Most of you don’t know me, so I will quickly introduce myself. I am Jeffrey Blake. This is my first year of competitive play and I have been working with Jeremiah as a testing partner for all of the 2017-2018 format. We have worked together on several of the deck concepts that he has covered in previous articles. Today I am going to discuss a deck that I have been piloting for the last two months, to higher success than any meta or off-meta deck I have played to date: Steel Valley.
I piloted the deck to a third place finish at a League Cup, multiple first places at League Challenges, a 5-2 record in a 96-player online tournament, and an 81% win-rate over 93 tracked games (unfiltered tracking of games played both on PTCGO and in live tournaments). If I had gone to a Standard regionals this month, I would have felt confident taking this deck.
The deck was originally inspired by a Silvally/Lapras deck that Jeremiah introduced to our group. I stuck with it for weeks after he had moved on, and placed third with it in another 96-player tournament. I loved the way that it played, but it had a few problems:
- Grass weakness and a low damage cap made the common Zoroark/Golisopod matchup quite tough
- Energy requirements made Gardevoir a tough matchup
- Low damage caps made anything that had over 200 HP without a common weakness into a bit of a problem
As a way to deal with these problems, I decided to switch from Water typing to Metal and incorporate a few things from Ultra Prism. These changes meant that we had options to avoid all common weaknesses (against Fire decks and Fighting decks, you often play Celesteela as your main attacker due to Lightning weakness and Fighting resistance). Here is the list I settled on:
- 3 Type:Null
- 3 Silvally GX
- 3 Tapu Lele GX
- 1 Clefairy
- 1 Oranguru
- 2 Celesteela GX
- 1 Solgaleo Prism Star
- 1 Dusk Mane Necrozma GX
- 4 Professor Sycamore
- 4 Cynthia
- 1 N
- 2 Guzma
- 2 Brigette
- 1 Mallow
- 4 Ultra Ball
- 4 Max Elixir
- 2 Choice Band
- 2 Fighting Memory
- 2 Psychic Memory
- 1 Rescue Stretcher
- 2 Field Blower
- 10 Metal Energy
- 4 Double Colorless Energy
A lot of the choices here come down to prioritization and what you face most often in your local meta. I will also note that every single pokemon we play can be an attacker in the right situation. That flexibility means that it can take some practice to figure out which attacker(s) to use in each matchup. With that in mind, let’s go through the different choices and reasons for them.
3/2-3 Silvally line: Despite the other powerful pokemon in the list, Silvally tends to be your primary attacker for many early game attacks. It is ridiculously powerful to get One-Hit Knockouts (OHKOs) with Turbo Drive (assuming you can find the memories) while simultaneously accelerating energy. Most fighting attackers cannot easily and consistently hit 110 damage in the early game to take an OHKO on you. The only time I actually dropped down to a 3/2 line instead of a 3/3 was when my meta started playing increased amounts of Greninja due to showings at Regionals. If you expect to face Greninja, swapping one Silvally out for Giratina takes a 40/60 matchup into an almost auto win.
1 Clefairy: I firmly believe that Clefairy belongs in every deck that combines DCE and energy acceleration. The number of matchups this one card can swing is enormous, including Duskmane, Buzzwole, Lycanroc, Ho-oh, Turtonator, Gardevoir, Bulu, Solgaleo, and others.
1-2 Celesteela GX: Celesteela was first added to avoid fire weakness. It also provides a strong way to hit consistently for Metal weakness, vastly improving matchups against Gardevoir, Sylveon, Alolan Ninetales, and Glaceon/Zoroark. Fighting resistance coupled with 200 HP can make it a great resource against fighting decks as even with all modifiers they will often just barely whiff the 220 damage needed to take a knockout. Finally, Celesteela is the only Pokémon we play that can consistently hit 130 damage against Greninja, so use it in this matchup, and when possible use his GX to KO a Break (though if you play Giratina, you may want an earlier GX just to get Giratina if it is prized). Default to playing 2 Celesteela unless your meta dictates otherwise (as below).
1-2 Dusk Mane Necrozma GX: Dusk Mane is our heavy hitter for late game. Most games, we only need him once. You will typically get your final KO with him after other attackers have taken KOs in the earlier game while you power up Dusk Mane. Dusk Mane is clutch in Golisopod match-ups and Lycanroc/Zoroark matchups. If your meta has a high count of these two archetypes, play a second copy in place of one Celesteela.
1 Oranguru: Frequently we end up in matchups where only one type of tool is relevant. That means you will often be able to attach extraneous tools to Oranguru, Lele, or other pokemon. Between this, the number of easily played items, and the desire to maintain a couple of energy in the discard, we are often able to play our hand down to 1-2 cards. That means using Instruct nearly every turn is common. Oranguru also partners with Solgaleo prism to be a key attacker in Safeguard decks (such as Hoopa or Ninetales/stall). Remember, every pokemon can attack. Mill/stall decks are where Oranguru, Solgaleo prism, and even Type Null can really shine. In fact, if you face a lot of these decks, consider switching your Type Nulls to the Ultra Prism variety, so that you can hit an injured pokemon for 60 damage with just a DCE.
2-3 Tapu Lele: I tend toward playing fewer Leles than most people. 3 felt like too many for the Lapras deck, and I honestly never looked back from that until last weekend. Lately, I have been having an unusually high amount of brick hands, often with a Guzma in hand when it happens. I can confidently say that if I had played a third Lele over a third Guzma, I would have made top 8 or better for the second month in a row in the highly competitive online tournament I play.
1 Mallow/Skyla: The most often use for either of these cards is to find the correct memory exactly when you need it so that you can hit for weakness. The initial builds all played one Skyla, and that worked quite well. However, if you find that you can play your hand down as often as I experience, then Oranguru can make Mallow a strictly better option, enabling you to grab any card and simultaneously setup your next turn.
- Pal Pad: There is a strong argument to be made for playing Pal Pad in order to get more uses out of Guzma and other supporters such as Skyla, Mallow, or draw supporters.
- Super Rod: 10 basic energy is a low but reasonable number for making elixirs hit. However, you can vastly increase these chances by playing super rod to get your energy back. I originally played Super Rod, but dropped it to increase draw supporter counts. If you find a way to make it fit, it will help you in the mid/late game.
With Forbidden Light around the corner, we can take a look at things to come and how they might affect our deck.
- Beast Support: Beast Energy, Beast Ring, and Ultra Space can all help us. Boosting Celesteela’s damage by 30 can make it MUCH easier to hit relevant numbers on decks that we can’t hit for weakness. Beast Ring can provide insane energy acceleration for Dusk Mane. Depending on how far down the line we need to go, there are a lot of relevant changes that could come out as a result.
- Metal Frying Pan: In theory, this card can be valuable. In a meta that plays a lot of fire types, it might make Duskmane into a better attacker than Celesteela. However, for most decks that can OHKO (particularly the powerhouse decks in the coming format), Metal Frying Pan often fails to change the math.
- Ultra Necrozma GX is likely to be a very strong deck in the coming meta. Our current build struggles to keep up. Focusing more heavily on using Beast Support to quickly power up multiple Dusk Manes could help with this, but it might require more drastic measures.
- Buzzwole GX gains a lot of support from the same Beast Support we mentioned above, as well as cards like Diance Prism. That will make it infinitely easier for them to stream attackers, and hit higher numbers. This could spell trouble for our fighting weakness.
We’ll wrap up with a look at possible adjustments for the future. I am currently testing how things play with this Silvally skeleton paired with Psychic-type attackers. This enables Clefairy to take a 1-Hit Knockout on Ultra Necrozma GX while only discarding a single energy. That means that either they must spend the time and energy to knock out a single prize attacker OR they enable us to take a second KO with just a single additional attachment. Further, by playing Psychic attackers like the original Necrozma GX and Dawn Wings Necrozma GX, we just might be able to overcome the powerhouse of Buzzwole GX.