Coasting to Costa Mesa: Preparation, Planning, and Updates for Expanded

Despite being fresh off of two very important Standard format tournaments (namely, the Oceania International Championship and the Collinsville, Illinois Regional Championship), here we are talking about Expanded again. It’s amazing how fast the season moves, isn’t it?

Today, we’ll be doing a comprehensive review of the Expanded format, both as it exists now and in the post-Ultra Prism world. I will lay out my predictions and ideas about the metagame, offer updates to old favorites, and even give you updates regarding pet decks I’ve been testing. My goal here is simply to get you as up to speed and prepared for Costa Mesa, California’s Regional Championship as possible… and I suppose any League Cups before or after that!

Setting the Scene for Expanded Pokemon TCG Post-Dallas

In Expanded, you essentially have one of three deck types:

  • 1. Decks that are legal and good in both formats
  • 2. Old decks that have rotated out of Standard
  • 3. Decks that are legal in both formats, but only good in Expanded

A good chunk of the Expanded season has been dominated by decks or variants that would most safely fall under category two. These include Night March, Trevenant, and Wailord-EX. However, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, which is why we have seen every victory by a category two deck answered by a multi-format category one deck. These include Necrozma-GX / Garbodor and Zoroark-GX.

You’d venture to guess that since Zoroark-GX won the most recent event (Dallas), we should be due for another Expanded-exclusive deck to win. Equal and opposite reactions, right?

Hold up one second! Just because the season has see-sawed between multi-format and mono-format decks doesn’t mean we’ll always see an old deck come roaring back for revenge. That’s principally due to the absurdly commanding position Zoroark-GX holds over both Standard and Expanded right now. In other words, it is the ultimate multi-format deck, so beating it should be your priority number one in testing, techs, and tweaks.

Ultimately, though, while it’s all new faces and cards, the age-old strategy remains the same: beat it or join it. However, this is Pokemon we’re playing, and in Pokemon it’s never so simple as to simply “beat” the top dog. And of course it’s always possible to “join” Zoroark-GX in a variety of ways.

Category One: Decks That are Legal and Good in Both Formats

Zoroark-GX

Starting off our Costa Mesa discussion is none other than the reigning king of the Pokemon Trading Card Game in both major formats. At this point, with every single major event won with some presence of Zoroark-GX in the list, I think we have to take the whole game as a big “Presumption of Zoroark” — that is, presuming that Zoroark-GX will win the event unless proven otherwise. We will talk about ways to beat it, but for now here’s a very familiar list…

Pokemon (21)

4x Zoroark-GX (SHL #53)1x Zoroark (NXD #102)4x Zorua (DEX #70)3x Tapu Lele-GX (GUR #60)2x Shaymin-EX (RSK #77)1x Alolan Muk (SM #58)1x Alolan Grimer (SM #57)2x Exeggcute (PLF #4)1x Sudowoodo (GUR #66)1x Seismitoad-EX (FFI #106)1x Oranguru (ULP #114)

Trainers (35)

2x Brigette (BKT #134)2x Colress (PLS #118)1x Acerola (BUS #112)1x Ghetsis (PLF #101)1x Guzma (BUS #115)1x Hex Maniac (AOR #75)1x Karen (PRXY #XY177)1x N (NVI #92)1x Pokémon Ranger (STS #104)4x Puzzle of Time (BKP #109)4x VS Seeker (RG #100)4x Ultra Ball (DEX #102)2x Choice Band (GUR #121)1x Battle Compressor (PHF #92)1x Field Blower (GUR #125)1x Float Stone (PLF #99)1x Red Card (XY #124)1x Rescue Stretcher (GUR #130)1x Special Charge (STS #105)1x Computer Search (BCR #137)3x Sky Field (RSK #89)

Energy (4)

4x Double Colorless Energy (HS #103)

This is almost card-for-card the same list Riley Hulbert used to win the Dallas Regional Championship, the sole change being swapping out a Battle Compressor for a single copy of Oranguru. Oranguru is great because it means you’ll be getting back more of all your favorite Supporters, especially crucial one-ofs like Hex Maniac (arguably better as a two-of) and Ghetsis. It also corrects many serious problems you could encounter against the deck’s biggest foes, like mill decks (Sableye, Sylveon, and Wailord).

Will the Presumption of Zoroark hold up though if the lists begin to become so similar to this one? Perhaps there is an opening for another Zoroark-GX variant to win, or perhaps a member…of Category Two.

Category Two: Rotated Superstars

Night March Redux

Pokemon (21)

4x Joltik (PHF #26)4x Pumpkaboo (PHF #44)4x Lampent (PHF #42)3x Shaymin-EX (RSK #77)3x Tapu Lele-GX (GUR #60)2x Marshadow-GX (PRSM #SM59)1x Oranguru (PRSM #SM13)

Trainers (35)

3x Professor Juniper (BLW #101)1x Ghetsis (PLF #101)1x Guzma (BUS #115)1x Hex Maniac (AOR #75)1x Lysandre (FLF #90)1x N (NVI #92)1x Pokémon Ranger (STS #104)1x Teammates (PRC #141)4x Battle Compressor (PHF #92)4x Puzzle of Time (BKP #109)4x VS Seeker (RSK #110)4x Ultra Ball (DEX #102)2x Trainers' Mail (RSK #92)1x Choice Band (GUR #121)1x Field Blower (GUR #125)1x Float Stone (PLF #99)1x Special Charge (STS #105)1x Dowsing Machine (PLS #128)2x Dimension Valley (PHF #93)

Energy (4)

4x Double Colorless Energy (HS #103)

To keep up with Zoroark-GX doing so well, I actually don’t think trying to be “Zoroark-lite” in our list structure does us as much good anymore. Rather, the new approach should simply be running Night March in a way that most reliably escapes devastating Red Card or Ghetsis drops. Keep in mind though that while this is currently a less common take on the deck, it’s actually more or less the original version of the deck Michael Pramawat won with at Ft. Wayne — just a little altered to keep up with the times.

High Tapu Lele-GX Count

As incredible as Zoroark-GX is both for late-game support and recovering after a Karen, it’s simply too shaky to rely on for consistency. Tapu Lele-GX, on the other hand, is always an out from a bad hand so long as your Abilities are accessible. It also doubles as a more reliable way to fetch our crucial tech Supporters (I will sound like a broken record this article).

Two Marshadow-GX

Although Michael Pramawat and Azul Garcia Griego established just a single Marshadow-GX as the norm this season, I’ve actually considered this an open debate, and now with Zoroark-GX being so huge, it might be time to rely on a Fighting attacker that demands a measly 5-6 Night Marchers in the Discard Pile in order to score a Knock Out. Alolan Muk might be a longer term threat to this strategy, but you still have the rest of your Night Marchers to answer that threat as soon as possible.

Oranguru: (SUM)

If Tapu Lele-GX’s Wonder Tag is our early game insurance policy against Ghetsis and Red Card, then our late game insurance is Instruct. Be very careful, though, since with only four Double Colorless Energy it makes for a poor attacker, and may get stuck up in the Active spot if you haven’t planned to place your Float Stone on it.

Pokemon Ranger

This is fair to consider a free spot in case you don’t fear the many fringe decks that block Special Energy attachment, but if I’m presenting a “safe” list to you guys, then I would rather include Pokémon Ranger so as to shake off an otherwise auto-loss condition. It also doubles as a nice Quaking Punch block late game against straight Zoroark-GX builds.


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