Return to Darkness — Yveltal-EX and Lurantis-GX in Expanded

Hey PokeBeach! I’m back again with another article. I’ve been inspired lately by the great articles put out by Eric Gansman, Grant Manley, and Dalen Dockery. These articles got me craving to write about new stuff from Sun and Moon, and man is this an exciting set to write about. I’ve had some time to get adjusted to my new apartment, get my dog to feel at home here, and to settle in to my amazing new job working for the State of Nebraska.

All of my testing lately has been for Expanded decks in preparation for Collinsville (St. Louis) Regionals in early March. This is the next big event I will be attending and the first one I’ve attended since last year at Fort Wayne. A Worlds Invite this season is a bit out of reach for me, but I still plan on traveling and playing competitively. I don’t need to mention again how much school was a focus for me during the months of August through December. The Championship Point requirement this season is brutal if you have an off period in the game.

Personal stuff aside, Sun and Moon, just like when XY came out, brought about some powerful cards in the game. Some of the Pokemon-GX are duds and some have value in decks of their own or strengthen other archetypes. I’ll be highlighting a Pokemon-GX that I find incredibly powerful that should function very well in its own deck. Lurantis-GX has such strong fundamentals that it should be very solid in Expanded.

I’m also visiting an old friend that I’m incredibly familiar with, Yveltal. Decks evolve, and things change from time to time. It’s hard changing a formula for a deck that obviously was so successful for me in the past, but I realize that the meta does change and that I need to get with the current times and involve the GX meta into Yveltal-EX decks.

Expanded Highlights from Sun and Moon

This set is considered a good set by many. Evolutions was okay, and the same with Steam Siege. Pokemon hasn’t released amazing sets recently. Phantom Forces and BREAKpoint are two of the best sets that have come out in recent memory. Sun and Moon comes with some dud Supporters for the most part, yet some amazing Pokemon and Items that will find their time to shine. This set is Pokemon’s attempt to slow the game down a bit. Think about the future once Shaymin-EX and Trainers' Mail rotate. Where will the game be then? Many players that have spoken with me know my opinion about the type of consistency we have in our game today. I feel like the “draw a million cards a turn engine” isn’t consistent at all.

Many of you might not remember or might not have played back in the day, but when I first started playing the game, in the MD – Triumphant format, the game was a lot slower, and not a lot of cards were played in a turn. Every card did some sort of search, and whenever you played Uxie, it was to draw more Energy, Pokemon, and search Supporters and Items. A card like Ultra Ball existing back then would have been ludicrous.

Claydol did exist back then, but the dynamics of the card in that format are so much different from the way things are now. I think Sun and Moon‘s consistency Supporters will make sense once rotation happens. Every deck having access to cards that make them draw a ridiculous amount of cards a turn and hope to hit exactly they need isn’t consistent and is what is causing decks to draw poorly so often in Standard. Expanded is slightly better since that format has more draw Supporters such as Colress.

Anyways, those are my thoughts on what the troubles are with the game right now and why I’m really looking forward to rotation. We live in the world of Shaymin-EX, Trainers' Mail, and Ultra Ball currently, so we have to play with these cards and make decks that function well and do what they are designed to do.

Many of the other writers have talked about Sun and Moon cards that fit in their Standard decks. I want to touch on some that fit really well in current Expanded decks.

Decidueye-GX

I’ll lead it off with one of the cards many people got pretty excited about when the set was first spoiled. Decidueye-GX‘s Ability is reminiscent of Crobat‘s evolution line, except this line is a bit clunkier and does more steady damage over time. By clunkier I mean that it is that it is a Stage 2 line and it normally plays a 4-4-4 line instead of the typical 4-3-2 or 4-4-2 that most Crobat decks play. It also normally sports a Forest of Giant Plants line as well. Otherwise those evolution cards will sit in your hands and would need to be sequenced precisely. With Forest of Giant Plants, you can play them any time, granted you have the preceding evolution on the field.

So all in all, this card gives steady damage over a period of time, but it takes more from your deck. Most players have been combining this with Seismitoad-EX however, I feel like that’s not a good pair for the card. Eric Gansman went over the deck a lot, so I would highly suggest you check out both his article and Andrew Mahone’s article covering this card and its ideal pairings.

This card is incredibly powerful, and its GX attack isn’t bad.

Oranguru

This is one of the best cards of the set. Hands down. It seems situational at first, since you cannot use this card under Garbodor, Silent Lab, or Alolan Muk lock. You also cannot use it with more than three cards in your hand. You often don’t fall below three cards, however, you do late game when you get hit with N. You also essentially eliminate any chance of losing off Delinquent.

This card is somewhat splashable, however, I haven’t found the best pairings for this card. It is is a universally good card that works in any deck, since every deck in this game draws cards and gets hit with N late game. Vespiquen and Night March decks will get good mileage out of this card as do M Rayquaza-EX decks since they normally take a huge Prize lead early and can always use more Pokemon in their decks.

Watch out for this card in upcoming decks. I have no doubt in my mind that it will be used.

Tauros-GX

The grandaddy of them all. The ultimate splashable GX attack that can go in any deck that sports Double Colorless Energy or that has a fast Energy engine such as Eelektrik decks. If your deck is missing your once per game GX attack, this is the card to play. Its inherent power is that all of its attacks take a single Energy card to attack with, and it does a lot of damage after it gets hit. Its HP is really good as well, since it goes up to 220 HP with a Fighting Fury Belt attached. Mad Bull GX is also great as a finisher. It should Knock Out almost all the Pokemon in the game currently if Tauros-GX has taken any relevant damage. This card can be played around, but it’s hard for your opponent to constantly be hitting around it. They can only play so many copies of Lysandre after all.

Again, this card will see a lot of play in different decks. Any deck using Double Colorless Energy can use it and have access to a cheap GX attacker. All of the other Pokemon-GX tend to need some sort of evolution or a specific type. I hope Pokemon introduces more of these in the future.

Team Skull Grunt

This card is incredible. I mean, it has two effects that are amazing. Being able to look at your opponent’s hand is a plus in its own, but Ghetsis already fills that purpose to a degree. However, what makes this card really powerful is that it also removes Energy cards. Not just Basic Energy but Special Energy too. That means Double Colorless Energy can be discarded, which is a huge resource for a lot of decks. What most decks need after a Knock Out is a Lysandre and an Energy to win the game a lot of the time. This allows them to KO a Shaymin-EX for game. If you Team Skull Grunt them, they almost always have to dig using Shaymin-EX or a draw Supporter.

This card’s power isn’t fully realized by many yet. I will for sure be using it in my Yveltal-EX list in Standard. Since Energy is such a resource late game, and only one Energy can be attached per turn, Energy often sits in the hands of players until they play them. Many decks play Energy returning cards such as Special Charge and Super Rod. However, being able to spot remove an Energy before it hits the table and also be able to scout the opponent’s hand is incredibly powerful.

Disruption decks such as Sableye / Garbodor finally have a way to remove the pesky Energy out of the hands of Greninja players. That Energy used to escape to the hand after a Moonlight Slash, and now that Energy isn’t even safe from that. Trevenant and Seismitoad-EX decks will see some mileage with this card as well. If an opponent is dead drawing, usually Energy is all they have to progress their board state and attack. If you can remove Energy before it even hits the board, you can force more time for more Quaking Punch and Silent Fear attacks.

Overall, this card is the most powerful Supporter out of the set in my opinion and I will be playing it quite a bit.

Professor Kukui

This card reminds us veteran players of Buck's Training. That card saw very little play. However, now with Pokemon hitting such high amounts of damage and now that one hit Knock Outs are something that we often want to achieve, hitting an extra 20 damage is crucial. I think this card will see play in decks and I may try to weave it into some of my current lists. Drawing two extra cards is kind of a way to make the card more worth it. A Supporter that makes you just hit for 20 more is pretty weak. If it made you hit 30 more, that would probably be a little too strong.

This will see some play in Vespiquen builds. Since they need a little more oomph early to hit Knock Outs. I can see decks such as M Gardevoir-EX putting this to good use in Standard, since the numbers are sometimes a little wonky to get one shots going, which is what almost all Mega decks should strive to do. Giovanni's Scheme has always existed, but we almost always used it for the +20 damage. Drawing two cards along with that is much better and I can see this card replacing Giovanni's Scheme altogether.

Now that we got some of the highlights out of the way, I’ll talk a bit about how Yveltal-EX morphed a bit in Expanded. There are other great Sun and Moon cards, but I will hit on one of them later and I will allow the other writers to also highlight some of their favorites.

Yveltal / Maxie’s

An old friend and a familiar deck for me. I haven’t found much success piloting the deck ever since my Regional Championship in Madison last season where I won. I’ve always been on the cusp of making day two and falling just short.

Yveltal-EX‘s strengths have been harped on so many times. It has two amazing attacks. It has great typing. We get it. The supporting cast behind the best Basic attacker ever printed changes quite a bit. Our very own Chris Collins popularized Bulkytal, which used Hard Charm and made Yveltal-EX incredibly tanky. We saw many Hypnotoxic Laser variants of the deck. Now we have probably the most successful variant in Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick / Yveltal.

This deck doesn’t need to change to be successful. My Madison list should still function really well and do just fine in this meta. In fact, my good friend Tom Filbey piloted an incredibly similar list to a Top 8 finish in Philadelphia. Yveltal-EX doesn’t need to change. However, there’s different things that are popular in the metagame now that we are more likely to play against.

I cannot stress enough how important Archeops is in this current meta. Almost all Pokemon-GX evolve and they will be popular. Some are good and players tend to want to play new decks and concepts. Sun and Moon introduces a lot of new concepts and ideas for players to try out. Archeops is one of the biggest killers of creativity in Expanded. Yveltal-EX is kind of a bland attacker and has always functioned well in decks that limited the options of opponents.

Since Archeops is more important, we should sport two copies of Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick. With two copies of Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick, two copies of Gallade makes sense as well since Gallade is one of the best attackers in the game. Hitting 130 every turn and having 150 HP with an amazing Ability just makes prioritizing Gallade make sense. I’ll give credit where it’s due. Phinnegan Lynch gave me the idea to explore prioritizing Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick more.

Since we’re focusing on Gallade a bit more as well, why not rely on Double Colorless Energy more? We destroy Giratina-EX decks anyway with Yveltal-EX‘s Evil Ball attack. Therefore Special Charge is appropriate in the deck as well.


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