“Independence Day” — How I Chose My Cities-Winning Deck and a Look at Assault Vest

Hey Beach goers! Hope you had a enjoyable and successful first few weekends of Cities. This is an important time of year, where a good portion of your Worlds invitation is earned. I know most of the Cities in the United States will be in the Standard format, but I just got off of a weekend with the Expanded format. There is a huge difference between the two formats and it required separate testing for both. My first weekend was a single Cities in Standard format, then after that, this past weekend, I had two Expanded Cities. I was required to test both formats and I had to test Expanded in just about a week. I’m going to go over my deck choice, my list of choices prior to this weekend, and how I prepared so quickly. This preparation rewarded me with a Cities win in Independence, Missouri!

Wish it was a trophy…

I’m also gonna talk about Assault Vest, a card that was overlooked when BREAKthrough came out that is just now having a chance to shine. I have a heavily tested list for Expanded that I’m sure you will all enjoy playing. But there are many examples of this card’s use in Standard as well that I will get into later on.

It’s not even the halfway point for the Cities season, and at every Cities I go to where people are asking me for advice, I always stress how much of a value the PokeBeach Premium Subscription is. There isn’t a site out there that offers the amount of top-notch articles we produce, the excellent list advice in the Subscriber’s Secret Hideout, and the quality of players that you can engage in the comment section. It’s the best way any player can step up their game!

What to do with Expanded

After a disappointing finish to my Greeley, CO City Championship (1-2 drop), I was looking forward to the next Cities immediately and couldn’t wait to prove myself. I don’t tend to get too upset or down with a poor finish. What I normally tell me buddies that do poorly is there are a lot of people who are trying to win at the particular tournament you went to. Some are just more lucky than others in hitting the right matchups and avoiding dead drawing.

Matchups and dead drawing brings me right to my next subject: Getting matchups correct and making sure you have an incredibly consistent list. Sure, we can hope to build an incredibly gimmicky list full of techs and hope we draw well at the event, but this isn’t an approach the majority of good players take.

Following my own advice from my last article, I narrowed myself down to five different decks. However, with the short time period I was working with I only tested and considered bringing in three different decks. I didn’t know what the metagame was going to be like — this was the first Expanded Cities I have gone to all season — so I needed to make a deck that had good matchups against the most popular decks around the world. The decks I had in consideration when I made a deck choice are:

These were arguably the most popular and common decks in Expanded. When describing my top three, I will explain my matchups against these five decks.

Here are the top three decks I was considering:

I picked these decks knowing I will be entering a meta that is unknown to me. I tried to select decks that I could see myself winning a Cities with and that I was comfortable playing. I’ll break down my deck choices right here and each of their matchups against the big five.


With a lot of suggestions from friends, I was told Donphan is a sick play in a meta full of cheap attackers that don’t have a lot of HP. The biggest deck that comes to mind is Night March, with Vespiquen being a close second. In Vespiquen’s case, I didn’t like the idea of two-hitting something supposed to be a cheap attacker, especially since that deck typically plays a copy of Life Dew. I did however speak to Chris Collins, one of my fellow writers here that achieved a Top 8 finish at San Jose Regionals this past Fall, where he defeated multiple Vespiquen throughout the day. First he told me to read his article, then he went more into detail on how Donphan murders Vespiquen.

Suck it

Vespiquen 80-20

The strategy is to heavily utilize Focus Sash. Using a Focus Sash on a Donphan means the Vespiquen player has to use two Lysandre to Knock Out your Donphan. Eventually the Vespiquen player will run out of VS Seeker and will have to start attacking Robo Substitute. This plays them straight into your strategy of them hitting your expendable Wobbuffet and Robo Substitute. This can be applied to great effect against Night March as well.

Knowing how to beat Vespiquen, and having a naturally good matchup against Night March due to playing Robo Substitute and Focus Sash, I had to start thinking of the other matchups I talked about.

Seismitoad / Giratina 30-70

This is the nightmare matchup that I never want to see with Donphan. Seismitoad-EX hits Donphan for Weakness, in addition to removing Korrina‘s ability to search for and play any Item from the deck. You cannot play Robo Substitute or Focus Sash, getting rid of several options Donphan may have to get ahead in the matchup. Hawlucha is your only hope. It deals sufficient damage to Seismitoad and may survive a Quaking Punch, but you have to consistently draw Energy to continue pummeling Seismitoad and hope they don’t hit heads on Super Scoop Up often. Overall, Seismitoad-EX limits your deck to the point where it can barely function. Without any of its Items Donphan falls apart.

Yveltal / Darkrai 60-40

Jolteon is the key in this matchup. Yveltal-EX‘s Resistance normally makes this a bad matchup for Donphan, but giving Donphan that Lightning typing greatly reduces Yveltal’s longevity. Hawlucha also kills it in this matchup with Focus Sash on it, allowing you get off two massive attacks with the Hawucha before falling. If they play Archeops, which I expect them to, you can play Wobbuffet to allow you to evolve. I wouldn’t leave home without my Wobbuffet in a meta that I expected to be full of Yveltal. Yveltal could stall you and buy them time to set up, but the deck’s reliance on Lightning- and Fighting-weak EXs to deal heavy damage ends up putting Donphan on top here.

Keldeo / Blastoise 30-70

Keldeo-EX is brutal for Donphan. Not because of the Keldeo itself, it’s because they typically play copies of Kyurem and Articuno. These Pokemon need to be two-shot while they OHKO your Donphan, taking two Prizes off of them in Articuno’s case. These tanky non-EXs make the matchup especially hard for you. Hex Maniac could be played to temporarily shut off Blastoise, but since Donphan decks don’t typically run Battle Compressor you will have a hard time getting it early. This is a matchup you should avoid.

I won’t go into detail about the Donphan mirror, but it’s essentially going to be a tie as you won’t be able to draw Prizes quick enough in a 30 minute + 3 match.

So with a poor matchup against two of the four other popular decks, why did I think of playing Donphan? A large part of it was because I expected Night March and Vespiquen to be popular since the Jirachi Promo considerably helps their matchups against Seismitoad-EX / Giratina-EX, normally a rough spot for the two decks. Also, they are very popular and inexpensive decks with binary game plans. Vespiquen has favorable Keldeo / Blastoise and Seismitoad matchups — Seismitoad largely in part due to the Jirachi — while Night March has game against the two decks as well. I expected these two to be the most popular decks on the day, and Donphan beats both of them fairly easily.

Yveltal / Assault Vest

At first I was testing an Yveltal list using Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick and the new Gallade, in addition to Archeops. I based it on Israel Sosa’s list that he used to win the Arizona Fall Regionals. I canned this since it was largely inconsistent. I wasn’t drawing well with it, and managing the Bench space was difficult since I often had to reach for Maxie’s usage by playing Shaymin-EX on my Bench. My friend, Kiernan Wagner, a Senior, gave me a solid deck list for Yveltal-EX / Assault Vest. While it lacked a few common traits of a normal Yveltal deck, I found it to be the strongest Yveltal variant out there for this metagame, improving upon many of the deck’s difficult matchups while maintaining exceptional consistency. If you plan on testing an Yveltal deck in Standard, I can’t recommend this one enough. Here is my take on the list:

This concludes the public portion of this article.

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