What’s up, readers? I’m here with an Expanded article to prepare you for the upcoming regionals in Toronto. I’m going to go over the most recent Expanded event, as well as the deck that is my number one choice heading into Toronto.
Last time we saw the Expanded format was at the Dallas Regional Championships, where Wailord & Magikarp GX had just been released and had a phenomenal showing with eight finishes in the Top 32. We also saw a resurgence of Zoroark/Golisopod as both Russell Laparre and Dean Nezam made Top 8, with Dean going on to win the event. Team DDG and friends continued to play Zoroark/Seismitoad but fell short when Caleb Gedemer lost in the finals. With that said, since then we have had the Team Up set released, and four cards banned from the Expanded format including Lusamine, Maxie’s Hidden Ball Trick, Unown “DAMAGE,” and Delinquent.
I believe the recent bans are really going to shake up the Meta for Toronto. Delinquent and Lusamine were both banned because of the combos they enabled, with Lusamine giving an infinite game-state along with shuffle draw Supporters like N, and it was also used in stall and control decks to use Supporters like Plumeria or Team Flare Grunt repeatedly. Delinquent and Unown “DAMAGE” were both banned likely in part due to the release of Gengar & Mimikyu GX, which would allow for combos such as Ace Trainer into Delinquent after using Gengar & Mimikyu’s “Horror House” GX attack, or using Gengar’s GX attack on turn one, then pulling off the Unown “DAMAGE” one turn win combo with Weavile and Reuniclus. Maxie’s Hidden Ball Trick was banned because of the release of Omastar and Kabutops, which both have Abilities that stop your opponent from playing specific cards like Items or Supporters.
Since the release of Team Up, we’ve seen the Lightning types dominating events and Zoroark/Lucario making a showing by placing second at both the Australian Intercontinental, and the Collinsville Regional Championship. Going into Expanded these decks will remain powerful as they gain some great tools: PikaRom gains Shaymin EX and Max Elixir making it even more aggressive and harder to keep up with, while Zoroark/Lucario gains cards like Sky Field and Iris, which allow Zoroark to hit the big numbers and start one-shotting the big Tag Teams.
Here’s a list of the decks and how I would rank them going into Toronto Regionals:
- Archie’s Wailord
- Turbo PikaRom
- Fighting decks
As you can see, I have neglected to put decks such as Zoroark/Control, Vespiquen, Rayquaza and ZoroPod on the list because I feel these decks have all lost too much to be viable at this point, or are simply outclassed by another deck on the list. Now let’s get into the rankings of the list.
I have Archie’s Wailord at number one because this deck had an amazing showing in Dallas, and with how the Meta is shifting it is only getting stronger. Decks like ZoroGarb can’t handle it as well anymore because their tech slots have to be focused on decks like PikaRom or else they won’t win that matchup. Wailord also has a very good matchup against any Fighting deck, and goes about 50/50 into PikaRom with proper techs, such as Kingdra GX.
I put PikaRom as second both because it is so absurdly aggressive and because it is new, so a good list will go a long way in the event. With Max Elixir, Tapu Koko Prism Star and Thunder Mountain it is not uncommon to see a turn one “Full Blitz” forcing your opponent to stare down six Energy on turn one.
Zoroark/Garbodor is coming in at third on the list. This deck is just pure consistency with a bit of room for techs. ZoroGarb has been dominant in Expanded this whole season and will continue to be so, but players will have to adjust their lists to deal with the increase in Fighting and PikaRom decks. With proper teching, I think Zoroark could be favored against PikaRom OR Archie’s, but I don’t think it’s possible to do both without sacrificing too much consistency.
Drampa/Garb was a deck built last season designed to beat Zoroark and it’s still here. The deck does have some natural consistency issue just from being a “Garbotoxin” deck, but is still a very powerful deck overall. The heavy Sigilyph GX count is something we saw players start to include in Dallas, and we even saw Blaine Hill reach Top 4 with a list including two copies of the card.
As for the Fighting decks, I feel like they are all naturally pretty strong but don’t have the most amazing matchups, nor are they extremely consistent. PikaRom is weak to Fighting of course, as well as Zoroark, but both these decks have natural counters to Fighting such as Flash Energy for PikaRom and “Trashalanche” Garbodor for Zoroark. Fighting also has a very negative Wailord matchup, which is something you should probably avoid going into this event.
Now let’s get into my top pick for Toronto Regionals, Vileplume, Aromatisse, Pyroar, Ninetales, Gengar & Mimikyu GX, Celebi & Venusaur GX, and Zeraora GX, or as I like to call it, “Vileplume box.” The idea behind the deck is to use Gengar’s GX attack, then on your next turn Rare Candy into a Vileplume to completely shut your opponent out of Items. That’s not the only strategy with the deck since it also runs Aromatisse, which allows you to move Fairy Energy around in any way you like allowing you to play only Rainbow and Prism Energy while running any tech-attackers you would want. You also have AZ, so when your opponents start attacking into your big Tag Team Pokémon you can “Fairy Transfer” the Energy off your Active, AZ, then use use Zeraora GX’s Ability to retreat back into your attacker.
Here’s the list:
2 Gengar & Mimikyu GX
Gengar & Mimikyu GX is one of the backbone cards to the deck and is a huge reason the deck is good. You want to use Gengar’s GX attack on turn one or two to stop your opponent from playing cards on their turn. This way, on your second or third turn you can Rare Candy into Vileplume without ever letting your opponent play the game. Gengar is also a great attacker in a lot of matchups. The “Poltergeist” attack does 50 damage times the amount of Trainer cards in your opponent’s hand, so in combination with Vileplume’s Ability, your opponent should have plenty of Trainers for your attack to do some big damage. Another advantage to Gengar is the Fighting resistance, which makes it amazing against decks like Buzzwole/Lycanroc and Lucario.
Aromatisse is what really makes this deck strong, allowing you to play cards like Celebi & Venusaur GX with AZ as a healing effect to abuse the huge amounts of HP your attackers have. Aromatisse lets the deck handle matchups it would otherwise lose if it were purely a Gengar deck.
This line might seem a bit thin considering it’s so important to the decks strategy, but since Gengar’s GX attack stops the opponent from being able to Guzma your Oddish, and Ninetales GX’s Ability can grab you whatever cards you need to get out Vileplume a 2-2 is all really you need. You could probably make an argument for a one-of Gloom, but I feel it’s not needed and that the spot would be better used somewhere else. Vileplume’s Ability is the reason the deck is played, making it so neither player can play any Item cards, which powers up Gengar’s “Poltergeist” attack and just stops your opponents from being able to play their deck.
1-2 Alolan Ninetales GX
This line might also seem a little strange, but that’s because this deck also plays a Ditto Prism Star, which functions as a second Vulpix while also being able to evolve into our other Stage 1 Pokémon. Ninetales, while it can attack probably won’t be doing so. It’s really only in the deck to ensure that you can get the Vileplume into play after using Gengar’s GX attack.
2 Celebi & Venusaur GX
This is the main attacker in both the Zoroark/Garbodor and Archie’s Wailord matchups. Venusaur can hit for massive damage and even one-hit a Wailord GX, and it also has an amazing first attack, which allows you to put your opponent into some awkward situations because of the confusion.
This is only in here for the PikaRom matchup, since that deck has no way to knock out a Pyroar. The way you go about using Pyroar would be to use Gengar’s GX attack so they can’t Guzma, and then evolve your Litleo into Pyroar, and so long as you don’t bench anything else you’ve won the game.
1 Ditto Prism Star
This is pretty self-explanatory since you play three different Stage 1s, and Ditto Prism gives a nice versatile way to evolve into any one of these Stage 1s in any given situation.
1 Zeraora GX
Like Ninetales, Zeraora can technically be used to attack but you likely won’t be attacking with it very often. Zeraora gives any Pokémon with Lightning Energy attached free retreat, so when combined with Aromatisse you will have access to retreat any of your Pokémon. Zeraora also lets you AZ your attacker after moving the Energy off, then retreat back into it to act as a full healing affect while not having to remove your Energy.
2 Tapu Lele GX
Tapu Lele is just here for some consistency and can also get an AZ to heal your attackers in the mid game, and is also a decent attacker in the early game when you don’t have many Energy in play. Lele also has a great GX attack for if you go first and don’t need to use Gengar’s GX attack to get Vileplume in play.
4 Sycamore / 3 N
These are the consistency Supporters for the deck. Sycamore provides a great draw engine; being able to thin and get to the other Supporters you might need later in the game. N is both a great early game draw Supporter and amazing for late game disruption in combination with Vileplume’s Ability
This is a Supporter we don’t see very often in Expanded because it’s almost always out-classed by N or Ace Trainer, but it actually fits this deck really well. Judge allows you to put your opponent to a low hand early in the game after you’ve gotten your Vileplume into play. Judge is great in the Archie’s matchup because of the high amount of Items and low amount of alternative draw that their deck plays.
Guzma isn’t as important to this deck as it is in many others because you don’t really need to target down your opponent’s benched Pokémon, and you’d rather just deny prizes and play a slower game. You also don’t need it as a switching card because Zeraora GX in combination with Aromatisse lets all your Pokémon retreat for free. You still want to play two Guzma though because it is a nice way to close out a game or target down a big threat your opponent is preparing on the bench.
AZ is extremely strong in this deck. It’s both a switching out on turn one to set up for Gengar’s GX attack while also being a heal card late game, since your Pokémon have an extremely high amount of HP. AZ is also a great way to remove some Pokémon from your bench like Tapu Lele or Ninetales later in the game to make room for more important Pokémon like Zeraora or a different attacker.
4 Pokémon Communication / 2 Ultra Ball / 2 Nest Ball
These are the search cards for the deck. Normally, I’d play a heavier Ultra Ball count but because of the large amount of Pokémon, Pokémon Communication fits perfectly. Nest Ball gives a nice extra out to finding your Oddish or Gengar on turn one to set up for your combo. You generally like to have more search in a deck like this, but since you can only play Items on the first couple turns you have to play slimmer lines of the search cards.
3 Float Stone
This might seem a bit strange since this is a Vileplume deck but you need a way to retreat your Pokémon on turn one so you can use Gengar’s GX early. Float Stone is also better than Switch, and since you play no other Tools it never hurts to have a Float Stone on a Pokémon and it’s even one less Item in your discard against “Trashalanche” decks.
3 Rare Candy
Rare Candy is used to get out Vileplume obviously, but you don’t need four like most Stage 2 decks play. The deck only wants to get out one Stage 2 and you have Ninetales GX to search out Rare Candy and another Items to pretty much guarantee a Vileplume the turn after you use your GX attack.
1 Computer Search
This is just the ACE SPEC for the deck. Computer Search is better than any other option because it’s valuable on turn one and two while any other ACE SPEC is basically useless that early in the game. Computer Search is also a great target for Ninetales GX to search out a Supporter on turn two.
4 Prism Energy / 4 Rainbow Energy
The deck uses a ton of different types and Abilities that rely on having specific Energy types so we want to take advantage of the ability to have every type of Energy in one card. One thing to be mindful of is that if you move or attach a Prism Energy to an evolved Pokémon, it will no longer provide every type and you won’t be able to move it any longer.
This would be my number one pick for Toronto if I were attending as I feel it has a solid game plan for every matchup and is well positioned in the Meta. It also has the surprise factor, which can easily get you through multiple rounds because your opponents won’t know how to play against it.
A couple tech options you could include are:
Eevee & Snorlax GX
All of these cards are very powerful and have their advantages but I feel they don’t quite make the cut. Buzzwole and Zygarde would both be to have a Fighting type so you can hit for Weakness on PikaRom and Zoroark, but neither really felt strong enough to be worth including. Eevee & Snorlax GX would be a tech for decks like Zoroark or Gardevoir, but again it didn’t really feel worth it because Venusaur hits hard enough already. Darkrai EX would be a replacement for Zeraora GX as it is a Dark type and can hit for a different Weakness, but overall I felt Zeraora was better simply because it hits harder.
One more tech I would like to mention is Giratina EX. I separated this from the rest because I feel it is the closest to being worth an inclusion. Giratina is very strong in the Zoroark Garbodor matchup but pretty useless everywhere else. I feel it is the closest to being worth an inclusion because Zoroark Garbodor is easily the deck’s closest matchup. Being able to shut off their access to Double Colorless Energy and Sky Field is extremely powerful and can potentially swing a game into a checkmate position for you.
Now let’s get into the matchups:
Turbo PikaRom (90/10)
This matchup is completely free—the Pyroar tech auto-wins the matchup and it’s extremely easy to use because of Gengar’s GX attack. PikaRom actually has no answer to Pyroar so if you can set it up without putting six prizes on your board you’ve won the game. The game can get a bit sticky if you start with Venusaur, but using AZ to pick that up and remove the three-prize liability is fairly easy. This is easily the deck’s best matchup just because of the Pyroar tech.
Archie’s Wailord (70/30)
This matchup feels pretty favorable but it can get a bit weird if they get eight Energy on turn one because they can GX attack your Oddish, but other than that it’s pretty good. Your strategy remains the same for the beginning of the game: set up Plume after a GX attack, but in this matchup I value trying to use Judge as soon is Plume is active to try and lock your opponent out of the game. Your main attacker in this matchup is Celebi and Venusaur GX because it hits for Weakness on Wailord, but Gengar is a pretty great attacker too because of the shear amount of Items Archie’s plays. You can do some cute stuff with Pyroar if your opponent overextends their Energy, but overall it’s better to just use Venusaur and AZ when it gets damaged.
This is the deck’s closest matchup, but I wouldn’t say it’s negative because Vileplume stunts their setup so much. Like I said, you can play a Fighting type to potentially swing this matchup to be favorable but overall I’d rather have the spots to help the Meta at large. In this matchup you’re going to stick to the game plan of using your GX attack followed by a Rare Candy into Vileplume. Judge is also extremely strong in the early game—any way that you can stunt your opponent’s setup is great. When attacking, Venusaur is the go-to because they can’t one-shot it. You’re going to want to use Venusaur’s “Pollen Hazard” attack on a Zoroark because “Solar Beam” cannot one-shot them, so confusing their Active can potentially save you from an attack and sets up “Solar Beam” to finish the knockout.
This matchup can be a bit scary because if they get a Tool on Trubbish on turn one you probably won’t have Abilities for the rest of the game. You can try to Guzma the Garbodor and knock it out but that can be tricky to accomplish because of the low Guzma count. Another thing that makes this matchup particularly bad is the lack of Basic Energy in this deck. Drampa’s “Righteous Edge” attack will discard one of your Energy every turn, which can make it very hard to set up your attackers. Overall, I feel it’s ok to take a bad matchup against Drampa/Garb because it’s not particularly popular, nor is it in an amazing position in this Meta.
Fighting Decks (80/20)
Fighting decks are extremely easy for this deck to beat since you have so many tools that are hard for them to deal with. Gengar is resistant to Fighting so it’s naturally hard for them to take a knockout on it, not to mention Vileplume shutting off all their Items, which they rely heavily on to set up over the course of the game. A lot of Fighting Pokémon are also weak to Psychic including Buzzwole and Lucario, which are the two most popular Fighting attackers, so your opponent won’t need very many Trainers in hand for Gengar to score a knockout on your opponent’s Active Pokémon.
As for other, less popular matchups—decks like Rayquaza or Night March—they will fall victim to the Pyroar tech and you will get some free wins from those. Vespiquen can’t really function without its Items, nor will it be able to hit the big numbers to take knockouts on your Tag Team Pokémon. Zoroark/Control is likely a bad matchup, but I don’t expect it to be very popular as both Lusamine and Delinquent were banned.
Overall, I feel like Vileplume box is a great play for Toronto Regionals, because it has great matchups and because many opponents won’t know how to play against it. The power of the deck is extremely high and it is relatively easy to pilot after the first two turns of the game.
To recap, Archie’s, PikaRom, and ZoroGarb are easily the most hyped and best decks going into this Meta due to the bans and recent release of the Team Up set. People will be trying to counter these decks with decks like Drampa/Garbodor or Fighting, but neither of these decks can really handle all three of the top decks. If I were attending Toronto, I would be playing Vileplume box because it has great matchups against the Meta and can just lock your opponent out of the game on turn two. As always, thank you for reading, and good luck in Toronto to all those attending!