Taking the Ultra Road — Standard Solgaleo, Mega Rayquaza, and Volcanion

Hello readers! Thank you for checking out my first article on PokeBeach. If you don’t know me already, I’m Ahmed. I have recently been picking up steam in the Pokemon community as I have consistently placed at big events. I am known on Facebook as the keyboard champion for Volcanion. I have been playing the Pokemon TCG competitively for two full seasons, since beginning my Pokemon career in the summer of 2014. That’s kind of a lie because I did start playing in 1999, when I was nine. I was one of the best players at my local league. I quit when I was 12 and didn’t pick the game back up until I went to graduate school. I don’t really count that, since the game was very different back then and I was not a serious competitive player. Since my return to Pokemon, I have made day two at 10 Regionals and made Top 8 at two of those. Last year was my first World and National Championship experiences and I made day two at Worlds and Top 32 at Nationals. I am writing this article about the format I feel most comfortable about: Standard. I find Standard easier to write about than Expanded, as Expanded feels more of a crapshoot than a strategic card game.

I would like to start off the discussion with a recap of Anaheim Regionals, which I recently got back from. Overall, I think the event was well organized and well run. We were playing by 9:15 and I was finished with my last match of the day by 8:30, and my friends who made Top 64 were out of the venue by 9:30. In and out in 12 hours is incredibly impressive for nine 50 minute rounds of Pokemon, with 520 players. From a competitive standpoint, this was a great tournament: got in, got out, got points, got packs, went home. The fun aspect left much to be desired, though. The staff and judges were a bit too aggressive for maintaining the pace of play, and I felt like I was being shuffled around at prison or a high school. The poor management of the swag also left me unable to get a Solgaleo mat, which kind of upset me. I think less competitive, more fun oriented players attending this event probably weren’t as happy as the competitive players. It didn’t feel like a convention for Pokemon, but more like a boot camp as we were shuffled around a subpar, crowded venue with no lunch break. I personally like to relax a little between rounds, so I often don’t complain about rounds taking too long. I feel like this way of organizing is not as fair to the kids who are playing the game, as they are mostly there for the experience of Pokemon and to have fun with their friends, not to grind cards.

Anaheim Regionals was the first of its kind with Sun and Moon being legal in the Standard tournament. At a first glance, the Sun and Moon cards look great and completely playable! Tauros-GX is a Basic that has outrage on a 180 HP Pokemon and has a GX attack that can one shot any Pokemon in the game. Umbreon-GX, has a slightly cheaper Night Spear, with built in Energy removal and a strafe attack. However, in reality, with Vespiquen, M Mewtwo-EX, M Rayquaza-EX, Volcanion, Darkrai-EX and Yveltal-EX, the format is too fast and consistent for the new Pokemon to dominate. Knowing this, I expected the meta to only change in the sense that Greninja would not be played, and maybe the newly hyped Water Box with Lapras-GX would be. I predicted that Volcanion would lose to Yveltal and M Mewtwo-EX with heavy Garbodor lines. I believed that Vespiquen, which overpowers Yveltal and Mewtwo, would see heavy play, and Turbo Dark, which just won the previous Regional Championship, would also see heavy play. Today I decided to write about the three decks that I was the most comfortable playing: Volcanion, M Rayquaza-EX, and a Solgaleo-GX / Lurantis-GX.

M Rayquaza-EX / Giratina-EX

I would like to start out by discussing the deck I did choose. M Rayquaza-EX is the fastest, most versatile, and consistent Mega Pokemon deck that exists. It can evolve turn one, it can attack for 240 turn one and if you miss a Rayquaza Spirit Link on turn one, you can just end your turn by evolving and it is still considered a strong turn. Its attack’s Colorless requirement means that you can tech basically any Energy type as a tech Pokemon. The most notable techs are Jolteon-EX, Manaphy-EX, and Magearna-EX. I actually used Magearna-EX to Top 8 Athens Regionals. In the version I played at Anaheim, I put in two Grass Energy and two Psychic Energy to power up Giratina-EX‘s Chaos Wheel. The following is the list I used to Top 32 Anaheim Regionals.

The List

Pokemon (16)

3x M Rayquaza-EX (RSK #76)3x Rayquaza-EX (RSK #75)4x Shaymin-EX (RSK #77)2x Hoopa-EX (AOR #36)1x Giratina-EX (AOR #57)1x Tauros-GX (SM #100)1x Jirachi (PRXY #XY67)1x Dragonite-EX (EVO #72)

Trainers (36)

3x Professor Sycamore (BKP #107)1x N (FAC #105)1x Lysandre (AOR #78)1x Hex Maniac (AOR #75)1x Karen (PRXY #XY177)1x Skyla (BKT #148)4x VS Seeker (SV #140)4x Ultra Ball (SM #135)4x Trainers' Mail (RSK #92)4x Mega Turbo (RSK #86)3x Rayquaza Spirit Link (RSK #87)2x Float Stone (BKT #137)1x Escape Rope (PRC #127)1x Super Rod (BKT #149)1x Professor's Letter (BKT #146)4x Sky Field (RSK #89)

Energy (8)

4x Double Colorless (SM #136)2x Grass Energy (EVO #91)2x Psychic Energy (EVO #95)

Interesting Cards

Giratina-EX

Vespiquen has been slowly gaining traction since Alex Hill’s ninth place finish in the London International Championship. Vespiquen, as Alex has shown me in testing, beats M Rayquaza-EX pretty hard. Vespiquen, however, rarely tech for the Giratina-EX matchup, expecting it to be an autoloss. This idea came to me as I was building Solgaleo-GX / Lurantis-GX and was looking for an out to Vespiquen. I then just changed the Energy count from my Top 8 Athens list and put in a Professor's Letter for the odd Energy, which can be searched for with Skyla. The idea is that you get out both Giratina-EX and Jirachi. Jirachi keeps their Energy off the field, so that when you promote after manually attaching a Grass, Psychic, and Double Colorless Energy to Giratina-EX, there is no threat of it being KOd and you can say Chaos Wheel until you win the game. Unfortunately, I did not get to use this strategy in the tournament, as I did not face any DCE-only decks throughout the tournament. My teammate, Ryan Allred, did round one versus the eventual Top 4 finisher, Jeffery Cheng. He quickly beat Mr. Cheng using this strategy in two separate games. I believe that this strategy was legitimized through that win against a competent player, and is a solid out towards Vespiquen if you choose to play M Rayquaza-EX in future tournaments.

Karen

If you cannot manage to get all Vespiquen‘s Energy off the board with Jirachi, the next best thing is to completely reset their damage with Karen. This is also great for getting back Pokemon you discarded, You can then pull them out of your deck with Hoopa-EX to win games. As Karen is retrievable by a VS Seeker, you can rely on it more than a single copy of Super Rod, but at the cost of your Supporter for the turn.

Professor’s Letter

Professor's Letter is used because of Giratina-EX’s requirements. You mainly use it to make sure you find both the Grass and Psychic Energy. This also is useful for finding Energy to put in the discard for Mega Turbo.

Tauros-GX

When you’re on your last limb of the game, your opponents often play Parallel City against you, with Garbodor out. You can still Karen and Professor Sycamore into all the Pokemon you need. To do this, you need to put Tauros-GX Active, and force them to find a way to get around attacking you. You need to do this intelligently, Sky Returning your Shaymin-EX and making sure to dump as many with Stadium changes as possible. Otherwise, your opponent will just Lysandre and KO a Shaymin.

The most important part of Tauros-GX is to make sure you have a switching card. Tauros-GX is a wall to buy you time, but once you have the board advantage, you need to take him out of the Active to strike. I’ve seen too many opponents leave him up there without a viable way to Retreat him.

Day One

My day one went pretty much as expected. I had to play against six Dark decks, two M Rayquaza-EX and one jank deck, which is pretty much what you except to see day one of a Regionals. Usually, I expect to play against Dark in the later rounds and the jank in the first round. My day one matchups were as follows.

The mill deck, Houndoom / Bunnelby / Raticate, finished in 34th place. The player piloted it very well, and it actually is very well situated in a non-Greninja meta. It does, however, lose terribly to Turbo Dark as they can just bench one Darkrai-EX, and one Yveltal to build up enough Energy to sweep the board. I was only able to tie the deck because I played a Karen and got lucky off of his mill attacks.

An important thing to note was that Giratina-EX gave me a big advantage in the M Rayquaza-EX mirror matches. I could safely hide behind a Giratina-EX and N them to low hand sizes recuperate my board. That’s actually how I ended up winning a majority of those games.

Day Two

My day two was horrendous. My only win was a bye in the last round. My first round, I lost game one by whiffing all four Sky Field turn one after drawing through 30 cards in my deck with three Shaymin-EX, a Professor Sycamore, and three Trainers' Mail. The worst part was none of them were prized. I missed the turn one KO on a greedy Spirit-linked Mewtwo-EX with a Double Colorless Energy on it. I had all the cards in my hand to evolve and power up the M Rayquaza-EX. This set the tone for the rest of the day as I whiffed one or two cards to take crucial KOs against a lot of my opponents. Reflecting on my matchups in the tournament, I realized I didn’t play against any Volcanion whatsoever. In fact, there were only two Volcanion in the Top 32, and one of them dropped after their first round! This made me realize, that I should have played the deck that I originally wanted to: Solgaleo-GX / Lurantis-GX.

Solgaleo-GX / Lurantis-GX

The List

Pokemon (16)

3x Solgaleo-GX (SM #89)1x Cosmoem (SM #65)4x Cosmog (SM #64)2x Lurantis-GX (SM #15)2x Fomantis (SM #14)2x Shaymin-EX (RSK #77)1x Giratina-EX (AOR #93)1x Genesect-EX (FAC #64)

Trainers (32)

4x Professor Sycamore (BKP #107)3x N (FAC #105)2x Lysandre (AOR #78)1x Skyla (BKT #148)1x Olympia (GEN #66)4x VS Seeker (SV #140)4x Ultra Ball (SM #135)4x Rare Candy (SM #129)4x Trainers' Mail (RSK #92)2x Level Ball (AOR #76)2x Super Rod (BKT #149)1x Float Stone (BKT #137)

Energy (12)

7x Metal Energy (EVO #98)3x Grass Energy (EVO #91)1x Psychic Energy (EVO #95)1x Double Dragon Energy (RSK #97)


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