Steaming Up — A Standard Analysis and an Interview with Andrew Wamboldt About Volcanion

Happy New Year trainers! Thanks for joining me here at PokeBeach. I have some exciting stuff for you all today. I’ve got a few new Standard lists and a 3,000 word interview with my good friend, Andrew Wamboldt, who has just finished in the Top 16 of the Dallas Regional Championship with his original Volcanion deck! This interview is awesome. I learned so much from it and hope that you all will as well. Interview articles are my favorite articles to write because they give you, the reader, a variety of perspectives to learn from. One of the things that makes great players consistently successful is their inner circle, and Wamboldt is one of the few people I consult when choosing my deck for a tournament. I greatly trust his judgement!

Kirsten and I visited Baltimore for the Holidays!

Wamboldt is known specifically for his creativity and innovation. His resume includes the creation of Vespiquen / Vileplume, Latios-EX / Reshiram / Altaria and Vespiquen / Unown / Klefki to name a few decks. Don’t remember Latios-EX / Altaria? That’s because Wamboldt was probably the only person to have ever played the deck. He finished in 13th place at 2015’s Wisconson Regionals with it, right before the infamous Lysandre's Trump Card ban. Wamboldt has a long history of breathing new life into cards that others aren’t considering, and his perspective on Volcanion, a deck on the cusp of greatness, is top notch!

Dallas Regionals really up heaved what we thought we knew about the Standard format. In this article, I will be discussing a few essential updates so that you will be ready to roll for Georgia Regionals and League Cups in the upcoming month before diving in depth with Volcanion. But before I do all of that, I want to take a minute to discuss something that’s been on my mind lately, playing opening hands correctly!

The Play by Play: Opening Hands with Shaymin-EX

Let’s Set Up!

A couple articles ago, I did a bit about using Trainers' Mail optimally. A player came up to me at Fort Wayne Regionals and told me that he got a lot out of that section, and that it made him think about the card in a way that he hadn’t considered previously. That meant a lot to me. I am a teacher, and I don’t always get to hear that my lessons are good, or that they worked at all! So it was nice to hear that something I said meant something to someone out there. I like to include these “Play by Play” sections whenever I can. It’s not just my goal to make my readers more informed players, I want my readers to learn to play the game better! Some of the mechanics that I discuss in these sections are things that good players do without thinking about it. Some of them are things that I have seen good players mess up on! So my hope is that this bit of information will be of some value to you as you go forth and conquer this season.

Since the rotation in Standard happened, I have noticed myself playing opening hands differently than I did previously. I assumed that everyone would play their opening hands the way that I did, but after watching some top-tier players, I have noticed that we haven’t all come to the same conclusions.

Shaymin-EX and Hoopa-EX play a huge role in the setup of most decks. Since most decks only run, on average, seven draw Supporters, this means that they will be relying on Ultra Ball for Shaymin-EX or Hoopa-EX a significant portion of the time to draw cards. Below, I want to discuss what you choose to discard when you are playing Ultra Ball for Hoopa or Shaymin and attempting to draw into a Supporter during your opening turn.

With Battle Compressor legal, it was often correct to hold onto VS Seeker in an opening hand when trying to draw cards with Hoopa or Shaymin. Battle Compressor could turn VS Seeker into a live card by throwing a draw Supporter to the discard. Now, VS Seeker is mostly a dead card on the first turn of the game. I can’t tell you how many times I have drew-pass to a loss this season, staring in vain at a VS Seeker.

Since VS Seeker is so bad on the first turn of the game in Standard, you will usually want to discard it with Ultra Ball when digging for a real Supporter during the first turn of the game. Whenever you set up with Shaymin-EX at the beginning of the game, you want to assume that you are going to draw dead. This means that you want to keep playable cards in your hand such as Energy and Tools. Keeping playable cards in your hand will allow you to weather a dead draw far more than a VS Seeker would. Let’s look at an example.

Sample Starting Hands

Decisions, Decisions

For our examples, we will pretend that we are playing an Yveltal-EX mirror going first and our opponent opens a lone Yveltal-EX. Say you start with a hand of Yveltal-EX, one Dark Energy, one Max Elixir, one VS Seeker, one Double Colorless Energy, a Parallel City and an Ultra Ball. It happens all the time! This is a very playable hand, but not everyone goes about it the same way. We’ll take a few different examples of how to play this depending on a few different top decks, and see how that changes what we do.

Example One: Top Deck Yveltal-EX

We should be very excited about top decking this Yveltal-EX. We can bench it immediately. But let’s not get too trigger happy, because it is correct to play the Ultra Ball before using the Max Elixir on our Benched Yveltal-EX. You do this because retrieving the Shaymin-EX from your deck increases your odds of hitting an Energy off of the Max Elixir. But what to Ultra Ball away? We should start by attaching the Basic Dark Energy to our Active Yveltal-EX. You don’t attach the Double Colorless Energy, because that gives your opponent a chance to remove it with cards like Enhanced Hammer. Then, you Ultra Ball away the Parallel City and the VS Seeker for Shaymin-EX and place it in your hand. Before playing Shaymin down, you play Max Elixir and attempt to get an Energy on the Benched Yveltal-EX. Then, with just the DCE left in hand, you set up for five. As you can see, we have left the DCE in our hand, since it is the most essential card that we will want for next turn if we do not draw into a draw Supporter, allowing for a turn two Y Cyclone.

Example Two: Top Deck VS Seeker

The last situation was black and white. This one, however, is a little more tricky. Here, it is correct to start out by using Ultra Ball, discarding both VS Seeker. This is a big hit to take, but it is easily the best move you can make. You want to grab Shaymin-EX again and put it into your hand. Then, attach Darkness to the Active, play your Parallel City, blue side facing the opponent, and then use Set Up for a draw of four. You keep the Elixir and DCE in your hand, because in the event that you do not draw a Supporter, these will be cards that you may be able to utilize while you dead draw.

Example Three: Top Deck Max Elixir

This situation is interesting, and kind of infuriating when it happens. You have all these Max Elixir and no one to use them on. It crosses your mind that you could Ultra Ball for a Max Elixir target then hope to top deck out of the situation, but that won’t work. We need to draw cards. The correct play is to start by using Ultra Ball, discarding VS Seeker and one Max Elixir for Shaymin-EX. Put the Shaymin in your hand, then attach Darkness Energy to the Active, play Parallel City (blue side facing the opponent) and then set up for four, keeping Max Elixir and DCE in your hand. It hurts, but you have to discard the Max Elixir here. You can’t afford to discard the Stadium instead while keeping both Max Elixir, because that would only provide a Set Up for three. Granted, if the three cards you were to set up for are Yveltal-EX, N and Fury Belt, well then, I guess your wager paid off! However, the odds of things playing out that nicely are slim.

Final Example: Top Deck Sycamore

Oh baby! You got the Sycamore! This is great, however, it gives you something to consider. You no longer have to grab Shaymin with your Ultra Ball. The question is, do you play Sycamore this turn or next turn? This is a judgement question, but I would wait on the Sycamore play. I would start out by using Ultra Ball, discarding the Sycamore and Parallel City for a Fright Night Yveltal. Then, I would play Max Elixir, attempting to get a Dark on my Benched Yveltal. Then, I would attach a Darkness to the Active, leaving VS Seeker and Double Colorless Energy in my hand and pass. This play saves your DCE for the next turn while still attaining most of the things that you would want on a turn one play. The only risk here is that your opponent could Delinquent your hand away. This would require a lot though, your opponent would have to start with or draw into a Stadium as well as their one copy of Delinquent. It’s far more likely that your opponent starts with an Enhanced Hammer in their hand, and it’s more important that you don’t give them an opportunity to play it. By holding the DCE, your opponent may even have to Sycamore an Enhanced Hammer away without getting the chance to use it. If your opponent only has an N in their opening hand, they will use it, completely refreshing your hand in the process. If your opponent does N you, you have also taken the liberty of discarding a Sycamore already, turning all of your VS Seekers into live cards. Resource management is a big deal, especially with Yveltal. You need to know when to aggressively draw and when to attack without playing a Supporter. A lot of the skill required to play the deck hinges on decisions just like these, so I wanted to give you a glimpse into how I would play them.

What Happened in Dallas?

FAIRIES!

Before Regionals this year, M Mewtwo-EX / Garbodor was widely considered to be one of the strongest decks in format. Mewtwo / Garbodor has good matchups versus basically everything except for M Gardevoir-EX. In Dallas, Mewtwo showed up in massive numbers in an attempt to dethrone Yveltal as BDIF. A whopping nine Mewtwo / Garbodor decks finished in the Top 32 of Dallas Regionals while only three Yveltal were able to do the same. And not a single Yveltal deck finished in the Top 16! With over a fourth of the Top 32 field composed of Mewtwo, M Gardevoir-EX, a deck that continued to see play despite generally weak results in earlier Regional Championships, was able to pave a path of total dominance, capturing four of the Top 8 positions and winning the tournament overall. Many lists and techs have changed since Fort Wayne, and I think that JW Kriewall wrote an excellent summation of the metagame and Dallas results, here, so if you haven’t checked out his article yet, be sure to do so! Below, I will fill in the gaps by reviewing a couple decks and ideas that JW didn’t discuss in his article.

Xerneas BREAK / Lugia-EX / Snorlax-GX

Xerneas BREAK / Lugia-EX / Snorlax GX, a deck conceived and piloted by Kevin Baxter, Sam Chen, Josh Marking and Carl Scheu at Dallas Regionals, was a direct reaction to Yveltal-EX‘s dominance. That, or it could have just been attempt by Kevin Baxter to get the name “Snorbax” to catch on again. Either way, Kevin was able to finish in 14th place with the rogue deck, so it’s totally worth checking out! Below is the list that Sam Chen shared online.

Pokemon (15)

4x Xerneas BREAK (STS #82)4x Xerneas (XY #96)3x Lugia-EX (AOR #68)2x Shaymin-EX (RSK #77)1x Regirock (PRXY #XY49)1x Snorlax-GX (PRSM #SM1)

Trainers (32)

4x Professor Sycamore (PHF #101)3x N (NVI #92)2x Lysandre (FLF #104)1x Ace Trainer (AOR #69)1x Ninja Boy (STS #103)4x VS Seeker (SV #140)4x Ultra Ball (DEX #102)3x Exp. Share (NXD #87)2x Float Stone (BKT #137)2x Super Rod (BKT #149)1x Fighting Fury Belt (BKP #99)1x Escape Rope (PRC #127)4x Silent Lab (PRC #140)

Energy (13)

9x Fairy Energy (XY #140)4x Double Colorless Energy (NXD #92)

This deck is essentially a Xerneas BREAK centric deck that swaps Giratina-EX, an inclusion that was popular early on in the season, for heavy hitting Colorless partners such as Lugia-EX and Snorlax-GX. Notably, there is no Fairy Garden in this list. For mobility, we have one copy of Ninja Boy, two Float Stone, and a single Escape Rope. Three switch cards with a single switching Supporter is relatively standard right now, so this works just fine. Not to mention, once a few Geomancy have been performed, you can usually attack with anyone on board. Regirock is included as a Ninja Boy target. He can stockpile Energy and avoid Lysandre thanks to its Trait, Omega Barrier. Eventually, Regirock can be Ninja Boy swapped for Snorlax-GX, allowing for some Pulverizing plays!

Strengths

According to my resident Xerneas BREAK / Lugia-EX / Snorlax-GX expert, Carl Scheu, who stayed with me for a few days after returning from Dallas, the deck fares well versus M Gardevoir-EX, Volcanion-EX, and Yveltal-EX. Four copies of Silent Lab is really good versus decks that rely on Abilities like Hoopa-EX‘s Scoundrel Ring, Shaymin-EX‘s Set Up and Volcanion-EX‘s Steam Up. Combine that with a fat 150 HP, Dark resistant non-EX attacker, and we have ourselves a seriously potent and low maintenance deck. Snorlax-GX offers this deck an even more impressive tank, boasting 230 HP and an impressive GX attack that swings for 220 damage when Fighting Fury Belt is equipped. 

Weaknesses

It’s not all good for Xerneas BREAK, unfortunately. The deck does not fare well versus M Mewtwo-EX or Greninja BREAK, both of which have become popular choices for Regionals and League Cups. Once Mewtwo is up and rolling, it easily plows through a field of Xerneas BREAK or Lugia-EX with Psychic Infinity. It only takes three Energy on a Mewtwo to OHKO a Xerneas with two Energy on it. Greninja is bad for Xerneas / Lugia-EX as well. Both decks are a little slow to get going and Greninja boasts even beefier non-EX attackers than Xerneas does! Silent Lab does nothing to slow down an onslaught of Giant Water Shuriken, and a field of Energy can be quickly picked apart once their BREAK come into play, especially if they play a high count of Splash Energy.

Overall

I’m not sure that this deck has the stuff to be a major metagame contender due to its weaknesses to Greninja BREAK and M Mewtwo-EX, however, I do love the inclusion of four Silent Lab in this list. I think that Silent Lab will be a big card in the future of this format, eventually taking over as the dominant Stadium in decks like Greninja. Greninja with Silent Lab is very strong right now. Not only does it allow you to slow down Mega decks, it also offers an answer to the newly released Giratina Promo!


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