A Rainbow of Possibilities — Your Complete Guide to the Expanded Format

Hello everyone! Alex back at you with all the necessary information you need to help you make an educated decision on what to play for the Portland Regional Championships! Expanded is such a massive format, and with so many choices it can be hard to break everything down and take a look at all of the options. But fear not, as today I’ll do all of that breaking down for you!

There are so many things to think about when deciding on a deck. For some players, just having the necessary cards is a big factor. If cards cost too much or are hard to get a hold of in your area, you might be limited in what you can play. For other people, deck choice is based off of what they expect, or what people tell them to expect. At the end of the day, the best piece of advice I can give you going into the Expanded format is play what you are most comfortable with. Don’t try to meta call, don’t make a last minute decision based off some preconceived knowledge, but rather, stick to your guns.

And that’s all the time we have today! Thank you for joining us!

No but seriously, I dislike when people ask me “what should I play? Boo I don’t know how to beat this format, blah blah blah.” Dude, if you have achieved tournament wins with one deck, why change that? Expanded is such a vast format. The game itself isn’t luck based, the way tournaments are structured is. Yeah I know, there’s definitely luck in the game, it’s a card game at its core, but since there are so many viable options in Expanded, you might just stumble into top cut because of your matchups. A player playing his first ever tournament could easily top with Raikou / Electrode if all he plays against is M Rayquaza-EX and Yveltal-EX variants. That deck may seem less than optimal, but hit the right matchups and you could find yourself $250 richer.

There’s no way to predict the meta, there never is. So the best you can do is just play your best pick. I’ll tell you right now that I’m 90% sure I’ll play Sableye / Garbodor for Oregon. It doesn’t have the best Lurantis-GX matchup in the world, but if I don’t have to play against it, then I’ll make day two, right? If you hand me nothing but Blastoise, Turbo Dark, and Rainbow Road, you’ll see me sitting at  the top tables. If you give me nothing but Lurantis and turn one Vileplume, then you might catch me spamming U150 with anyone who is willing to play. Seriously, I can’t talk enough about how awesome that format is.

But let’s say you don’t know what you’re good at. Let’s say you are a first time player coming to me seeking advice. Then the rest of this article is perfect for you! I’m going to breakdown every viable deck in Expanded right now, or at least every deck that has had at least two Top 32 placements this season, and then some! We’ll go over some hot techs, the current trend of the deck, and a reason to not play the deck.

But first, Item-lock, a touchy subject with many players. This is nothing new, but people are acting like it’s the worst thing to ever grace Pokemon. We’ve had Seismitoad-EX, we’ve had Gothitelle, we’ve had Vileplume. I know turn one Item-lock isn’t fun to deal with, but it’s something every player has to. It’s not going to change, so instead of complaining about how bad the format is, suck it up and deal with it! Pepper in some Wobbuffet.

Deck Options for Portland

I’ve never been a fan of tier lists, since everyone would make a very different tier list. Also, fear of being roasted by the community is always in the forefront of my mind. So instead of presenting the 25 decks I’m going to talk about in tier list form, I’ll group them up into five distinct families. If you would like me to break them down into tiers, I’ll be happy to do so under the safety of a private message!

And with that, we’re off!

Item Locking Decks

We’re going to start with the big one, Item-lock. As I mentioned, Item-lock is nothing new, but is a concept that many people struggle to come to terms with. Turn one Item-lock isn’t fun to deal with, and some argue that it takes away from the game. However, what’s that old saying? If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em? Well if you’re looking at joining them then this family of decks is for you!

Decidueye-GX / Vileplume

Goal of Deck

Lock Items and chip away

Height of Popularity

Right now

How Easy it is to Pick Up and Play

3 of 5

Current Trend: Rising like Bread

Ahhh yes, the hype deck itself! Our very own John Kettler took this deck and made a big impact on both the Standard and Expanded metagame. After his second place finish in St. Louis, it’s all anyone can talk about. In fact, as I type this out, I have one of my local players asking about if we’ll see this deck at all during Sunday’s League Cup (hint: we will). It’s poised to be one of the most played decks going into Portland, and for good reason. The turn one Item-lock, the recovery with Hollow Hunt, and the constant damage output can be troubling for any deck to deal with. Expect to see more and more of this deck as the weeks roll forward.

Hot Tech: Meowth From Fates Collide

While John opted not to play one of these cards, I have heard musings about people throwing this into various Decidueye-GX lists. I believe this card is more popular in Standard, but it serves the same purpose in Expanded. The idea behind it is that you can take easy Knock Outs on Trubbish before they can become Garbodor. Of course, because of the lack of Tool removal in Standard, this card might be more important in that format. Either way, if you’re aiming for a solid non-EX attacker to throw into a deck like this, then Meowth is your guy!

Why Would You Not Play It: Too Much Hype!

There’s probably an ancient Chinese proverb that reads somewhat similar to, “If it is hyped, be afraid of lurking monsters from behind closed doors,” or something like that. I’m always scared to play the most hyped deck going into the tournament because you know that everyone in that room knows how to play against you, even new faces. There also might be an increase in the popularity of your direct counter. I expect there to be a fair bit more Volcanion, Wobbuffet / Accelgor, and Archeops present in Portland due to the rise of this deck.

Lurantis-GX / Vileplume

Goal of Deck

Lock Items and prevent your opponent from taking Prizes

Height of Popularity

Right now

How Easy it is to Pick Up and Play

2 of 5

Current Trend: About Where You Would Expect it to Be

I’m quite surprised this deck isn’t receiving the same level of hype that Decidueye-GX is. After being tied for the most Top 32 placements in St. Louis recently, you would assume it would be talked about more. However, on TCGplayer, Decidueye-GX is nearly double the cost of regular art Lurantis-GX. Prices of cards are generally driven by the level of usability, so this price point is very telling of where this deck is currently standing in the minds of players. Perhaps people just assume that Decidueye-GX is the better partner for Vileplume now and are quickly dumping Lurantis-GX. I know for sure that Decidueye-GX at least has an out to Volcanion decks in the form of Lugia-EX. I don’t think this is a deck that you can write off as dead. It’s definitely not to the “declining” level of play quite yet, but it could easily reach that point.

Hot Tech: Pal Pad

I saw this card in some Vileplume lists this weekend, and I thought it made perfect sense. A lot of these lists don’t play VS Seeker because of the Item-lock, but Pal Pad allows for that same recovery feel if your Vileplume ever goes down, if Garbodor or Wobbuffet hit the field, or if you had to pitch a lot of Supporters early in the game. While it might not be the most consistent option, it’s still a cute idea. You could argue that a one-of VS Seeker is a little bit better because of the instant gratification it brings, but in either instance I don’t mind the inclusion. Pal Pad is going to get you back two important copies of AZ, whereas VS Seeker might be able to grant you that clutch late game Lysandre the turn Hex Maniac comes out of your opponent. Player preference I suppose.

Why Would You Not Play It: It Might Not Be the Best Option

The fight for the title of “Best Vileplume Deck,” is definitely a fierce one. I think you should stray away from this deck simply because it’s not the optimal play. There are better turn one locking Vileplume options to chose from, and believe me there are plenty. From Decidueye-GX to walls, you have a lot of options in this category. While this version might not be as hyped as the others, people are still bumping up counts of Hex Maniac to help deal with the rise of Vileplume decks. You might also be turned off to this deck because of the damage output. While I think Solar Blade is one of the best attacks in the game right now, you might not. I’ve seen people definitely get turned off by the “lack luster” 40 and 120 damage that this deck can deal without the use of a GX attack. It can make the numbers Lurantis pumps out a little bit linear and turn people off.

Vespiquen / Vileplume

Goal of Deck

Lock Items and swing for the fences

Height of Popularity

Last year’s State Championships

How Easy it is to Pick Up and Play

2 of 5

Current Trend: Like the Titanic, Slow, But Steady Decline

The deck that just doesn’t seem to die. This one was given new life in St. Louis as a Top 32 finish put it back in the front of people’s minds. When Karen came out, many people presumed the death of this deck because of how much it limits the damage output of Vespiquen. However, just that kind of thinking is what put the deck back into the day two conversation. It’s the whole counter versus play time loop. If people stop playing a deck, they stop playing the counter, meaning the deck becomes good again. I believe this is the case with this deck, as people have seemingly forgotten about Karen, or at least in Expanded. Night March and Flareon have both been on the downward trail. Even so, there is a lot of risk with playing a deck like this, and I think that’s what is turning a lot of people off to it. Games are typically decided by the second turn of the game, and this deck gets punished hard by a slow start. It’s one of those decks that I could see never topping again.

Hot Tech: Red Card

This one is a tricky one, since the list is fairly tight and the strategy of the deck is fairly linear. Red Card is a card people often cut in favor of a more consistent turn one option. It’s one of those “61st” cards that you would like to have, but isn’t needed. The reason you would include it is to set your opponent even further behind. Let’s say they start a Wobbuffet or a Volcanion, two cards you don’t want to see as this deck. Red Card ever so slightly increases the chance of you locking your opponent even further in two bad matchups. It gives you that extra out in the case of a slow start on your part or a fast start by your opponent. It’s a dead card after your Vileplume hits the field, so I don’t see this card often.

Why Would You Not Play It: It’s Super Fragile

I could build a house with the amount of bricks I’ve laid with this deck! You have so many things to manage, and not many ways to keep everything balanced. Double Colorless counts, deck size, number of Vespiquen left in deck, low HP attackers, and the chance of missing a turn one Vileplume are all things I always worry about when taking this deck out of the binder. I know that these things don’t always happen, and practice fixes some of these problems, but I can never seem to find the right combination of cards to make this deck work the way I want it to. Don’t get me wrong, you’re going to steal wins like nobody’s business, but without the proper preparation, you could easily lose those 50 / 50 type of games.

Walls / Vileplume

Goal of Deck

Lock Items and prevent your opponent from taking Prizes

Height of Popularity

Right after World Championships, near Arizona Regional Championships

How Easy it is to Pick Up and Play

4 of 5

Current Trend: As Dead as my Music Career

And I never had a music career! Early in the season, this deck was considered the premier way to play Vileplume after its performance in the World Championships. However, that time has long passed as the deck just lacks the firepower needed to keep up with all of the new hype decks. The release of Pokemon-GX made the counts of Regice go down and the counts of Glaceon-EX go up, which still leaves you vulnerable to Basic Pokemon, sans Jolteon-EX. While most people might not put this on their radar for testing against, I say stay away from playing this deck.

Hot Tech: Master Ball

I’m not joking here. If you saw our list that we played in Arizona, then you would have seen this very card sleeved up. My group and I weren’t a fan of discarding too many cards early, as that usually resulted in pitching a valuable Energy or AZ. Generally, turn one we were searching for Pokemon anyway with Computer Search, so we changed it into Master Ball to play a bit more conservatively. While it does sound bad, give it a try and prove me wrong!

Why Would You Not Play It: Damage Output

While the core of the deck revolves around attacking with Wall Pokemon and denying Prizes, you’re still lacking the amount of damage it takes to get ahead in the game. With Pokemon-GX out now, a massive Decidueye-GX takes at least four hits to KO, not to mention Lurantis-GX is nearly impossible to Knock Out with such low amounts of damage. During this time, while they may not be taking Prizes, they will be digging through their deck to grab what they need to take those important Knock Outs in more time than they would normally have.

Seismitoad-EX / Giratina-EX

Goal of Deck

Lock Items and lock other cool things

Height of Popularity

Early last year

How Easy it is to Pick Up and Play

4 of 5

Current Trend: People Still Play This Deck?!

When I saw the results of St. Louis, I was a little stunned to see this deck at the top tables. Mind you that could be a result of our friend “Mr. Matchups,” but regardless, this deck hasn’t quite flat-lined yet. I could have considered this deck more of a control deck, because sometimes it needs to pivot to locking Stadiums and Special Energy rather than Items, but I feel at the core, it’s still an Item locking deck. Even so, the meta just doesn’t seem to fit a deck like this, with Pokemon-GX easily dealing with both Seismitoad-EX and Giratina-EX, and other decks having great outs to the deck as well.

Hot Tech: A Second Hex Maniac

Right now, this deck doesn’t have much of a chance against Lurantis-GX, and it struggles against most other Vileplume variants as well. A second Hex Maniac would help relieve some of the pressure to get Giratina-EX up and running. From there, the matchups against Decidueye-GX, Vespiquen, and Walls all get much more manageable. A second Hex would help ensure that you don’t get dominated by one of the biggest decks heading into Oregon.

Why Would You Not Play It: People Hate Special Energy

There are a couple of reasons why this deck wouldn’t be the best play, but my main reason for staying away from the deck revolves around the high counts of Special Energy needed to run this deck. While Xerosic may be hard to fish out under Item-lock, and Jirachi isn’t played much anymore, the Energy hate game can still be played against you to great effect. Missing that turn one Energy drop can also be fairly big, especially when going second. This format is much too fast for you to allow your slow starting, limited damage output deck to catch back up in the race to six Prizes. And even with those attachments, Giratina-EX just isn’t what it used to be anymore. 100 damage falls just shy of that 120 new magic number. People that are good at this deck will continue to play it, and rightfully so, but this isn’t the deck to pick up and play for a large tournament if you’ve had no experience with it.

Seismitoad-EX / Decidueye-GX

Goal of Deck

Lock Items while sniping from the Bench to increase damage output

Height of Popularity

Right now

How Easy is is to Pick Up and Play

4 of 5

Current Trend: Do You Like Roller Coasters?

At one minute, this deck is shoving all other Seismitoad-EX decks out of the way and claiming the throne. At another, it’s claimed to be too clunky and not the optimal way to dedicate your extra spots for. Then, people realize how good Hollow Hunt GX is and hop back on the deck. But then the argument for Super Scoop Up and Hypnotoxic Laser and Stadium counts and all that fun stuff starts creeping up. I was hoping that St. Louis would finally tell us which version between Toad / Decidueye and Toad / Bats would be superior. However, with one finish from Decidueye and zero from Bats, we’re still left wondering which one will be more dominant. It’s hard to pin down which version will see more play, but one thing is the same between the decks, the way you play against them hasn’t changed. It’s still, at its core, an attacking Item-lock with supplemental damage from the Bench. Decidueye-GX has better recovery options and Crobat has “more” techs.

Hot Tech: Dedenne

Remember Dedenne? Yeah, that Pokemon that people used to tech into nearly every deck that lost to Yveltal-EX? I saw that again this weekend in a deck! How crazy? When you think about it though, it’s a pretty nice little back up attacker. In Seismitoad-EX / Bats, you have non-EXs to trade some Prizes so that they are forced to take that “seventh” Prize in the form of Seismitoad-EX. However, Decidueye-GX doesn’t have that luxury, and one bulky Yveltal-EX can sometimes go the distance. Dedenne prevents that from happening while at the same time giving you a nice and cozy backup attacker to swing at Yveltal-EX with. Portland is on the West Coast, and if you don’t know anything, know this: people in California love their Dark decks.

Why Would You Not Play It: You are Bad at Deck Building

One of the biggest problems that Seismitoad-EX / Bats faces today is trying to find room for everything you need. How many Pokemon, Stadiums, Supporters, Bats… Now you want to add a 4-4-4 Decidueye-GX line along with Forest of Giant Plants and ways to search all of those out into the mix? No thank you. Sounds like a nightmare. If you like Seismitoad-EX based decks, I would probably side along with the Decidueye version over Giratina-EX or Bats, but I am far away from a Seismitoad-EX player, so I wouldn’t take my advice as golden. I’m merely a vote for the Owl and that’s it. Simply put, Hollow Hunt GX will win you games.

Seismitoad-EX / Bats

Goal of Deck

Lock Items while sniping from the Bench

Height of Popularity

Over a year and a half ago

How Easy it is to Pick Up and Play

3 of 5

Current Trend: Get Out the Way Cro-boy, There’s a New Owl in Town!

On the surface, the perceived notion is that Seismitoad-EX / Bats is dead. If you read my last section, then you probably can guess I disagree with that assessment. If you didn’t read my last section and skipped right to here, you’re definitely a Toad / Bats player looking for some validation in your deck choice for Portland. I’ll give you that validation you’re seeking in saying that you’re not making a bad choice, you just might be making a sub-optimal choice. Expect to play against the Decidueye version as it will be represented more. Although neither deck will see much play, I would be surprised to play against more than one in the tournament.

Why Would You Not Play It: You Like Owls Better

Let’s be real, you’re only going to play this deck if you’ve been playing it forever and are too stubborn to switch over to Decidueye-GX. If you’re a person who is looking to pick up a Seismitoad-EX deck and play it, this isn’t the one for you. Might as well start learning to how Quaking Punch with the better version of the deck, rather than learn a deck that is slowly but surely going to be dead by the end of 2017. Sorry kiddos, just the hard truth there. Of every deck on this list, this is probably ranked last in terms of decks I would suggest for you to play.

Trevenant

Goal of Deck

Lock Items turn one and prevent Energy from seeing the light of day

Height of Popularity

Last year’s State and National Championships

How Easy it is to Pick Up and Play

3 of 5

Current Trend: Downwards, Like a Wilting Flower

Man, remember when everyone was complaining about how unhealthy Trevenant was for the format? It’s odd how those same people have somehow forgotten about this deck and are now setting their sights on Vileplume. It’s always something isn’t it? Anyway, I still think this deck is as good as it ever was, yet the meta might not be correctly aligned for it to shine. For one, there’s a lot of Dark on the Pacific side of the U.S. Not only are you forced to deal with that, but the deck can struggle to keep up with some of the high HP numbers of the new Pokemon-GX. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more than one Trevenant make their way to day two, as you can steal wins just from hitting Wally in the opening turn, but I also wouldn’t be surprised to never play against Trevenant ever again. My Sableye thank you.

Hot Tech: Muk

This one has me a little puzzled actually. In theory, I get it. You play Alolan Muk so you can play other Stadiums and still reap all of the benefits of Silent Lab. A lot of people (at least when they’re talking to me) cite the example of Latias-EX and being able to have a win condition against Sableye. In that case, I’ll just Lysandre up the fatty Muk and call game. Against every other deck, you’re going to take a slight consistency hit, since an extra copy of Float Stone will be needed to rescue your Muk out of the Active. I think this card falls into the category of a “win more” card; it’s only good when you’re ahead in the game. Plus, Trevenant never needed fixing to begin with. The goal of the deck is to win turn one, why change that?

Why Would You Not Play It: You Want to Jump On the Vileplume Train

Here’s the thing, Vileplume has been out longer than Trevenant BREAK has been. I know that the partners surrounding Vileplume have improved which is making Vileplume the more appealing option, but until then it was all Trevenant. I just don’t quite understand how people can switch their mind set so quickly, when at the core both decks aren’t that different from what they used to be. Either way, I’m glad I get to be done talking about Item locking decks now. Nothing has changed in my mind except for people’s mentality.


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