Friday, July 31, 2015

"Ancient Origin Set Review"- Which Cards Nailed It and Which Cards Failed It

Prereleases for Ancient Origins are fast approaching, and you may be wondering which cards from the new set are worth ordering and holding onto, and which cards aren't. I'll be going over some of cards from XY: Ancient Origins that are underrated and overrated, and give my opinions on them.


Credit for all images go to The Charizard Lounge. You can see all of the scans here! A big thanks goes out to Andrew for collecting all those scans for the community.




Vileplume

The Pokemon Card Laboratory has a tendency to print cards that are reminiscent of older cards. The Vileplume from the new set is no exception. Those of you who played the game in 2010 might remember Vileplume UD, whose Allergy Flower Ability shut off all Items. The card saw play in the popular "VileGar" deck in the 2010-2011 season, and continued to succeed until the mid-season rotation at the end of that year.


VileGar in particular succeeded because the deck ran a high count of Spiritomb AR, which shut off all Items for both players when it was in the Active position. Gengar's Basic form, Gastly, also had the Pitch Dark attack that shut off Items for the opposing player on the following turn. With Gastly and Spiritomb, Items could be completely shut off until the Vileplume player could get a Vileplume out.


Vileplume continued to be relevant even after it lost Spiritomb, showing up in Ross Cawthon's The Truth deck when he got 2nd place at Worlds that year. Vileplume also featured in V/V/V, the Vileplume/Victini/Vanilluxe deck, and in the Chandelure/Darkrai/Mew Prime/Accelgor/Vileplume deck (that eventually evolved into Gothitelle/Accelgor/Dusknoir and later Trevenant/Accelgor).


Vileplume is effectively being reprinted in Ancient Origins. The new 'Plume clocks in at 130 HP, which is 10 more hit points than the old one had. It also has a hefty retreat cost of three, which makes it hard to get out of the Active position. The attack is irrelevant because you never want to attack with it, but it is very bad (70 for GCC).


Do I think that this Vileplume is going to be as powerful as the old one? I don't think so, and here's why:


In the old format, we had searching Supporters like Pokemon Collector and Twins, which were both very important for setting up and searching under Item Lock. Collector could grab you one or two Oddish along with a way to set up attackers, and a heavy Twins count means that you could sacrifice something early and be able to search your deck under Item Lock.

In this format, a lot of our search is Item-based. We have Level Ball and Ultra Ball, but these become dead cards once you get Vileplume out. It is my belief that you have to max out both of these cards to get out your big ugly flower consistently, and that comes back to hurt you late-game when you draw into a bunch of cards that you can't play. Wait! you might say, We have very similar supporters to Collector and Twins still in format! To which I would respond, The new Supporters are not good enough. Pokemon Fan Club nets you two basic Pokemon when Collector got you three, and that really does make all of the difference. Teammates only works the turn after you get something knocked out, whereas as soon as your opponent took a prize, you could chain Twins for the next several turns.


If you run a Vileplume deck, you would like to have


4 Level Ball

4 Ultra Ball
4 Trainers' Mail
A 3-3-3 line of Vileplume

If your goal is to get out a Vileplume on the first turn, you must run Forest of Giant Plants as well, but I think that type of deck inherently contradicts itself. To be fast enough to consistently get out a Vileplume on the first turn, a deck would have to run a lot of Items to draw and search for that many cards. This type of deck would have a poor late game because of all the Items in the deck. In addition, because speed decks tend to run a lot of Shaymin, you don't want to have a lot of energy in those types of deck. But if you are under Item-lock, you'll be missing a lot of energy drops if you don't run more than ten energy, which would clog up your hand in the early part of the game.


One other thing to consider is that Vileplume has a Retreat Cost of three. In the old format, it was a real problem when Luxray GL Lv. X would use Bright Look to drag up Vileplume and snipe around it. For this reason, Vileplume decks ran Warp Energy, which was a Switch card under Item Lock. Unown Q was also part of that format. That card could be attached to one of your Pokemon as a Pokemon Tool to make it have one less retreat cost. This meant that Vileplume could retreat for one energy. Nothing like that exists at this point, so if your Vileplume is stuck active after a Lysandre, you can't play Switch or anything of that sort! Your only option in that situation is AZ, which is a viable switching option if Forest of Giant Plants is in play.


This brings us to one of the facets of Vileplume decks: switching cards. Besides the issue of having your opponent Lysandre up Vileplume to stall, there will undoubtedly be a time where you start the game with an Active Oddish and you have no way to get it to the bench. If you get Vileplume out before you draw Switch, that forces you to either waste an Energy attachment or play an AZ, wasting your Supporter for the turn. That really isn't very efficient. This means that if you run a Vileplume deck, you'll have to run a couple of AZ so that you have it when you need it.


I think that Item lock is very powerful and crippling to many decks, and for that reason I don't see a way to make Vileplume viable for the simple reason that it locks you in addition to locking your opponent. It is really hard for a deck to function under Item-lock, and Vileplume decks are no exception. For this reason, Seismitoad EX and Trevenant XY are both better cards because they Item-lock the opponent without crippling the pilot of the Item-lock deck. With the card pool of XY-AOR, I don't see a valid Vileplume deck being successful. However, I don't think that Vileplume is a junk card that you should throw away. In the future, if better searching Supporters are printed (because they are pretty bad right now), Vileplume could see a place in the metagame. I would go ahead and pick them up while they are cheap and inferior because history shows us that Item-lock is inherently strong even if Vileplume isn't particularly strong in the XY-AOR metagame.


I also wouldn't throw away your Vileplumes because they are not quite so weak in the Expanded format. I won't delve into Expanded too much, because that is a huge can of worms, but there are a couple of ways that Vileplume gets better in Expanded. For one, you can pop a Float Stone on it when it's still an Oddish, and then no one can use the Lysandre trick to stall you out. You can also use one of Dylan Bryan's tricks from Nationals and run a Jirachi EX and a Teammates. This means that after your opponent knocks out one of your Pokemon, you can effectively play Ultra Ball to get a Vileplume out by searching for Jirachi EX. Then, you can use Stellar Guidance to find Teammates to find Gloom and Vileplume, and evolve right away with Forest of Giant Plants! Also, Pokemon Communication was a good way to get out Stage 2 lines with a Broken Time-Space in play, and that is no different with Vileplume and Forest of Giant Plants. With Pokemon Communication, it becomes significantly easier to get out 'Plume.


Giratina EX



If I had to play Vileplume in the Standard format, however, I would probably play it with Giratina EX. Giratina has an Ability that says that it can't be affected by Mega Evolved Pokemon. In this set, we see the first "hate" toward Mega-Evolved Pokemon. Maybe in the future this means that Pyroar and Giratina can join forces to take down everything! Giratina is kind of slow and clunky, with an attack costing GPCC for 100, but it also stops your opponent from playing Pokemon Tools, Stadiums, or Special Energy from their hand. This has great synergy with Team Flare Grunt. This also has good synergy with Vileplume because you can make your opponent only able to play Basic Energy and Supporter cards.

Giratina is a Dragon-type, so he can take advantage of Double Dragon Energy. This means that his attack can cost as few as two attachments with two Double Dragon Energy or a Double Dragon Energy and a Double Colorless Energy. This is what my list centering around Giratina EX might look like:


3 Miltank FLF

2 Giratina EX
3 Oddish
3 Gloom
2 Vileplume
2 Shaymin EX
=15

4 Ultra Ball

4 Level Ball
2 Switch
3 Trainers' Mail

3 Pokemon Fan Club

3 Professor Sycamore
5 Shauna + Professor Birch's Observations
1 Team Flare Grunt
1 Xerosic
1 Pokemon Center Lady
1 Lysandre
1 Steven
1 Tierno
3 AZ

1 Giant Forest of Plants

=34

4 Double Dragon Energy

4 Double Colorless Energy
2 Psychic Energy
1 Grass Energy
=11

Miltank FLF seems like a pretty good attacker to go with Vileplume. If you have Vileplume in play, it hits for eighty damage, but more importantly it does that for just one energy attachment. If you aren't drawing a lot of cards to find your energy, it's important that your one energy card does pack a punch. The Supporter line is all over the place. Tech supporters are inherently weaker when you can't use VS Seeker to reuse them, and I'm not sure yet whether we should add more tech Supporters in response to that.


Tierno is not terrible in this deck, and Team Aqua Grunt is also an option in his place. Tierno lets you simply draw three cards, and Team Aqua Grunt has you discard a card to draw three cards. If this were a normal deck, then Tierno would be an obvious choice, but if you won't get to play any Items for the rest of the game, then Team Aqua Grunt might be an opportunity to discard an Item card and thin your deck before you play a Shauna or something of that sort to shuffle your hand back into your deck on the following turn.


Giratina might also see play as a sort of "Safeguard" type of tech in decks that already run Double Dragon Energy, such as decks that use Reshiram ROS to accelerate energy. For example, in the Expanded format, one might tech a Giratina EX into this type of deck (replacing a Latios EX for Giratina EX), where we already run Double Dragon Energy along with energy acceleration that works for Giratina. In the Standard format, that skeleton list might look like this:


3 Giratina EX
2 Reshiram ROS
2 Hydreigon EX
2 Druddigon FLF
3 Shaymin EX
1 Bunnelby (Ancient Trait)
=13

4 Professor Sycamore
3 Shauna/Professor Birch's Observations
2 Lysandre
4 VS Seeker

1 Sacred Ash
4 Ultra Ball
2 Escape Rope
1 Switch
1 Energy Retrieval
3 Muscle Band

3 Sky Field
=27

6 Fire Energy
4 Double Dragon Energy
=10

Giratina's attack doesn't use Fire Energy, but its attack does use CC. Two fire can make up that cost, while a Double Dragon Energy shores up the rest. If we run out of Double Dragon Energy or have to play a crippling Professor Sycamore to stay in the game, Bunnelby is the safety net that lets us get back any resource from the discard pile. Giratina EX doesn't knock things out in one hit like Latios EX has the capability of doing, but it does keep up a pretty mean lock which makes it worth attacking with.

Giratina is powerful and interesting because of how many decks are reliant on Special Energy. My XY-on Night March build only uses Special Energy, so Giratina would rip it apart quite handily! This is definitely a card to sleep on because it has potential.

Forest of Giant Plants


This may be the most impactful card in the set. Unfortunately I don't have the energy or expertise to even begin to dive into this card, and it has been discussed to death elsewhere.

In the Standard format, Ross Gilbert from PTCG Radio has gone into great detail on this subject, going over every playable evolved Grass Pokemon. You can check that out here.


In Expanded, Shiftry takes huge advantage of Giant Plant Forest. The text of the Stadium lets Grass Pokemon evolve in an accelerated fashion, and since Nuzleaf is grass, it can evolve into the Darkness-typed Shiftry and use the Giant Fan Ability. You can read more about that at The Charizard Lounge.


I am personally going to have a lot of fun with Forretress FLF. Since Pineco is Grass-type, Forretress can also evolve on the first turn with Forest of Giant Plants. This is what a Forretress skeleton list might look like in the Expanded format:


4 Pineco

4 Forretress
3 Shaymin EX

4 Devolution Spray

3 Level Ball
4 Super Scoop Up
1 Scoop Up Cyclone
4 Roller Skates
4 Acro Bike
4 Recycle
1 Battle Compressor
1 Float Stone
4 Trainers' Mail
2 Professor Juniper
4 Forest of Giant Plants

As you can see, the deck runs no energy. The goal is to just put as much damage on your opponent's board as possible. If your opponent just starts with a couple of non-EX Pokemon, there really isn't much they can do! The deck still needs a good attacker, and I'm not quite sure yet what that should be. Gourgeist XY does some spreading damage for just a Psychic energy, but I'm not exactly sure how to fit that in at the moment.


Machamp EX



A general rule is to stay away from Crazy Hammers
Machamp EX is a strong card but it has many limitations. What the card creators want for you to do with this card is to get damage on Machamp (ideally at least ninety damage) and use Steaming Mad to knock out an EX. Thrash does 20x the number of damage counters on Machamp, which is a very strong Outrage-type attack. Unfortunately the drawback to this attack is that Machamp becomes Confused. After you use Steaming Mad, the card creators want you to use Crazy Hammer. Crazy Hammer does 80 damage, but it does 80 more damage if Machamp is affected by a Special Condition.
Let's think through this for a second. There are five Special Conditions: Asleep, Paralyzed, Burned, and Confused. Machamp can't attack if it's Asleep or Paralyzed, so those are ruled out, as they don't work with Crazy Hammer. If Machamp is Confused, by an opponent's Pokemon or as a side-effect from Thrash, Crazy Hammer has a 50% chance of not working. 
Unless, however, you use Heavy Boots. Heavy Boots is a Pokemon Tool you can attach to a Pokemon with a Retreat Cost of three or more which gives it +20 HP and makes it so that the Pokemon with Heavy Boots can't be Confused. At first this seems oddly specific, but the card is specifically designed to work with Machamp. More HP means that Thrash has the capacity to do more damage, and Heavy Boots stops the nasty side-effect of Confusion. This does mean that you can't set yourself up to use Crazy Hammer, but hopefully the Thrash attack will get the job done anyway. However, Heavy Boots hasn't even been released in the U.S., and we don't even know when that would happen.

The most effective way to use Machamp is with the new Ariados



With that first attack, I hope Ariados stays away from my car.

Ariados has an Ability that you can use to poison both Active Pokemon (excluding Grass Pokemon). You can use Ariados' Ability to poison Machamp so that it can use Crazy Hammer. Then, the poison is removed from Machamp, and the Defending Pokemon should have 170 damage on it. Here is what a Machamp/Ariados list might look like:

3 Hawlucha

2 Lucario
2 Machamp EX
2 Spinarak
2 Ariados
2 Shaymin EX
=13

4 Ultra Ball

1 Level Ball
2 Switch
3 Muscle Band
1 Focus Sash

4 Professor Juniper

1 Ace Trainer
3 Professor Birch's Observations/Shauna
3 Korrina
2 Lysandre
3 VS Seeker
4 Ultra Ball

3 Fighting Stadium

=32

4 Strong Energy

5 Fighting Energy
=9

The list is a little clunky. I don't think that Machamp is an optimal attacker because it takes too long to get going. Lucario is faster and stronger than ever in a format without Mewtwo EX to hit it for weakness. If you want to build a Fighting deck in XY-on, I encourage you to build Lucario EX/Hawlucha/Crobat instead.
Do I think Machamp is playable? No, I don't think it is, because Outrage Pokemon are too reactive. Once you get enough damage on Machamp for him to be hitting big numbers, he becomes a One-Attack-Wonder due to the fact that he can be immediately KOed. He might find a niche spot in a fighting deck, but in the end, Machamp will take a position as eye candy in the pages of your binder.

Virizion


Virizion is interesting, to say the least. Its first attack, Rescue, is niche at best. It possibly goes well with Battle Compressor, as you can discard two Grass Pokemon and then get them into your hand with Rescue. However, if you're playing Battle Compressor, you might as well play Ultra Ball instead and grab that Grass Pokemon and put it directly into your hand!
Virizion's strongest attack is Prize Counter. For GG, Prize Counter does 40 damage, but if you are losing on Prize Cards, it does 120 damage instead. This is a decent amount of damage, and combined with Muscle Band and a Surprise Bite from Crobat PHF, you can knock out a 170 HP EX! Virizion's main use, however, is as a counter for Grass-Weak Pokemon. For just two energy it knocks out Seismitoad EX, Primal Groudon EX (with no Focus Sash attached), and Primal Kyogre EX, because 120 damage times the x2 weakness is 240 HP! This means that if you run across a Wailord EX, you will be in a pickle, however.
I don't think that Virizion will see much play. For one, its attacks don't have any C requirements, so you need Grass or Rainbow to use the attacks. This means that Virizion isn't splashable, so it can only go in decks that are already Grass-type. Plus, it can't be its own deck because it can't finish games. Once you go up on Prizes, Virizion's damage cap is too low to do any real damage. For this reason, Verizion might be strong at a prerelease, but not past that.


M Sceptile EX


What can I say, I didn't see that second attack coming!




















Let's start with Sceptile EX; it has 170 HP. Its first attack for G does 10 damage and on a coin flip makes the Defending Pokemon Asleep and Poisoned. Its second attack does 60 base damage, and 70 more if the Defending Pokemon is affected by a Special Condition.

What the card creators want you to do with Sceptile EX is use the first attack to poison the Defending Pokemon, and then follow it up with an Assassin Claw for big damage. One way to speed this up though is that Ariados that we talked about before with Machamp.


M Sceptile has the Theta Stop Ancient Trait, which defends it from Crawdaunt's Unruly Claw, Shiftry's Toppling Wind, and Crobat's Surprise Bite. This is a nice effect and all, but it doesn't completely make  the card like the Ancient Traits of Primal Groudon EX, Primal Kyogre EX, and M Rayquaza EX do.


What really makes M Sceptile good, besides its whopping 220 HP, is its Jagged Saber attack. It does 100 damage, and you can attach two Grass Energy from your hand onto one of your Pokemon. Then, you can heal all of the damage off of that Pokemon.


This Mega Evolution chain reminds me a lot of M Manectric EX, except that the Max Potion is "built in". The Basic has a solid first attack for one energy and a pretty good second attack provided you have the appropriate cards to make it do that extra damage (Head Ringer for Manectric and Ariados for Sceptile). The Mega Evolution of both of these cards can knock out EXes in two hits for C and a colored Energy. This second attack also accelerates energy, but it does less damage then the powerful attack of the Basic form.


The difference between these two chains though is the way that the energy gets accelerated. M Manectric accelerates from the discard pile, which means you can set up more attackers every time you attack. On the other hand, M Sceptile attaches the Energy from the hand. Objectively speaking, it's easier to get Energy into your discard pile than your hand. Cards like Ultra Ball, Professor Sycamore, and Battle Compressor help facilitate that at any point before you attack, no matter what else you do on your turn. To get energy in your hand, you need cards like Professor's Letter or Energy Retrieval to get Energy into your hand, and to take advantage of the energy acceleration that M Sceptile provides, you have to have that energy in your hand at the end of your turn.


Since it's harder to pull of M Sceptile's attack to its full potential, I think that it works better in a deck focused on the basic Sceptile EX.


4 Sceptile EX

2 M Sceptile EX
2 Spinarak
2 Ariados
1 Trevenant EX
2 Shaymin EX
=13

2 Switch

1 Energy Retrieval
2 Professor's Letter
4 Ultra Ball
1 Level Ball
2 Sceptile Spirit Link
2 Muscle Band
1 Weakness Policy
1 Exp. Share
3 VS Seeker
3 Professor Sycamore
5 Professor Birch's Observations/Shauna
2 Lysandre
3 Forest of Giant Plants
=30

9 Grass Energy

=9

We run four Sceptile EX because we want to start with it, but the odds are that we'll still start with one of our other Pokemon (although Spinarak's attack isn't terrible!). For this reason, we run a couple of Switch in case we start with the wrong thing. You might even consider bumping that number up some more in case you want to switch a damaged attacker to the Bench so it can get healed by a Jagged Saber.


We run two Ariados because it is important to hit magic numbers. Assassin Claw hits for 130 damage, which is 150 damage with a Muscle Band. With poison from Ariados, the Defending Pokemon will have 160 damage on them, which is 170 damage going back into your turn. This knocks out many EXes if they can't retreat or Mega-Evolve. Just in general, poisoning your opponent every turn is pretty awesome. Imagine what this deck could do in the Expanded format with access to Virbank City Gym!


Trevenant EX is a cool attacker that is pretty underrated. He has the same attack as Keldeo EX did, but he uses Grass Energy. I ran him in a deck for Regionals with M Manectric EX, so it would make sense that he would function even better with M Sceptile EX. His first attack can trap a useless Pokemon active if your opponent can't find a Switch, and his second attack can pack a real punch. If one goes down though, you probably don't need to load up a second one, so we only run one.


Our Pokemon Tool count is all over the place! We run two Spirit Link because we run two M Sceptile EX. We run two Muscle Band because it makes our Pokemon do more damage and hit important numbers. The Weakness Policy is to cover our Weakness to Fire because I expect Flareon AOR to be popular, which I will talk more about down below. An Exp. Share is something that I'm trying out to keep Energy on the board and stream Sceptile EXes more easily.


I personally think, that like Manectric, the Basic version of Sceptile EX is pretty darn powerful on its own. I think that it goes quite well with Crobat.


3 Sceptile EX

2 Spinarak
2 Ariados
3 Zubat
3 Golbat
2 Crobat
3 Shaymin EX
=18

1 Repeat Ball

3 Ultra Ball
3 Level Ball
3 Muscle Band
1 Sacred Ash
4 Super Scoop Up

3 VS Seeker

1 Pokemon Fan Club
3 Professor Sycamore
5 Professor Birch's Observations/Shauna
1 AZ
2 Lysandre

2 Silent Lab

=33

7 Grass Energy

2 Herbal Energy
=9

I do think that M Sceptile is receiving some hype that it does not deserve. Does anyone remember what happened when Phantom Forces came out? People thought that M Manectric would have a spot in both Yveltal decks and Virizion/Genesect decks, but it was just too clunky to work. M Manectric ended up being good in a Fighting/Manectric deck during cities, the Manectric/Empoleon deck during States and Spring Regionals, and lastly with Ninetales, Articuno, or Empoleon during Nationals. You may notice a pattern: Manectric was never a top-tier deck by itself. It always was paired with something else that gave it better type coverage. Adler Pierce won Kentucky States with Virizion/Genesect/Manectric, but that deck didn't run the Mega because it was just too clunky.


Sceptile is unlike Manectric in that it only accelerates Grass Energy, so it doesn't have the privilege of using type coverage to its advantage. It can only power up Grass or Colorless attacks. Theoretically, that means we could build a Sceptile/Lugia deck, but there is a reason why M Manectric/Mewtwo was never a deck: it just isn't worth it.


Lugia EX


Lugia EX has two attacks. The first is called Aero Ball and it does the same thing as Mewtwo EX from Next Destinies does. The attack does twenty damage times the number of Energy on both Lugia and the Defending Pokemon. The second attack is better than Mewtwo's attack, doing 150 damage at the cost of discarding a Stadium Card in play for CCCC. The issue I have with this card is Weakness. For one, Mewtwo hit stuff for weakness, and nothing has weakness to Colorless. So even though Lugia is very versatile, it doesn't pack the type coverage that Mewtwo did. The second issue that Lugia has with weakness is its own; Lugia EX is weak to Lightning. This is a problem because Lightning is everywhere! Neither M Manectric and Raichu are not going away in the near future, and that's going to give Lugia problems. Even Dedenne is going to pack a punch, and that isn't something that you can just ignore.

I don't think that you can center a deck around Lugia EX. I think that M Rayquaza is much better in terms of raw damage. I think that Lugia might find a space as a tech, like Mewtwo does, in decks that already run Double Colorless Energy. You might see Lugia in a Seismitoad/Crobat list, for instance, but I don't think that it will ever have its own deck.


Vespiquen and Eeveelutions


I know that eventually, I'll be making an individual blog post about Vespiquen, because I'll probably end up playing it in XY-on format. Here is a list taken from here:

4 Pikachu XY

4 Raichu XY
4 Combee AOR
3 Vespiquen AOR
4 Flareon AOR
2 Eevee FFI
4 Unown (R)
2 Shaymin EX

4 Level Ball

2 Ultra Ball
3 Battle Compressor
1 Escape Roper
3 Muscle Band
3 VS Seeker

4 Professor Sycamore

1 Lysandre
1 Blacksmith

3 Sky Field


4 Double Colorless Energy

4 Fire Energy

I think that my personal list would forgo Raichu completely and a skeleton list would look something more like this:



4 Combee AOR
4 Vespiquen AOR
2 Flareon AOR
2 Jolteon AOR
2 Eevee FFI
4 Unown (R)
3 Shaymin EX

2 Level Ball
4 Ultra Ball
4 Battle Compressor
1 Escape Roper
3 Muscle Band
3 VS Seeker

4 Professor Sycamore
2 Lysandre

3 Sky Field

4 Double Colorless Energy
4 Fire Energy

Vespiquen's Bee Revenge attack might look familiar: it is the same as Flareon PLF's Vengeance attack! This means that we might already know how to build the deck if we've built Flareon decks before. Looking at this deck might be a good place to show off some of the new cards and how they fit into the deck.

Unown


Unown has the same Ability as Unown R from Diamond & Pearl: Legends Awakened in that if it is on your bench, you can discard it and draw a card. This not only gives you draw power, but it also puts Pokemon in your discard pile! This makes Vespiquen's Bee Revenge attack do even more damage.

What can Unown R do outside of Vespiquen decks? Unless there is a Silent Lab in play, it always draws you a card. It makes your deck thinner; if you run 4 Unown R it is almost like you are running 56 cards in your deck! With Unown R and Battle Compressor, it is possible to build a very thin deck in the Standard format. Here is a skeleton list!

Farewell Letter = RETIRE

3 Shaymin EX
4 Unown
=7

4 Ultra Ball

4 Trainers' Mail
4 Roller Skates
4 Acro Bike
4 Professor Sycamore
4 VS Seeker
4 Battle Compressor
x Revive
=28

So, as you can see, this speed "engine" can take up over half of the deck. The goal is just to draw, draw, and draw! Throw in some Night Marchers and some Double Colorless Energy and you already have a very solid list.


Flareon, Jolteon, Vaporeon

Get 'em while they're hot!
Eeveelutions are back in Ancient Origins, and they are taking a more supportive role. Flareon's Ability gives all Stage 1s Fire typing in addition to their other type. Jolteon does the same but with Lightning typing, and Vaporeon with Water typing. This is a very useful tool to have in Stage 1 decks, especially with Vespiquen. If you don't need an Eevelution for a certain matchup, we can just discard it with Battle Compressor!

Right now, I have Flareon and Jolteon in the deck because I predict that those two types will hit lots of powerful Pokemon for weakness. But if something that is weak to Water gets popular, Vaporeon could fit comfortably in the deck too!


Notice that we only run two Eevee. We probably wouldn't need to get out more than two Eeveelutions in a game, and Eevee is definitely not our ideal starter.


So Vespiquen's Bee Revenge attack does 20 damage, plus 10 more damage for each Pokemon in our discard pile. We run a high count of Battle Compressor to help expedite that, and once we have fourteen Pokemon in our discard pile plus a Muscle Band, we'll be hitting for enough damage to knock out most EXes! Unown R lets us hit that number a little bit faster than Flareon decks could hit in the past, and a heavy count of Shaymin lets us draw into our Battle Compressors and Unown R while giving us more Pokemon to discard if needed.


Faded Town


Faded Town would be a cool tech to have as well to discard Pokemon if you have Sky Field in play and also to hit big numbers on Mega EXes.


Hoopa EX



Hoopa is a very cool card, and it will definitely be worth investing in. Hoopa EX has the Bandit Ring Ability that lets you search for 3 Pokemon EX when you put it onto your bench. This has a few direct applications. For one, it turns an Ultra Ball into "search your deck for three Pokemon EX", so it makes Ultra Ball a better card. Shaymin EX is a handy little Pokemon EX that lets you draw cards, so you can bench Hoopa, search for your main attacker plus a couple of Shaymin EX to draw cards which can give you a good opportunity to Set Up.

One advantage/disadvantage to Hoopa EX is that it fills your bench to use it. If you bench Hoopa and then bench all three Pokemon that you searched out with him, that is four bench spaces that you have just used up. If you already had a benched Pokemon, then you have already benched five Pokemon and that bench is looking pretty full.The flip side of this is that Hoopa is incredibly useful in Rayquaza decks that run Sky Field. Sky Field lets you have up to eight benched Pokemon, and Rayquaza does more damage if you have more Pokemon benched, so Hoopa helps you in those situations.

One thing that my friend pointed out to me though is that it has a Retreat Cost of two. That means that if you run Hoopa, you have to include switching cards or AZ as well in case your opponent drags him up to stall.

Level Ball



Running four Level Ball seems like a no-brainer, right? Well, Ultra Ball is still our Item of choice since it lets us get the all-important Shaymin-EX to draw us more cards. Having a couple of Level Ball thrown into decks with low HP-Pokemon isn't terrible though!

Level Ball unfortunately isn't as good as it once was, because Jirachi EX is no longer in the Standard format, but it is still a great card for decks that need to grab those itty-bitty 90 HP Pokemon.



Hex Maniac


This card is an incredibly interesting and skill-based card. It shuts off your opponent's Abilities, but it also shuts off your own. This means that you can use it to get out of Vileplume's pesky Item lock, but it means you can't use that Shaymin EX that you really wanted to Ultra Ball for now that you could play your Items. I expect that this card will be a one-of in decks like Vespiquen or Night March that really love their Items. It is a very cool card, and I can't wait to see the way that people use it!

Ace Trainer


Pokemon likes to print Supporter Cards similar to this one. Anyone who remembers Team Rocket's Admin, Team Galactic's Wager, or in more recent memory, N, knows how these cards work. Anyone who plays now is familiar with how playing an N late game can win or lose games. Ace Trainer, however, is not as powerful as N. While an N can win you the game in the later stages of it, it also provides relief as a draw supporter in the early game. For this reason, Ace Trainer won't be played as a four-of because you don't want to see it in your opening hand. In fact, without VS Seeker in the format, this card wouldn't see any play at all. As is, it may be a one-of to fulfill the disruptive role that N used to play, but it simply isn't as useful.
On the other hand, this card will affect how decks are built. I've heard many times something along the lines of, this card won't be good until N is gone. Tierno is now ruined and will never be playable, because you can't rely on building big hands. I recommend picking up one or two Ace Trainers, because it is a playable card, but it is no N by any means.


Ampharos EX / M Ampharos EX



















Ampharos is interesting, but I do not think that it will be playable. M Ampharos EX's attack does 120 damage, but you can make it do 50 more damage and paralyze the defending Pokemon at the cost of doing 30 damage to Ampharos. This is interesting, but not quite as useful as you might think at first. 170 damage is already knocking out a lot of EXes, so the paralysis doesn't always matter. Against 180 HP Pokemon, you are two-shotting them anyway even without the extra damage, which puts you in an uncomfortable situation. The attack costs a lot of energy and it doesn't even guarantee a knockout. Wouldn't you rather load up an M Rayquaza EX instead?

Ampharos' saving grace is that the Basic form is not so bad. Thunder Rod gives you a chance to accelerate energy, and Sparking Tail gives you a decent attack, albeit at a high cost. I just don't think that there is a suitable partner for M Ampharos at the moment. M Manectric is an obvious choice as it accelerates energy and uses Lightning itself, but running two Mega Evolutions in the same deck can get quite clunky! For this reason, I don't think that Ampharos belongs in any decks at the moment. Perhaps in the future if something new is released, but for now I wouldn't hold your breath, or hold onto your Ampharoses.


As a side note, in the Limited Format, Ampharos EX is absolutely amazing. If you are lucky enough to pull one, you can build a deck that consists of one (or two) Ampharos EX and 39 Lightning Energy. Then, you can use the first attack, and after that you'll be able to do 100 damage every turn. This is absolutely amazing by prerelease Standards.

Rotom


This is a gem that I would pick up a couple of copies of. Its attack on average will remove one and a half cards from your opponent's hand. If PCL releases more disruptive cards, I could see Rotom being used as an attacker in a type of lock deck that controls the size of your opponent's hand. I don't think that this belongs in any decks at the moment, while they are cheap it can't hurt to pick these up in case they ever get good.

Primal Kyogre EX, Primal Groudon EX, and M Rayquaza EX

Primal Kyogre EX Bandit RingPrimal Groudon EX Tidal StormM Rayquaza EX Bandit Ring HQ


The cards above all got reprinted as Secret Rares in Ancient Origins! They got new art, which frankly looks quite amazing. Unfortunately, they all had their previous Ancient Traits removed and instead got the new Theta Max Ancient Trait, which reads, "when one of your Pokemon becomes this Pokemon, heal all damage from this Pokemon". This unfortunately in all three cases is vastly inferior to the Ancient Traits that they had previously. M Rayquaza's Delta Evolution Ancient Trait gave the deck a lot of its speed. Kyogre's Alpha Growth let it accelerate energy attachments. Groudon's Omega Barrier let it build up on the bench without the fear of being dragged into the Active Position or having its energy removed with Trainer cards. Without those Ancient Traits, the cards just aren't playable.

Out of all of them, you could make the case that Rayquaza didn't rely on its Ancient Trait so much, but the Theta Max trait is still vastly inferior. None of these Pokemon are ones that you want to be playing with before you Mega Evolve, so that type of healing is useless.

These cards look amazing, but they don't play as amazingly as they look.

Evil Energy

Evil Energy is supposed to go with M Tyranitar EX, because Tyranitar benefits from having damage on the Defending Pokemon. However, in that deck, it's more important that the energy is Basic because of Yveltal XY, Mega Turbo, and in Expanded, Dark Patch. The card may find a niche someday, but for now it is second-tier.

In Standard, I could see it warranting a few inclusions in a straight Yveltal EX deck. You can use it while you're attacking with Baby Yveltal in the set up phase to lay down a few extra damage counters.

The other Special Energy in the set, Flash Energy, isn't even worth mentioning.

M Tyrannitar EX




















Last, but not least, we have M Tyranitar EX. The Tyranitar EX evolution line is cool and it also isn't bad! M Tyranitar has the potential to hit for big damage with the help of a Golbat or a Crobat:

3 Yveltal XY

3 Tyranitar EX
3 M Tyranitar EX
4 Zubat
4 Golbat
2 Crobat
1 Shaymin EX

4 Professor Sycamore

5 Professor Birch's Observations/Shauna
1 Sacred Ash
3 VS Seeker
3 Tyranitar Spirit Link
2 Muscle Band
4 Ultra Ball
1 Level Ball
2 Mega Turbo

4 Double Colorless Energy

8 Darkness Energy

3 Sky Field


In Expanded, M Tyranitar EX gets even better with the help of Dark Patch! Between Mega Turbo and Dark Patch, it's possible to load up a Tyranitar in the nick of time.


M Tyranitar EX has the Ancient Trait Theta Double. This means that it can have two Pokemon Tools attached to it! This lets us attach a Muscle Band in addition to the Spirit Link, but it also means out opponent can attach a Head Ringer in addition to the Spirit Link, so beware!


I don't think that M Tyranitar EX is worthy of all of the hype that it has been receiving. It one-hits anything in the format, but so can M Rayquaza EX. For this reason, I believe that it is outclassed. The only way I could see it redeeming itself is through its Ancient Trait. With Theta Double, it can have two Pokemon Tools attached. You can go a very defensive route and attach two Hard Charms to Tyranitar, making it much more difficult to knock out. You could also attach two Muscle Bands for some extra damage! With any new Pokemon Tools released in the future, the possibilities are limitless.
--

Thank you very much for reading! I spent a long time writing this article, and I selected the cards from the set that I thought were worth discussing. If I didn't mention a card that you wanted mentioned, let me know in the comments down below. I'd love to give my thoughts on any card in the set! Again, a big thanks goes to Andrew Wamboldt of The Charizard Lounge for doing a service for the community and releasing Ancient Origin scans.

Thanks for reading!
CR

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

"The Best Way to Burrow"- A Look at Decks That Mill in Expanded




Durant NVI


Durant is a card so old that it was at its most popular when I was still in the senior division. I never did play with Durant myself, but I have many fond memories of beating it. Durant NVI has an attack called Devour that reads, "For each of your Durant in play, discard the top card of your opponent's deck." This means that if you had one Durant in play, your opponent would discard the top card of their deck. If you had two Durant in play, your opponent would discard the top two cards off of their deck, and so on. Allow me to share a blast from the past in the form of a Durant list circa 2012:

4 Durant NVI
1 Rotom UD

4 Pokemon Collector
4 N
4 Twins
4 Professor Juniper
2 Pokegear 3.0

4 Junk Arm
4 Crushing Hammer
3 Eviolite
3 Pokemon Catcher
3 Revive
2 Level Ball
2 Lost Remover
1 Super Rod
2 Victory Medal

5 Metal
4 Special Metal
3 Prism
1 Rescue

(Source: SixPrizes)

The format at the time was HeartGold and SoulSilver through Black & White: Next Destinies, which means that no set that was legal for play at the time is legal now. However with reprints and such, you may recognize some cards such as N, Professor Juniper, Crushing Hammer and Revive. Allow me to briefly get you up to date on what some of these older cards did:

Rotom UD

For Durant's Devour attack to be most effective, it was necessary to have a total of four Durant in play. If not, each attack would discard one less card, and thus Durant would be that much less efficient. There was an Alph Lithograph card that let you look at your prizes, and some lists played that alongside Rotom UD to get Durant out of the prizes. However, Alph Lithograph wasn't searchable, so it was largely excluded from Durant lists. Instead, players would use their first deck search to find if Durant was prized. If this was the case, then Rotom could be benched. However, there was skill involved in benching Rotom. In the Durant mirror match, in fact, it was better to hold onto the Rotom even if you had a Durant prized simply because the opponent could just Catcher Rotom to force you to burn all of your energy.

Also, take note that we run Prism Energy. This allows us to attack with Rotom in a pinch. For example, against a deck like Quad Terrakion, the Terrakion player could simply use one Terrakion to use Land Crush repeatedly to win the game. A well-timed Plasma Arrow might force the Terrakion player to bench a second Terrakion, which can be dragged to the active position with Pokemon Catcher and stranded while Durant repeatedly uses Devour.

Jason Klacynski wrote a considerable amount of words here three years ago on this topic, so feel free to check that out. There is a considerable amount of skill involved with using Rotom, and you can also use him to get yourself a draw Supporter or a Crushing Hammer/Junk Arm.

Pokemon Collector



Pokemon Collector was like a better Pokemon Fan Club in that it let you search for three Basic Pokemon. With this one Supporter card, you could easily have four Durant out on your first turn, using Devour for four cards. Pokemon Fan Club is a large step down from this and a much different card, because a Pokemon Collector ensured a proper set up for the majority of decks while it was in the format.

Anyway, since Pokemon Collector was so strong, it was easily a card that was ran in a count of four. Even though you wouldn't play four in a game, it was that important to have it on your first turn. It also made excellent Junk Arm fodder so you wouldn't draw into it later in the game. In addition, it was a Supporter card that had a search capability, so it could be used under Item lock against the odd deck that used Vileplume UD.

N

I am sure that this card looks familiar! N was a two-edged sword in Durant decks. When playing against a Durant deck, it was usually best to play as few cards as possible to avoid decking out, which meant that you would like to avoid playing Supporter cards that drew more cards. That meant that if the Durant deck played N, it gave you a fresh hand to work with without hurting you. Because of this, N was not the ideal for Durant to play early in the game. As things progressed and Durants got knocked out, N became better and better. A Durant player will always have six prize cards, since the deck doesn't win by taking prize cards. Because of this, it will always be a draw Supporter at any time in the game. And if Durant's opponent has knocked out three or four Durant, then an N can cripple them while still helping the Durant player significantly.

N gave Durant an easier way to reach its win condition as well. For example, if Durant's opponent had two cards in hand, four prize cards, and six cards left in their deck, an N would change that to four cards in hand, four prize cards, and four cards left in their deck. In this way, Durant could win a turn earlier, because having four cards left in deck is within range of Devour.

In this way, N could also hurt Durant. If Durant's opponent had eight cards in hand and five cards in deck, an N to two would actually hurt the Durant player, as they would need to discard six extra cards from the deck.

Twins


Twins, like N, goes very well with Durant. Durant isn't a deck that aims to take prizes, so as soon as Durant's opponent knocked out a Pokemon, Durant would be able to play Twins for the rest of the game. Early in the game, of course, Twins might have been used to get more Durant into play. Later, it might have grabbed Crushing Hammer, Revive, Lost Remover, or even Junk Arm. Twins brought a lot of utility due to the type of deck Durant was (a deck that never has less than six prize cards), and it was even stronger than N because it didn't help the opponent at all.

Junk Arm


According to Jason Klacyncski, Junk Arm was one of the cards that made the deck tick. Junk Arm was very powerful in many formats because it let people reuse their Item cards. Think about how powerful Sableye DEX was, and about how Lysandre's Trump Card was banned because it let people reuse Items. Junk Arm didn't have unlimited potential like those two cards did, but it let you use up to eight Pokemon Catcher or eight Crushing Hammer in one game, and it could even grab you a Pokegear 3.0 to try and net a Supporter for the turn.

In Durant decks, Junk Arm had a lot of utility for many things, but its primary use was to use extra Crushing Hammer during a game. The strategy of Durant decks wasn't solely to deck the opponent out. That was the means to an end, but the goal was really to discard all of your opponent's energy so that you could use Devour uncontested. Remember that there was no Lysandre's Trump Card in that format to recycle energy. The closest thing to that was Super Rod, which could grab up to three in any combination of Pokemon and Basic Energy and shuffle them back into the deck. If you were discarding your opponent's whole deck, you were bound to discard some energy as well. Using Crushing Hammer, Lost Remover (similar to Enhanced Hammer), and Devour, it was certainly a plausible enough goal to completely stop your opponent from attacking. With four Crushing Hammer and four Junk Arm, you were discarding an average of four energy cards from your opponent's board per game, and combined with Enhanced Hammer, your win condition was to get all energy off of the board so you could Devour with nothing standing in your way.

At the very least, you could get your opponent down to having few enough energy so that you could use Pokemon Catcher to drag up a Benched Pokemon that can't get out of the Active position by retreating.

Remember this, because it will be relevant once we start talking about Bunnelby.

Further reading about Durant:

The Hidden Skill of Durant Pt. 1 by Jason Klacynski

The Hidden Skill of Durant Pt. 2 also by Jason Klacynski

This is a really interesting read because obviously Jason had a really good handle on this deck. There are many intricacies to what seems like a simple mill deck.

--

Why does any of this matter? Of course it is cool to think about old formats, but for better or worse Durant is still legal in the Expanded format. If it was powerful before, logic tells us that it might still be relevant now. Here is a sample list for Durant in the Expanded format:

4 Durant
=4

4 Crushing Hammer
1 Enhanced Hammer
2 Acro Bike
4 Trick Shovel
2 Ultra Ball
2 Hard Charm
3 Trainers' Mail
1 Life Dew
4 Revive
4 Level Ball
4 VS Seeker
1 Battle Compressor
4 Repeat Ball
3 Recycle

1 Team Flare Grunt
4 Professor Juniper
1 Xerosic
4 N

1 Steel Shelter
=48

3 Metal Energy
4 Shield Energy
=7

What is different about this list? We no longer can use cards from the HG:SS set block, such as Rotom UD, but we get access to cards printed in Next Destinies and later. This changes the deck significantly, and unfortunately for the worst.

No Pokemon Collector, 4 Repeat Ball, 4 Level Ball, 2 Ultra Ball

In the old version of Durant, one could start Durant, play one of the four Pokemon Collector in the deck, and immediately start using Devour for four. Were you wondering why the HS-NVI list didn't max out on Level Ball? It didn't need to! This deck needs to run four Repeat Ball and four Level Ball, because you have to find your Durants as early as your first turn, and there isn't any one specific card that can do that for you. Once you have four Durant out though, these cards are dead cards, so I threw in a Battle Compressor so that you can try to discard your extra Balls.

Trick Shovel

This is a handy little trick that Durant didn't have the first time around. Trick Shovel allows you to discard the top card of your opponent's deck, which very much fits into a Durant deck. When you draw Trick Shovel, you always play it and you always discard the card that it reveals. If you don't discard it, you will end up Devouring it away anyway, and it's better to get one card deeper into your opponent's deck.

Recycle instead of Junk Arm

This card is one that I skimmed over many times. This card is significantly better I thought it was at first glance. Recycle says to flip a coin, and if heads to put a card from your discard pile on top of your deck. This is really good. This lets us reuse Crushing Hammer but that isn't really efficient. It is mostly in here to use with Trick Shovel. As soon as we play down a Trick Shovel, any other Recycles become live cards. Recycle does require a coin flip, so it doesn't really replace Junk Arm, but it's the next best thing. It's better to play 3 Recycles than something else to just get set up because we really like getting to use cards more than once.

Recycle can get you a card you want for the following turn, or you can follow it up with a Juniper, Trainers' Mail, or Acro Bike to retrieve the card you recycled immediately.

Crushing Hammer, Team Flare Grunt, and Xerosic

In the old version of the deck, we had four Crushing Hammer, two Lost Remover, and four Junk Arm to give us an opportunity to discard up to ten energy cards. Recycle doesn't replace Junk Arm in that we won't be using it to grab Hammers, so we can't discard energy quite as efficiently as one could in the past. Instead, we run Team Flare Grunt and Xerosic along with VS Seeker to let us discard up to ten energy that way instead. If we have our optimal set up, we can stream Flare Grunts and Xerosics with VS Seeker to discard all of our opponent's energy.

Supporters

We run four N and four Juniper like the old version of the deck used to, but the old deck could take advantage of search Supporters like Pokemon Collector and Twins, which we don't have access to. In fact, we don't run very many Supporters besides our standard N and Juniper. Instead we run three Trainers' Mail and a couple of Acro Bike to help us draw. The fact is, there isn't a lot we have to dig for past Durants and Revives, so we don't necessarily need to play a draw supporter every turn.

Why isn't this deck an obvious play for Expanded?

1) Prized Durants

There are several reasons why Durant is not an obvious play for Expanded. One of these reasons is that the deck has no way to deal with bad prizing. The Pokemon Card Laboratory likes to give us access to cards stuck in our prizes. I have only been playing since the Diamond and Pearl era, but I remember several cards that serve this purpose. Azelf LA let us exchange a Pokemon from our prizes with any card from our hand. Alph Lithograph let us look at our prizes. Rotom UD let us switch a prize with the top card of our deck. And finally, Town Map lets us look at our prizes.

Azelf and Rotom both would give us opportunities to grab a prized Durant, but neither of those cards are available to us. All we have is Town Map, which shows us where the Durant is. Unfortunately, this is not helpful at all if we can't take prizes. Unless you want to use Durant's second attack, Vice Grip to make a pitiful attempt to take a prize, there is no good way for the deck to fix that. In a best-case scenario, Durant can barely mill enough cards before six Durants get knocked out, and without using Devour for the full four every turn, the deck just can't win.

2) You can't deal with Item Lock

There is no way that Durant can deal with Item lock. Devour becomes a progressively weaker attack as you lose Durants from play, and you can't use Revive when you can't play Items. If your opponent can knock out a Durant in two hits under Item lock, your attacks will mill for 4, 4, 3, 3, 2, 2, 1, 1, which adds up to a grand total of 20 cards mill. Unless your opponent plays sloppily with Professor Junipers and such, that is not nearly enough cards to win by milling. To add to the hurt, you can't play Crushing Hammer, Enhanced Hammer, or VS Seeker under Item lock, and those are all integral cards to keeping up energy denial.


No Ninjask?


I did build a list that included Ninjask. Ninjask is a Pokemon that lets you discard the top card of your opponent's deck when Ninjask is active if you discard a card from your hand. Its utility would come into play when your Durant gets knocked out, after which you would want to bring up the Ninjask and discard a card before retreating back into Durant. The issue is that starting with Nincada is a real possibility. We rely on Repeat Ball to set up Durants, so not being able to grab our favorite metal ant with Repeat Ball would probably cripple our set up. We also would have to add in Switch cards and more things that would make us not be able to stream Durants as efficiently.

Plus, our win condition isn't necessarily to "mill more cards", energy denial is an integral part of the strategy. The space necessary to mill just a few more cards makes us lose a lot of consistency, and makes our deck worse at both milling and denying energy.


This is a decklist that tries to cover for some of Durant's weaknesses. We get an alternate attacker in Sableye from Dark Explorers. If we have two Durant in play, that mills two cards from our opponent's deck. If we use Junk Hunt to reuse two Trick Shovels, that also mills two cards from our opponent's deck. So if Durant's are running low or even if it's convenient to attack with Sableye, he really isn't a bad attacker.

Sableye also helps us with some other tricks with prize denial and energy denial. If you grab two Crushing Hammers with Junk Hunt, then there is a 75% chance that you will remove at least one energy from your opponent's field on the following turn. If you get rid of all of your opponent's energy, you can mill with Durant to your heart's content!

The last little "trick" is that Sableye can get back an Ace Spec from the discard pile. Our Ace Spec is Life Dew, so we can attack with Durants with Life Dews attached and in between Devours we can use Junk Hunt to reuse the Life Dew. This makes our opponent have to knock out more Pokemon to win the game, hopefully using more cards and resources in the process.

Sableye is a great card because it can mill with Trick Shovel, deny prizes with Life Dew, discard energy with Crushing Hammer, and even pull you out of a dead hand with VS Seeker!

After playing several games with Sableye, I was really happy with it. In the Expanded format, with access to so many powerful Item cards, Sableye is quite powerful and fun to play with. I began to get more and more frustrated with Durant for the reasons listed above. Eventually I cut the Durant for Bunnelby and I liked that a lot more.

4 Bunnelby
2 Diggersby XY
2 Corphish
2 Crawdaunt
3 Sableye
1 Jirachi-EX
=14

4 Trainers' Mail
1 Switch
4 Trick Shovel
1 Life Dew
2 Devolution Spray
2 Startling Megaphone
2 Head Ringer
3 VS Seeker
4 Crushing Hammer
3 Level Ball
3 Professor Juniper
2 Lysandre
4 N
2 Silent Lab
=37

4 Double Colorless Energy
5 Darkness Energy
=9

Bunnelby has two attacks; one attack (called Burrow) discards a card from your opponent's deck and the second (Rototiller) shuffles a card from your discard pile back into your deck. Rototiller gives you another way besides Sableye to recycle Life Dew. Bunnelby has the Omega Barrage Ancient Trait that allows you to attack twice, so Bunnelby can mill two cards per turn. Rototiller means you will never run out of attackers, because you can just shuffle a Bunnelby and an energy card from your discard pile back into the deck if necessary.

Diggersby XY is a card that you can run as well without changing the deck a lot. Diggersby has an attack called Pickup that has the same effect as Junk Hunt. This gives you a "Super-Sableye" with more HP that conveniently evolves from a Pokemon that you already run!

Crawdaunt fits well into this deck. Both Crawdaunt and Corphish are searchable with Level Ball, which makes them easy to get out. Most of my early-game Level Balls go fetch me Corphish. Crawdaunt's Unruly Claw ability is only activated when you put him down from your hand to evolve Corphish. Crawdaunt decks in the standard format tend to run AZ or Super Scoop Up to reuse Crawdaunt, but in the Expanded format, there exists a card called Devolution Spray which lets you place the topmost Evolution card from a Pokemon back into your hand, without the flip of a coin. This means we don't need to run Super Scoop Up, because we can achieve the same effect without the flip of a coin. We can also reuse this card with Junk Hunt and Pickup, meaning that we can discard an energy card from the active Pokemon every turn, at very little cards.

Matchups

(I'm using this to estimate what decks will be popular in Expanded)

Against decks like Raichu and Night March, it is quite easy to run them out of energy. Through Crushing Hammer and Crawdaunt, it's a cinch to get rid of four Double Colorless energy before they take six prizes. From there, you just have to clean up and get rid of the Basic Energy, which is easier to do because these decks are not as threatening when they can't take prizes as fast.

Landorus/Crobat is a trickier matchup because weakness lets them run through your bunnies pretty easily. You want to use the energy denial here as well with Sableye, and you'll want to strand something like a Lucario active with a Head Ringer on it. Using Crawdaunt, you can make sure that it never gets more than one energy on it, and then once they run out of Switch cards you can deck out the opponent.

Against decks that use Bronzong and Eelektrik, you can still use energy denial, but you can't use it haphazardly. Feel free to discard any energy that isn't lightning or metal. For example, against Rayquaza/Eels, by all means, get rid of the Fire Energy! Discarding Double Colorless Energy against Metal decks is also fine. Against these decks, you want to strand something active, such as Bronzong or Eelektrik, but only do this if there is no Keldeo in play or if Keldeo is Head Ringer'ed etc.

The real question is what do you do against Item lock. Your deck falls apart when you can't play Items, so we need to be able to deal with this. What I do when playing against Seismitoad is on my one turn of Items I get out as many Corphish as is possible. Then I use Supporters to draw into my Crawdaunts and run my opponent out of Double Colorless energy. Once they start missing attacks, you get your Items back to reuse Crawdaunt, and then everything is good.

Against Trevenant/Accelgor though, this is not a viable option. No energy stays on the board, because when Mew or Accelgor uses Deck and Cover, the Double Colorless energy gets shuffled back into the deck. Trevenant has an annoying 110 HP, but it has weakness to Darkness. Luckily, you run a Darkness-typed Pokemon that hits for 60 damage, and you already run the necessary energy!

If your opponent can stream Trevenant better than you can stream Crawdaunt, then you're in trouble, but this funky crab means that the matchup is not an autoloss by any means. Crawdaunt is also a decent attacker to get rid of opposing Bunnelbys! Your opponent runs Accelgor, which does 50 damage along with paralysis and poison. They knock out Bunnelby, which is what you want. A Sableye, however, is not knocked out until it will be their turn again, so you don't want to put Sableye active if you can help it. For this reason, you don't want to use Diggersby in this matchup either, unless you're using his second attack.


I am very excited about all of the wonderful possibilities that await us in the Extended format, and I intend to continue to write about these types of decks. Feel free to leave any questions or comments down below, and have a great day!