In my opinion, the likely increase in M Gardevoir-EX will have the biggest impact on the Standard format. The fact that M Gardevoir-EX gains a significant boost via Dragonite-EX, there are now deck lists readily available for players to test, and the deck has a favorable Darkrai-EX/Giratina-EX matchup, all point to an upward trend in M Gardevoir-EX decks. I definitely don’t think M Gardevoir-EX is the best play at the moment, but just the fact that it’s getting so much hype means that some other archetypes become much less attractive in terms of deck choice. When we also consider the success of Darkrai-EX/Giratina-EX in Orlando, M Mewtwo-EX really ends up being the biggest loser and will likely see a decline in play as a result. M Mewtwo-EX was previously one of the decks to beat in Standard, as it appeared to have virtually no unfavorable matchups, but now the reality is that there’s an atrocious M Gardevoir-EX matchup to deal with due to the Psychic weakness. Even if we make the argument that M Gardevoir-EX isn’t going to see a drastic increase in play, Darkrai-EX/Giratina-EX is still a troublesome matchup for M Mewtwo-EX and the theoretical lack of M Gardevoir-EX would just make Darkrai-EX/Giratina-EX a more attractive choice.
Darkrai-EX/Giratina-EX is definitely still a deck to prepare for, but I’d also expect it to start trending downward in popularity. The deck was initially very successful because it was countering a very different metagame in Orlando. However, M Gardevoir-EX and Yveltal/Garbodor have both become relevant and are troublesome matchups for the deck. I’d expect Yveltal/Garbodor to become the dark variant of choice due to much more solid matchups in the current metagame, which is reflected in the most recent European results. I doubt the deck will have quite so many Top 8 finishes at the next Regionals, as the target on Yveltal/Garbodor keeps growing larger. At the same time, I’d much rather pilot Yveltal/Garbodor than M Gardevoir-EX if I had to choose between the two.
The other three decks that I believe could see an uptick in popularity, in addition to having the most potential in my personal opinion, are M Rayquaza-EX, M Scizor-EX, and Vileplume. It really comes down to predicting the metagame more accurately as Regionals draws closer and more information is available. If M Gardevoir-EX and Yveltal/Garbodor scare away many of the Darkrai-EX/Giratina-EX decks, while pushing the ones that remain to the bottom tables, the stage is set for M Rayquaza to put up a strong performance. I’ll be updating my M Rayquaza-EX article with a post-Evolutions list that includes Dragonite-EX in the near future, but many of the concepts that put my pre-Evolutions M Rayquaza-EX list a step ahead remain the same. M Scizor-EX can potentially thrive if Volcanion ends up being a small enough portion of the metagame. The potential spike in M Gardevoir-EX makes M Scizor-EX seem like an attractive play, especially when we consider that it already has at least a few favorable matchups in the metagame. If players anticipate only facing one Volcanion-EX deck on average over the course of 9 rounds, M Scizor-EX could become an under-the-radar choice. I still have to experiment more with the deck myself, but playing it alongside Garbodor and some sort of Regice counter seems like the direction to go right now. Fright Night Yveltal can be annoying to knock out, so I would suggest investing the most time trying to tilt the Yveltal/Garbodor matchup.
Vileplume is the deck I’ll be elaborating on in this article as I’ve put the most testing into it and believe it is still extremely underrated at the moment. Some players will certainly be inspired to play Vileplume with the second place list available, but it certainly won’t be dominant in terms of popularity. This is essential for Vileplume to thrive as it functions by trying to establish an “invincible” Pokémon, or in other words an attacker that can’t be damaged by the opponent, which is a strategy that can easily be thwarted if players devote a few slots teching for the matchup. While some decks will play a single Pokémon Ranger to make the matchup closer, it simply isn’t worth it for anybody to sacrifice more consistency than that in every other matchup in order to crush Vileplume a majority of the time. This is simply because Vileplume doesn’t make up a large enough percentage of the metagame. I’d argue that a player is more likely to just play Vileplume themselves if they really feel the deck is that broken.
My goal is to simplify the testing process for anybody currently considering Vileplume, as well as those players who are perhaps inspired to try the deck for the first time. This archetype really has a plethora of options, particularly in terms of Pokémon, which can quickly become overwhelming for somebody testing every matchup in search of the perfect combination of cards. I’m going to start off the discussion by debunking some common misconceptions surrounding the Vileplume, including a major flaw with the current builds of the deck. After that, I’ll focus on highlighting the key cards in my personal list, followed by discussing additional tech options, and then finally making sure to give a breakdown of the common matchups.
Table of Contents
I) Debunking Vileplume
II) Potential Pitfalls
III) Vileplume and Friends
Many of the major reasons that are causing players to dismiss Vileplume as a Tier 2 deck seem to stem from some combination of testing with suboptimal lists and not approaching the deck correctly. The win condition of Vileplume in most matchups is to establish an “invincible” attacker, ideally without giving up too many Prizes so that the opponent doesn’t have Lysandre as an out to steal the game. The Item lock is critical to limiting our opponent’s use of VS Seeker, as we want to prevent our opponent from stealing the game by recycling Lysandre, as well as the potential tech Pokémon Ranger. In certain matchups, the Item lock is also critical in ensuring Mew-EX is almost always able to attack. We’re preventing our opponent from recycling Hex Maniac via VS Seeker, as well as attaching a Tool to Garbodor. Lastly, the Item lock limits the amount of attackers a deck like Greninja can prepare over the course of the game, which is essential when we consider that our opponent can play around any “invincible” attacker with an ideal board state.
This is a very different approach compared to the Vespiquen/Vileplume decks of the recent past. By contrast, this archetype was built to nearly always establish a Turn 1 Item lock while utilizing Vespiquen quickly close out the game, as well as potentially to create favorable Prize trades against an-EX deck that manages to get somewhat set up. For better or worse, many of the matchups were decided on the opening flip. Either the opposing player couldn’t setup without a turn of Items, or the opposing player was able to use their turn of Items in order to string together a chain of Hex Maniac so that Vespiquen/Vileplume could never get setup itself.
The key takeaway is to recognize that the current Vileplume builds in Standard have a very different path to victory. We are, of course, certainly capable of stealing games with the Turn 1 Item lock, but this only seems to happen roughly one third of the time in practice. The current Vileplume builds just don’t have the same turbo engine that Vespiquen/Vileplume once did. However, this is perfectly acceptable as every matchup is still very winnable, with a few still being outright favorable. In most matchups, we simply have to charge the attacker that our opponent doesn’t have a solid answer to, while also establishing Vileplume over the course of the next few turns. And sure, our win-rate with the deck is definitely going be better going first. We’re unlikely to drop a bunch of Prizes with the first Energy attachment, as well as occasionally just locking our opponent out of the game. But it’s pretty naïve to just draw the parallel to Vespiquen/Vileplume and assume it’s a Tier 2 deck that needs to go first to win.
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