Greetings PokeBeach! It’s Nicholena Moon here. I am thrilled to be joining the writing team here, so you’ll be hearing a lot more from me! Today I’m going to be talking about the most important thing on everyone’s minds TCG-wise: City Championships! Not only are the holidays coming up, making us all very busy, but we have to travel every weekend, playtest, build decks, and make the right choice. On top of all that, this season, Cities can be in either format, Standard or Expanded. It’s up to the Tournament Organizer’s discretion.
We can look at this two ways. The first is to become overwhelmed or frustrated with the volume of deck choices, the unpredictable metagame, and the extra effort required to test and build decks in two formats at once. Of course, we could always choose to only participate in one format, but scheduling such a thing could prove to be difficult for most players. The other way to view the double format is as a challenge to rise to, as well as an opportunity to be creative. I personally think it will allow for more innovative deck building and call for more precise metagaming. Simply playing a deck that has type advantage over the most popular deck won’t be enough this season.
This double format will require an in-depth understanding of the available card pool for both Standard and Expanded. Luckily, there are a lot of online resources to this effect. Before writing this article and jumping into the season in general, I had to do a lot of research! It’s hard to tell what will succeed and what will fail. As I write this, day one of Cities has already begun. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend any tournaments for at least two more weeks while my hand is in a cast. Sitting back gives me a lot of time to think, however, so I hope you enjoy my musings!
The goal of this article is to show through example how to tweak a deck from being playable in Standard to being fit for Expanded. This way, if you have a few decks built, you can easily change them between the two formats at a moment’s notice. So when you come home on Saturday from that three hour drive and need a game plan quickly, hopefully this will help. I’ll be talking about three decks as examples: Tryantrum / Bronzong, Vespiquen, and Lucario-EX / Bats. As a bonus and because I have a soft spot in my heart for Dark decks, I want to discuss a variant of everyone’s old favorite, Yveltal, that has cropped up recently, Yveltal / Gallade / Zoroark. This deck is exactly what I’m talking about as far as crafty deckbuilding and using the available card pool, including BREAKthrough, to your advantage.
Let’s practice altering some lists. I’ll give you the full Standard list, then explain my specific card counts. After each section, I’ll show you how it should be changed for Expanded.
Tyrantrum / Bronzong
1x AZ (PHF #91)
Pokemon in Standard
First, let’s talk about the meat of the deck, if you will. Sorry, food is on everyone’s minds around this time of year. Speaking of which, how many of you were / are thankful for the Pokemon TCG? I know I am every day! I am thankful for the power creep, whose name is Tyrantrum-EX. Seriously, 190 base damage is pretty freaking strong. The deck may seem a bit clunky to set up and run, but once it gets going it can deal with almost any threat in Standard or Expanded. We’ll start with Standard for simplicity’s sake, since there are far fewer options.
There’s no doubt that Giratina-EX is one of the strongest Pokemon in the format right now. This is because it has so much inherent disruptive power. Being untouchable by Megas is great in and of itself, but Chaos Wheel brings a whole new dimension (yes, pun intended) to messing with your opponent. They can’t play down Special Energy or Stadiums. That kind of control is virtually godlike. It doesn’t hurt that Giratina has always been one of my favorite Legendary Pokemon designs!
Giratina-EX wrecks strategies based around Special Energy and Stadiums. It’s great against Night March, because you lock their Dimension Valley out of play. It’s also good against other decks that need to use Double Colorless Energy, like Vespiquen and Toad-based decks. Its Ability deals with M Manectric-EX, M Mewtwo-EX, and M Sceptile-EX decks.
Here we have the Jurassic Behemoth himself, serving as the deck’s one and only heavy hitter. Tyrantrum-EX lurks in the background constantly, hiding in the shadows, waiting for his turn to strike. You probably won’t start swinging with him right away, but when the time comes, he will take down any threat in the format. A Fairy Weakness is a fine thing to have right now, because Aromatisse decks and Fairy types in general aren’t seeing much, if any, play right now. He easily dispatches with threats like Yveltal-EX, Seismitoad-EX, and other non-Mega Pokemon-EX attackers.
This medieval tank belongs in every Metal deck as a natural inclusion. When your Giratina-EX goes down and you’ve taken a KO with Tyrantrum-EX, that’s where this guy comes into play. Your opponent can begin using Special Energy, but now they are useless against the Shield you’ve been building up on the Bench this whole time! What a frustrating situation indeed. I like to use Aegislash-EX in this manner to finish out a game, as his damage output really isn’t bad, and by the time he’s swinging for 100 or so, your opponent has likely been run dry of resources trying to deal with your Tyrantrum-EX and Giratina-EX. You could even go with a 2-2-2 line of attackers if you particularly like this strategy.
When you Bench Shaymin-EX, you can draw up to six cards, depending on how many you already have in hand. Pokemon-based draw is a great alternative to Supporter draw when you’re in a tight situation. While he is still everyone’s favorite crutch, Shaymin counts seem to be going down in most decks. This works in tandem with the lack of Sky Field, since you won’t be absolutely flooding your Bench with these little hedgehogs, you won’t really need the extra space. Nobody likes to deckout or give their opponent too many easy Prizes.
One of this deck’s weaknesses is its reliance on Double Dragon Energy, but Bronzong can help mitigate this. If you wait to attach the Special Energy until you need to, you’ll get more value out of it instead of being open to Enhanced Hammer and Xerosic. This is also why we play one Fighting, but if you would feel more comfortable with two, it can be done that way. Additionally, Bronzong can be used as an attacker against Regice in a pinch.
Pokemon in Expanded
So, there you have the deck’s main lineup. It has a great mix of heavy hitters, disruption, and support Pokemon. While your opponent is busy trying to play around Giratina-EX and Aegislash-EX, Bronzong is helping to get Tyrantrum-EX swinging. When that happens, they won’t know what hit them! But what’s different here in Expanded? What else could we possibly want from this deck?
To be honest, our Pokemon lineup won’t look much different. Keldeo-EX, the My Little Pony Pokemon, has been relegated to the deepest depths of Expanded, but he’ll Rush In whenever we need him! Always keep Keldeo as a retreating option in mind. It helps to cut down on Switch counts and leave more room for other fun Expanded Tools. You can add a Float Stone to Keldeo and have him hang out on the Bench waiting to Rush In and Retreat.
The return of Keldeo makes Hoopa-EX a lot more valuable in the deck. It’s a great setup Pokemon. You normally want to go for a Giratina-EX, Tyrantrum-EX, and Keldeo-EX to start the game, but if you’re in a pinch and need to draw cards, Shaymin-EX is a great target as well. Hoopa-EX is easily one of my favorite new Pokemon and cards.
Supporters in Standard
Poor Professor Juniper has been replaced, but luckily, we still have a way to dump our hand and get seven more cards. Not only does Professor Sycamore help to draw cards, but it can also put Metal Energy in the discard for Bronzong.
Due to the lackluster options for draw, we play one Shauna. Shuffling your hand in and drawing five isn’t terrible, but it’s no Professor Oak’s New Theory, that’s for sure. You could play a higher count or none at all, it just depends on what you prefer.
Professor Birch’s Observations
This card is kind of like an improved version of Shauna. Although Shauna guarantees a draw of five, if you don’t draw the card you need in four from Birch, the likelihood that it is the very next card is extremely low, so you probably wouldn’t have drawn it from Shauna anyway. Even with the flip, this makes Professor Birch's Observations the more odds-on play for the savvy trainer.
Judge is Standard’s version of N, and I vastly prefer this card to the green-haired enigma. It levels the playing field by making each player draw four, whereas N is a bit more unbalanced in favor of the comeback. Judge doesn’t inspire in the opponent the same dread as N, but it can either help you control the game state from the winning side or bring your opponent back into check regarding hand size. Without some way to regulate and refresh your opponent’s hand, things will get messy very quickly.
Thank goodness we have this card in both formats! It’s so game-changing, especially in Standard, with few ways to disrupt your opponent’s hand. The only card that counters it is Judge, but even then you’d have a reasonable chance of drawing back into it for the win. At the end of the game, you can bring up a damaged Pokemon-EX or a Shaymin-EX and steal the win. You can also use it to stall at the beginning of the game or take out a potential threat early on.
Without Keldeo-EX in the deck, AZ becomes more than just a way to pick up a damaged Pokemon-EX. It’s not only a Max Potion, but it can act as a Switch when you have something undesirable in the Active position. You can also clear your board of fragile Shaymin-EX sitting on the Bench so that they don’t get Lysandre’d up and KO’d, or simply pick one up and put it back down to draw more cards.
Supporters in Expanded
The Supporter line changes pretty drastically once we get to Expanded. We’ll replace Judge entirely with N, because N has a lot more disruptive power. You can play it when you’re behind on Prizes and trying to catch up, or to throw off your opponent’s plan in the early game. We will cut both Shauna and Professor Birch's Observations for Colress to maximize our draw. This deck keeps a full Bench, so Colress is great here. We need to keep the Professor Sycamore, Lysandre, and AZ because they are excellent cards that have no better alternatives in Expanded. These changes are about boosting speed and consistency, as these cards provide much more powerful draw options, helping you get to the cards you need each turn more easily. There’s not much else to say about these substitutions, they’re pretty much going to happen to any deck.
Trainers in Standard
Hurry up and get those Metals in the discard! That’s basically the mentality of Battle Compressor. You can also put your one-of Supporters in the discard early on so you can access them easier when you need them later on. This play turns a one-of like AZ into a four-of via VS Seeker. Without this card, the deck would be far too slow to set up.
I’ve seen a few lists that don’t play Level Ball at all, but it adds a lot to the speed and consistency of your setup. This deck is rather slow and clunky by nature, but the addition of Level Ball makes setting up your Bronzong a real breeze. Since it’s been reprinted, we should make good use of it.
What happens if you’re forced to discard the Fighting Energy with an early Sycamore before you can attach it to a Tyrantrum-EX? Worse yet, what if you have to Sycamore two Bronzong in your opening hand? Fear not, Super Rod is here! Put those babies back in the deck and keep on truckin’.
Since we don’t have Keldeo-EX available to us in Standard, we have to have another way to switch the Active Pokemon. I have seen some lists play a 1-1 Zoroark line to use his Step In Ability, but that requires more setup, and if one of the pieces is prized, you’re not going to be a happy camper. Switch is a more reliable solution.
With Faded Town in play, Tyrantrum can dish out 210 damage, enough to OHKO M Manectric-EX. This is the reason I go for Faded Town over Sky Field. There’s no real advantage to Sky Field in Standard, it just promotes sloppy play and can be easily countered by Parallel City. Your field should be two Bronzong, two Tyrantrum-EX, a Giratina-EX, and either another attacker or a Shaymin-EX. There’s just no need for anything else, since we don’t have Keldeo. Faded Town is also key because it allows you to have a Float Stone on Tyrantrum for easy retreating instead of a Muscle Band, freeing up some space in the deck.
As I mentioned before, you normally shouldn’t need Sky Field to set up if you manage your Bench and resources correctly. Faded Town is really important in the M Manectric-EX matchup, since there’s no room for Muscle Band. Without it, this deck really struggles to KO a M Manectric-EX. It also helps Giratina’s math, because Giratina-EX is going to be 3HKO’ing Mega Pokemon without it.
Trainers in Expanded
Trainers are the most intricate part of building any deck, and as always, are largely dependent on personal preference. As an aside, I know a lot of players place great emphasis on deckbuilding, stressing over even the most minute of changes. Unless the card you’re thinking about including is extremely hot or cold in the current meta, I’m of the opinion that tiny differences between lists don’t make a huge difference. Of course, this doesn’t mean that every list doesn’t merit scrutiny, it’s just that one card out of sixty won’t make much of a difference in your tournament run unless it’s a crucial tech.
I removed all the Switch for Muscle Bands, since we now have the Hoopa-EX plus Keldeo-EX option for retreating, they’re not needed. Since we have the Bands now, I also traded Faded Town for two Sky Field. Sky Field is better in this version since you will usually bench Hoopa and Keldeo in addition to your normal board. I also added a Heavy Ball, as it can search out most Pokemon in the deck, most usefully Hoopa. Last but not least, we shouldn’t overlook Computer Search! Computer Search is preferred here as you can search out your Special Energy with it. Dowsing Machine is also acceptable but is less useful. Before we take a look at the Queen Bee, here’s a cohesive Tyrantrum list for Expanded.
1x AZ (PHF #91)
So there you have it. We’ve tweaked our first deck from Standard to Expanded, and it wasn’t that difficult, was it? Let’s try a deck that operates differently for our next one: Vespiquen.
This concludes the public portion of this article.
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