Back to the Lab Again – Unorthodox Decks for US Nationals!

Hello again PokeBeach readers. I am so delighted that I get to share some of my thoughts on the weeks leading up to US Nationals. First of all, welcome to our post Lysandre's Trump Card format! The unprecedented move by TPCi to ban the popular (and arguably game-damaging) Supporter has thrown a wrench into everything we thought we knew about the metagame. Some decks remained unchanged, while other decks became obsolete. Some decks held firmly in their place in the metagame, while others saw significant rises or declines in popularity. Once again, resource conservation has become a major facet of the game, and this is a great thing! Gone are the days where we could infinitely reuse any obscenely powerful Trainers like Hypnotoxic Laser or Crushing Hammer.

I don’t want to take this space to discuss the impact of the Trump Card ban. Instead I want to give you an overview of the decks I’m really enjoying in this format. I’ve been in the “lab” for some time, coming up with some unusual concepts. As we draw closer and closer to US Nationals, I hope these lists give you a great starting point on a deck that may not be on everyone’s radar. First, I’ll start by outlining the three decks that I deem the most solid and format defining. Then give you some decks that may be a bit more unusual.

The Meta Decks

Before every new metagame, my friends and I discuss what we think the best decks will be. We usually generate a list of three to five decks to form the core of our early testing. These three to five decks are what we think the metagame will be primarily comprised of, and if we create a new deck that can beat most of these three to five decks, then we know it will probably do well in a tournament. I will outline the three decks we figured out to have used to determine if an unorthodox deck is worth testing further.

Night March

When we first started to conceptualize the format, there was a single deck that immediately came to everyone’s mind. It’s speed, consistency, and power could overwhelm every deck in the format and it stood a decent chance against just about everything. It’s main counter card was just banned, and the deck gained a bevy of new tricks with the newest set. That deck is of course: Night March.

Night March is a fantastically powerful deck and executes a strategy with high consistency. It may not necessarily be the “Best Deck in Format,” or BDIF, but it may very well be a format defining deck. Basically what I mean by “format defining” is that if the deck you’re taking to your next tournament can’t beat Night March, you will probably not have a great record come the end of the day. The concept of the deck and the speed of the engine are so strong that players must acknowledge its presence in the metagame and make their deck choice for the day with Night March in mind.

Pokemon (19)

4x Joltik (PHF #26)

4x Pumpkaboo (PHF #44)

4x Lampent (PHF #42)

3x Mew-EX (DRX #120)

2x Empoleon (DEX #29)

2x Shaymin-EX (RSK #77)

Trainers (34)

4x Professor Juniper (PLF #116)

2x Lysandre (FLF #90)

1x Archie's Ace in the Hole (PRC #124)

1x N (NVI #101)


4x VS Seeker (PHF #109)

4x Battle Compressor (PHF #92)

4x Ultra Ball (DEX #102)

3x Muscle Band (XY #121)

3x Trainers' Mail (RSK #92)

2x Acro Bike (PRC #122)

1x Escape Rope (PLS #120)

1x Computer Search (BCR #137)


4x Dimension Valley (PHF #93)

Energy (7)

4x Double Colorless Energy (BS #96)

3x Water Energy (CL #90)


This list is fairly standard, and there’s really not much to say about the deck other than what’s already been written on this site! I’ve loved this deck ever since I piloted it to a top 32 placement at St. Louis Regionals and the deck looks to be a true force at all Nationals. The name of the game has always been to discard a combination of Joltiks, Lampents, and Pumpkaboos to swing for large amounts of damage, but the new set offers two cards that really take this decks consistency to a new level.

Shaymin-EX and Trainers’ Mail

Trainers' Mail and Shaymin-EX are both cards I think make this deck a format defining deck in the current metagame. Shaymin-EX makes possible the ability to draw through significant portions of the deck. Because so many Trainers in this deck can be used immediately, Shaymin-EX’s usefulness in a deck like this cannot be understated. There are very few cards that cannot be immediately played, thus Shaymin-EX can often be played to draw five or six cards.

Trainers’ Mail is a fantastic option for consistency purposes. I’ve been toying around with the possibility of increasing this card’s count to four because it is just that good. Not only can Trainers’ Mail grab you crucial Items like Muscle BandUltra Ball, or Battle Compressor, the card can also grab Supporters like Professor Juniper and our Stadium, Dimension Valley. The versatility of this card is incredible and it provides a huge consistency boost when the deck needs to hit a lot of specific Trainers to attack. There are negatives to this card though – sometimes you will be stuck without a Supporter in hand and you won’t reveal one with Trainers’ Mail, but the sheer amount of cards that you can snatch that can increase hand size is vast. For instance, if you play a Trainers’ Mail and find an Ultra Ball in those four cards, you can immediately think about grabbing a Shaymin-EX. Similarly, maybe you have Battle Compressor in hand and reveal VS Seeker with a Trainers’ Mail. Grab the VS Seeker to pick up a Supporter that you will Battle Compressor away. I cannot say enough about how stellar this card is. If you are not at least trying this card out in your Night March builds, you should be!

Other Card Options

Some people don’t think Empoleon belongs in this deck, but playing Empoleon gives you such a boost against Fighting decks like Donphan and Landorus-EXCrobat. I also do not include a Mr. Mime as I would rather use that deck slot on other cards.

Seismitoad / Crobat

Seismitoad-EX is still a very strong option, and I’m surprised by how little I’ve seen people playing it on PTCGO. The ability to shut down opponent’s Items is still a great strategy, especially with how many strong Item cards are in the format. The biggest downside to playing Seismitoad-EX is the paltry damage output. Seismitoad-EX maxes at 50 damage and our best damage modifier, Hypnotoxic Laser, is now limited to four uses thanks to the Lysandre's Trump Card ban. Plenty of people have written about the downfall of Seismitoad-EX and how it’s been the biggest loser of the Lysandre’s Trump Card ban, but I’m here to tell you just how strong Seismitoad-EX can be in this format!

Pokemon (17)

4x Seismitoad-EX (FFI #106)

3x Crobat (PHF #33)

4x Golbat (PHF #32)

4x Zubat (PLS #53)

2x Shaymin-EX (RSK #77)

Trainers (20)

4x Professor Juniper (PLF #116)

4x N (DEX #96)

2x Colress (PLS #118)

2x Xerosic (PHF #110)

1x Lysandre (FLF #90)


4x VS Seeker (PHF #109)

4x Super Scoop Up (FFI #100)

4x Ultra Ball (DEX #102)

4x Hypnotoxic Laser (PLS #123)

3x Muscle Band (XY #121)

1x Computer Search (BCR #137)


2x Virbank City Gym (PLS #126)

1x Silent Lab (PRC #140)

Energy (7)

4x Double Colorless Energy (BS #96)

3x Water Energy (CL #90)

I absolutely love this deck. It has fantastic matchups against the field… when it sets up. The unfortunate drawback of this deck is just that. When you can’t get enough Zubat out early, you struggle keeping up with the damage output of other decks later on. I often find myself not getting out a Zubat until turn three, which is such a terrible feeling. However, this deck also benefits greatly from Shaymin-EX, as it allows for much more explosive starts. This is a strong option for me going into US Nationals due to solid all around matchups and the strength of Trainer lock.

Xerosic and Silent Lab

These are two cards I’ve included in the list that you may not have seen in a Seismitoad-EXCrobat list before. Xerosic is included primarily to help against other Seismitoad-EX decks. Discarding Special Energy is such a huge benefit in this format because of the Trump Card ban – there’s no way to get these Energy back without using something like Bunnelby‘s attack, which is not very efficient. Being able to discard a couple Double Colorless Energy under Item lock can swing the game in your favor, and since the opposing Seismitoad-EX player is limited to four Double Colorless, being able to discard two means they are much more likely to whiff an attack. Xerosic also has the secondary benefit of discarding Pokemon Tools to stop Garbodor‘s Garbotoxin Ability. Garbodor may not be a major factor in this format, but because this deck is very reliant on Abilities like Golbat‘s Sneaky Bite and Crobat’s Surprise Bite, we need to make sure that we can make the most of these Abilities.

Silent Lab is an interesting card. It is extremely strong against decks that run high counts of Shaymin-EX, and it is best utilized toward the end of the game when an opponent tries to drop Shaymin-EX to replenish their hand after you play N. This card is also strong against cards like Darkrai-EX, Virizion-EX, and Keldeo-EX, which all have Abilities that negate the benefits of Hypnotoxic Laser. It is true that you’d often like to have Virbank City Gym down when playing Hypnotoxic Laser, but the real benefit of Laser is putting your opponent to Sleep and having them miss a turn of attacking. Combine the occasional missed turn due to Sleep and the ability of Super Scoop Up to negate opponent’s attacks, and you can tank with Seismitoad-EX for quite a while. I’ve thought about increasing this count to two because of how disruptive and useful it can be.


Donphan is a deck that has stayed the course. It didn’t really gain any new cards from Roaring Skies, and it didn’t lose anything from Lysandre's Trump Card being banned. The attribute I like most about this deck is the hit-and-run strategy. However, Donphan can also hit some huge numbers with it’s second attack, Wreck.

Pokemon (13)

4x Donphan (PLS #72)

4x Phanpy (PLS #71)

3x Hawlucha (FFI #63)

1x Primal Groudon-EX (PRC #151)

1x Groudon-EX (PRXY #XY42)

Trainers (36)

4x Professor Juniper (PLF #116)

4x N (PRBW #BW100)

4x Korrina (FFI #95)

2x Colress (PLS #118)

2x Lysandre (FLF #90)


4x Robo Substitute (PHF #102)

3x VS Seeker (PHF #109)

3x Muscle Band (XY #121)

2x Silver Bangle (PLB #88)

1x Ultra Ball (DEX #102)

1x Float Stone (PLF #99)

1x Enhanced Hammer (DEX #94)

1x Computer Search (BCR #137)


4x Fighting Stadium (FFI #90)

Energy (11)

5x Fighting Energy (BS #97)

4x Strong Energy (FFI #104)

2x Double Colorless Energy (LTR #113)

Donphan has been so consistent, and I’ve tried to maintain the consistency with my current list. This deck has a place in the metagame because of it’s relatively solid Night March matchup (especially if they don’t play Empoleon) and solid matchups against the field.

Primal Groudon-EX and Float Stone

I’ve included a 1-1 line of Primal Groudon-EX to bolster the Seismitoad-EX matchup. Notice also that I’ve included a Float Stone. The key to setting up Primal Groudon-EX is to grab Groudon-EX and Float Stone with a Korrina on your first turn. Play the Float Stone on the Groudon-EX before the Seismitoad-EX player can get a Quaking Punch. If you do that, they won’t be able to use Lysandre to strand your Groudon-EX Active before it becomes a Primal Groudon-EX. When using Primal Groudon-EX against Seismitoad-EX you always want to make sure that your Groudon-EX is coming into play when you want it to.

Enhanced Hammer

I choose to run a single copy of Enhanced Hammer because of decks like Yveltal-EX and Raichu. Being able to take a Special Energy off an opponent’s powered up, Benched attacker while then Knocking Out your opponent’s Active can make for a huge swing in momentum. Further, I like Enhanced Hammer in this deck specifically because it is easily searchable with Korrina, which makes getting it out when you need to much more likely.

The Unorthodox Plays

Finally, on to the section of this article we’ve all been waiting for! I’m known in my circle of testing partners for throwing out some pretty outlandish ideas to see if they’d work. Most don’t, but some do! Strutting into a tournament with an unorthodox deck that nobody is expecting and then destroying the field is such an awesome feeling.

I want to make a disclaimer: these decks are still in the process of being tested rigorously! We haven’t had much time to figure out this new format and the banning of Trump Card created a lot of headaches for many players. We’re left scrambling to pick up the pieces on a new format. I expect US Nationals to be fairly conservative in terms of the deck choices from players, while I predict the World Championships to be much more wide open with a higher amount of successful rogue decks. Nonetheless, I have been spending much of my remaining time testing these weird ideas, and I feel they are all very powerful and unexpected decks for US Nationals. I feel I have a solid grasp of the three meta decks I’ve already outlined and would feel extremely comfortable walking into Nationals with any of those lists, but where’s the glory in that? Of course, most of us aren’t playing for glory, we’re playing to win! Here’s a few deck lists I’ve been working on in the lab.

This concludes the public portion of this article.

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