Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Bears. Beets. Battlestoise Galactica.

Not pictured: Beets.
I started playing Blastoise during the Cities season of 2015-2016 during some Expanded Cities in Missouri. I fell in love with the deck. You can hit high numbers, and it gives me a rush when I successfully execute Archie's Ace In The Hole.

I have personally received a lot of questions about the list as well as seen people requesting a Blastoise list on Heyfonte. I thought I would put the list here and explain card counts and matchups.

Here is my current list:

---

Pokemon: 15
2 Keldeo EX
1 Articuno
1 Tapu Fini GX
2 Exeggcute
2 Blastoise
2 Shaymin EX
2 Tapu Lele GX
1 Lapras GX
1 Wishiwashi GX
1 Oranguru

T/S/S: 34
1 Computer Search
2 Field Blower
4 Superior Energy Retrieval
4 Battle Compressor
4 Ultra Ball
2 Acro Bike
4 Trainers' Mail
4 VS Seeker
2 Muscle Band
1 Float Stone

1 N
1 Lysandre
2 Archie's Ace in the Hole
2 Professor Juniper

Energy: 11
11 Water

---

2 Keldeo EX

Keldeo used to be the main attacker of the deck, but it takes more of a back seat now as plenty of water attackers have been printed to handle different situations. Keldeo shines in knocking out Pokemon EX that have 170 HP. To achieve this, it needs six attached energy (or five and a Muscle Band). Keldeo also has the Rush In ability which lets it come to the active spot once per turn. This is helpful in both making it so  less switch cards are needed as well as resetting Lapras GX's Blizzard Burn attack.

1 Articuno

Articuno helps trade positively with low HP Pokemon due to its Delta Plus ability that lets it take an extra prize when it knocks out a Pokemon. I personally only attack with Articuno when I will get the knock out upon flipping one heads, which means I attack a defending Pokemon with 60 HP (or 80 HP with a Muscle Band attached). I have a friend who plays Blastoise who takes more risks in this regard and attempts the knockout with two heads necessary, but I prefer not to play this way. When possible, I will attach a Muscle Band against a Pokemon with only 40 HP (like Combee) so that I don't need any heads to get the knockout. An Articuno with a Muscle Band and two heads can knock out a Shaymin EX for three prizes, but I don't often make this move anymore now that Tapu Fini GX is in the deck.

1 Tapu Fini GX

Tapu Fini is very, very good. I don't find myself using its GX attack all that much, as I prefer to use Wishiwashi's. I use it to snipe Shaymins whenever my opponent benches one, as three energy for two prizes is very fair. I use the GX attack to threaten Primal Groudon. How that matchup goes is I will bench Tapu Fini GX while loading up two Tapu Lele GX. The Groudon player will be forced to Lysandre the Tapu Fini, which allows me to trade favorably with the two Leles for game. If they don't Lysandre anything, we can put Fini active and start sniping.



2 Exeggcute

Exeggcute is fantastic in this deck for several reasons. The first is that we run four Battle Compressor for Archie's purposes, so it's easy to slip our eggs in the discard pile. Then, we play four Ultra Ball and four Superior Energy Retrieval, which can be played at no cost with two eggs in the discard pile. Lastly, an Exeggcute or two in our discard pile can increase the number of hands that can successfully perform an Archie's.

2 Blastoise

Blastoise is what makes the deck tick. Its Deluge ability allows us to attach as much water energy as we would like every turn. We rarely want to attack with it, as it's a valuable resource to have on the field and needs a lot of energy to hit high numbers.

2 Tapu Lele GX

If you're looking for extra space in the deck, you can cut one of these, but I like two. This helps get the Archie's when you start or prize a Lele. It also provides an attack that hits for more damage depending on how much energy you have attached, which works very well with Blastoise's ability.

1 Lapras GX

If you expect to see a lot of Darkrai, two Lapras is better although unnecessary. We play two Muscle Band so that we can hit for 180 for three energy. 

1 Wishiwashi GX

This card is very good. We don't really need to use any of the other GX attacks in the deck, so the fact that we can hit for 220 easily every game for only five energy is very helpful. It also sets up attackers on the bench, which makes it less likely that you'll need a Superior Energy Retrieval late game.

1 Oranguru, 2 Shaymin EX

Oranguru is a recent addition. For my first cup, I played an Unown in its place. Blastoise is often Nd in the late game, and usually my deck is thin enough that I can draw the final Superior Energy Retrieval that I need to draw. However, Oranguru provides insurance for that situation. When I played against Michael "Xiao Xiao" Long at Ft Wayne Regionals, I saw that he played Oranguru. I don't like having less than two Shaymin because you need one to dig when you draw five off of Archie's, and you need one to dig late game when you get Nd.

0 Kyogre EX

I played this in the deck for a long time and used it very, very rarely. If your metagame has lots of Night March, this could be a very good card. I have a friend who swears by the card and uses it to "soften things up", but we have Wishiwashi that knocks out everything in one hit, and we have Tapu Fini that can snipe, so I feel that we don't need Kyogre. There is a Shining Volcanion coming out in Shining Legend which has the same attack but is a non-EX, which I think will be worth playing upon release.

2 Field Blower, 0 Stadiums

I advocate for a total of two in combination of Field Blower and a stadium. I personally like the utility of two Field Blower for Garbodor, the Groudon matchup, and removing Fighting Fury Belts, but by playing one Field Blower and one stadium, we could have a higher chance of successfully getting of Archie's. If we were to play a stadium, we have three options. Tropical Beach helps draw cards when we can't attack, which is especially helpful on the first turn. The lists that did well at Houston Regionals in 2015 used Tropical Beach in this way. Another option is Rough Seas, which Jacob Van Wagner used in his Blastoise deck that won Worlds in 2015. I don't find this especially useful, as most of the time my Pokemon get knocked out in one hit. This can make some bad matchups a little better, such as Greninja and Trevenant, but it doesn't swing those matchups by any means. Our last option is Brooklet Hill, which seems very good on paper, but in practice I have found it to be very weak and I find myself not using its effect. For this reason, I've chosen to go with two Field Blower, but it wouldn't be a wrong decision per se to swap one out for a stadium.

2 Muscle Band

I like Muscle Band a lot. You need Muscle Band for several situations, including Articuno knocking out Frogadier/Grubbin, for Lapras GX to knock out 180 HP EXes, and for Wishiwashi GX to knock out Gardevoir. For this reason, I think that it is important to run two of these. If you don't value this very highly, a flex spot could be to cut one of the Muscle Band.

When I played against Michael Long at Ft. Wayne Regionals, I saw a Choice Band in his deck, and maybe a Fighting Fury Belt (I'm not sure about that one). Other than that, our decks looked pretty similar. I prefer Muscle Band to both of those options.

2 Acro Bike

This count hurts me a little bit. I would love to have four of these. One could also make a very good argument that these could be Unowns. On paper, I like Unown more, but I can't bring myself to cut the Acro Bikes because they let me dig deeper and make more choices. If you can find extra space, I suggest buffing this count.

1 Lysandre

Lysandre versus Guzma is very interesting to take into consideration when building the deck. It begs the question: how often will I lose because I don't have a switching card (because something is stuck active) versus how often will I lose because Lysandre would have won me the game whereas Guzma comes up short. I decided to go with Lysandre.

0 Fisherman

Wishiwashi GX helps conserve enough energy that we don't need Fisherman. When you leave Wishiwashi active after attacking with it, it doesn't have energy on it vulnerable to being discarded. Between that and four Superior Energy Retrieval, we should have plenty of energy to last us the entirety of the game.

---

Matchups:

Darkrai - Darkrai is a good matchup on paper. In theory, you can use Wishiwashi GX, Lapras GX (with Muscle Band), and Tapu Fini GX to take your six prizes. You can use Wishiwashi first to take
two prizes and move five energy to Lapras and Tapu Fini. Then, you would only need one more attachment from hand and a Muscle Band to win the game.

This strategy gets obstructed in a couple of ways. The first is that Baby Yveltal can be frustrating enough to swing the prize trade in their favor. They attack with Baby Yveltal, meaning that you need to attack it with Keldeo and four energy. You can't attack with Lapras here because you need it to attack Darkrai. Then, they kill Keldeo. You kill Darkrai with Wishiwashi. They kill Wishiwashi, probably with Dead End GX. Then, you kill Darkrai GX with Lapras for your fourth and fifth prizes. Then, they can kill Lapras for their final prizes.

In this way, the prize trade can be tricky even though we can OHKO each one of their attackers. There is, of course, the possibility that they miss the knockout on one of these attacks. However, with a timely Hex Maniac or two on their part, this can be totally mitigated. In fact, the Darkrai player can sometimes even set up in a way that does not require benching a Shaymin or a Jirachi for Tapu Fini GX to snipe. In this way, Darkrai can be a tougher matchup than it might appear at first.

Greninja - Greninja has not seen as much play, but it's out there and it's something you could run into at an Expanded event. This is a very hard matchup, if not impossible. Your out is to take four prizes with Articuno on your first and second turns. If you go first, you pass with Articuno in play. They Bubble. Then, you knock out Froakie with Articuno to take two prizes. They'll evolve and use Water Duplicates. You'll knock out Frogadier with Articuno to take your third and fourth prizes. Next turn, they'll have out Greninja and use Shadow Stitching, and they'll need to use Shadow Stitching for the rest of the game. It is a struggle to have the resources to take all of your prizes at this point, and you need to have successfully led with Articuno to make it work. If you missed any of those attacks or flipped triple tails, the Greninja player can successfully use a combination of Shadow Stitching while knocking out anything with energy with Giant Water Shuriken.

Gardevoir - To beat this deck, you'll need Articuno. For sure, you need to take two prizes with it. If you can take four prizes with it, you will win the game, but that requires a gust effect on your second attacking turn, which is a lot to ask for. You can knock out one Gardevoir with a Wishiwashi GX with Muscle Band. To take your final two prizes (if you only took two with Articuno), you will need to gust up a Lele or load up a ridiculous amount of energy on a Keldeo/Lele, which is a viable option for the late game.

When you bench Wishiwashi, don't attach too much energy to it until it's ready to attack. A worst-case scenario would be that they gust it up and knock it out. However, a Gardevoir can't do that without having seven energies attached between Gardevoir GX and Wishiwashi GX.

I would say that the Gardevoir deck that plays Vulpix to set up is very favorable because you can lead with Articuno. The version that plays Diancie is much harder to beat because it's harder to take prizes with Articuno. Your best out is to hope you find your gust card and use that repeatedly to knock out Ralts with Articuno. I have not played against the Sylveon version in Expanded, but that seems scary because they can Plea GX Blastoise which seems very annoying.

Mega Rayquaza - This matchup was very hard before Wishiwashi GX came out. Unfortunately, the matchup is still not great, but it is winnable.

If they start Exeggcute, you can use Articuno. Otherwise, Wishiwashi GX and Tapu Fini GX will be your best attackers in the matchup, as Wishiwashi GX can knock out a Mega Rayquaza in one hit, and Tapu Fini GX will almost always have a Shaymin to prey on. That leaves two more prizes to take somehow, which will most likely be achieved through a Lysandre on a benched Shaymin. It could also be a large amount of energy on a Tapu Lele GX. Note that if you are going to try to load up a Pokemon with a large amount of energy to knock out a Mega Rayquaza with three energy on it, mathematically it is better to load up a Tapu Lele GX as opposed to a Keldeo EX, as the Keldeo would need nine energy while a Tapu Lele only needs eight.

The reason that this matchup is not a shoe-in is because while you trade favorably, they could get the first attack off. Also, they only need a Hex Maniac to put you back a turn if you can't set up an early Wishiwashi. The match is winnable but unfavorable because of Hex Maniac.

Night March - If you run two Articuno, or Kyogre EX, this matchup becomes a bit easier. Against Pumpkaboo, you can use Articuno to trade favorably. Remember, you can Archie's your Articuno back when it gets knocked out! You can also use Shaymin to Sky Return into Exeggcute to trade evenly. Another way to trade evenly is (once you have game on board) to attack with Blastoise. You can also attack a Shaymin with Tapu Fini GX or use an EX to knock out a Shaymin that got gusted up. In short, you can trade evenly with Night March. They can, of course, use Lysandre to knock out an EX, use Hex Maniac to stop your acceleration, or use Ghetsis to hinder your opening hand. I haven't played against a Night March with the deck since quarter three of last season, so I don't know how the matchup is anymore .

Groudon - I went through the Groudon matchup a bit above, but while they're loading up Groudon, you want to bench Fini and load up two Leles. They'll be forced to Lysandre and KO Fini with the Groudon (if they don't, you can use Tapu Storm GX to great effect). Then, you can knock out the Groudon in two hits with back to back Energy Drive + N. If they miss the stadium off of the N to four, even better! We play two Field Blower also which makes it harder for them to just leave a Stadium in play.

Seismitoad - Against Seismitoad, Wishiwashi GX is your friend. Use the second attack to discard the DCEs off of Toad. When Wishiwashi is within knockout range, use that moment to use the GX attack, regardless of whether it's ideal. You need those energy in play for another attacker.

Trevenant - This matchup is very bad. There is no way to win if you don't get Archie's before you are Item locked. The ideal set up is Lapras and three energy with Muscle Band, and a benched Keldeo + Float Stone.

Volcanion - This is a very hard matchup to lose, especially when your opponent can't N and Blacksmith in the same turn.

---

I'm going to run through my three tournaments this season in which I've played Blastoise.

Expanded League Cup (Bo3), Crestwood MO

R1 Lycanroc WW
We all played Blastoise. Except for Tucker.
R2 Drampa/Garb LL
R3 Greninja LWT
R4 Volcanion WW
R5 Gardevoir WLW
R6 Groudon WW

Swiss Record: 4-1-1

T8 Vikavolt/Bulu WW
T4 Drampa/Garb WLW
T2 Trevenant LWL

Final Result: 2nd Place

My only loss in swiss was to Drampa/Garbodor, but I was able to beat that player in my top four match. That matchup comes completely down to your opening hand. In game three of top four, I got Archie's with only three (!) items in discard, which absolutely stole me the game. But in swiss, I used eight and nine items respectively, which did not allow me to trade favorably.

---

Ft. Wayne Regionals

R1 Straight Seismitoad WLT
R2 Michael Long w/ Blastoise L
R3 Volcanion (?) WW
R4 W
R5 Kenny Britton w/ Gardevoir WW
R6 Mega Rayquaza LL
R7 W
R8 Darkrai LL
R9 Gardevoir LWT

Final Result: 4-3-2, 281st

I'm having a bit of trouble remembering what I beat, but my losses and ties are drilled into my brain. I definitely feel like I could have tied my second round, but the clock did not allow that unfortunately. During round five, beating Gardevoir was a cakewalk because he ran Vulpix, but in round nine Diancie made it hard for me to trade advantageously. I believe that I would have lost the last game, but I played for the tie because I was hoping to bubble into top 256. In hindsight, I now know that it was impossible to do so, so if I had known that I would have conceded my last match.

---

Dizzy Dugout League Cup (Bo1), Collinsville, IL

R1 Mega Rayquaza L
R2 Bye
R3 Lone Tapu Lele GX W
R4 Darkrai L
R5 Lone Tapu Koko W

Final result: 3-2, 10th place

This cup was really nothing to write home about. I successfully donked two people and got the bye. Both of my losses were games that I would have won if Hex Maniac didn't exist, but unfortunately for me that card does exist.

I don't believe that Blastoise is a viable deck because of Hex Maniac. It can win games, and it benefits greatly from the popularity of the Turtonator deck that did well in Ft. Wayne. But its matchup spread is not quite good enough to succeed. It's still my comfort pick, and you'll probably still see me playing it at tournaments, but I think that Night March has a similar matchup spread but isn't quite as weak to Hex Maniac. I cannot recommend Blastoise as a deck for a Regionals or another large tournament to that effect for this reason. However, if you're looking to attend an Expanded cup and you want to know what the "standard" Blastoise list should look like, I'm hoping to have provided that for you.