Preparing for Regionals — Five Decks That Fit the Bill
What’s going on ‘Beach Nation? Steve here with another article to help you get ready for Winter Regionals. Throughout the course of this article, I will be discussing decks from the current Expanded format (Black & White-BREAKthrough) that I believe are the most optimal plays for the second week of this year’s Winter Regionals. I’ll also go over different decks that I think will see play during these Regional Championships.
Before we get into the decks though, has everyone seen the sick new playmat that will be given out to participants of these Regionals? The Fall Regional mats were cool, but this one is epic! I can’t wait to have one or two of these.
Epic new playmat aside, it’s time to dive into the realm of Regionals and Expanded. As you likely know by now, the Expanded format is huge and offers many different combos and deck ideas. The format itself seems to have fewer competitive decks than Standard, largely due to the overwhelming strength of the top-tier decks in Expanded, unlike the top-tier decks in Standard. So which decks sit atop the mountain that is the Expanded metagame right now? Let’s find out!
Yveltal-EX / Darkrai-EX
The first deck I want to talk about is Yveltal-EX / Darkrai-EX. Ever since the release of Dark Explorers, Darkness-type decks have been at the forefront of competitive gameplay in the Pokemon TCG. With attackers such as Darkrai-EX, Hydreigon, and Mewtwo-EX, combined with Energy acceleration via Dark Patch and the ability to recycle Item cards through Sableye‘s Junk Hunt attack, there has been a great deal of versatility to these decks. When XY was released, we got Yveltal-EX, which serves as a type-specific version of the old Mewtwo-EX that’s capable of dealing even more damage. Toss in the flexibility offered by Keldeo-EX and the extra damage inflicted by Hypnotoxic Laser and Virbank City Gym, and together you have yourself one heck of a strong archetype. This deck also leans heavily toward the use of Double Colorless Energy largely due to the fact that both of Yveltal-EX’s attacks use it effectively. This opens the door for other attackers that also take advantage of Colorless Energy requirements, such as Seismitoad-EX, Raichu, or even Lugia-EX in Standard variants. Finally, with the current format allowing us to play at a more brisk pace, we can include cards such as Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick and Archie's Ace in the Hole to bring out some solid support Pokemon that would be otherwise unplayable in most decks: Gallade, Archeops, and even Empoleon.
With all of these different options available, you can build and customize your Darkness-type deck to fit both your playstyle as well as the meta you’re expecting to see. Here’s a look at the list I’m currently looking at as Winter Regionals approaches:
2 Yveltal-EX / 2 Darkrai-EX
The first thing you may notice in this particular deck list is the even split between Yveltal-EX and Darkrai-EX — two copies a piece. For a long time, Dark variants ran at least three copies of Yveltal-EX while bouncing between one or two copies of Darkrai-EX. With Lightning types being as prevalent as they are in today’s meta and Fighting-types being mostly devoid, however, Darkrai-EX makes a solid attacker. With your opponent less likely to deal double damage to your Pokemon via Weakness, you can maintain ground against more decks and ultimately avoid the disadvantage that is Weakness.
The next reason for this split is the difference in their attacks and Darkrai-EX’s Ability. While Yveltal-EX has two attacks, Darkrai-EX’s Night Spear attack is capable of dealing 30 damage to one of your opponent’s Benched Pokemon in addition to dealing a solid 90 damage to begin with. Throw in Darkrai-EX’s Dark Cloak Ability and you can see exactly why this card has been dominant for nearly four years now.
The reason for not running a third copy of Yveltal-EX is because the format has experienced a shift toward single-Prize attackers over the last few months, and having too many Pokemon-EX could make the Prize trade rather unfavorable in some matchups. However, with two copies of both Yveltal-EX and Darkrai-EX, you should still have plenty of firepower to take out whatever threat opposes you.
Gallade / Archeops / Maxie’s Hidden Ball Trick
The inclusion of Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick in this deck allows you to utilize two more Pokemon: Gallade and Archeops. Gallade is a straight-up powerhouse attacker. You will typically play a Supporter card every turn, meaning you’ll almost always be hitting for 130 with Gallade. This is a big deal for two reasons: Gallade is a single-Prize attacker with a massive 150 HP, and it can deal with one of this deck’s biggest nightmares — M Manectric-EX. Gallade also comes with an Ability called Premonition which allows you to rearrange the top five cards of your deck however you like once during each turn.
With all of those benefits, why do you need Archeops? Well, it’s an entirely different beast. While Archeops won’t be attacking anything, it can be extremely devastating against a number of decks, including Vespiquen / Flareon / Bronzong, Eelektrik variants, and anything based around Mega Evolution Pokemon.
Which of these Pokemon you prioritize getting into play first depends on the given matchup, although this deck can function fine without either one in play. In a sense, these are luxury Pokemon that can put the deck into overdrive against certain matchups, rather than Pokemon that absolutely must see the board every game.
Yveltal-EX / Darkrai-EX is probably the most versatile deck in the game, having the ability to beat just about anything you may encounter. This is a strong deck that does well against most of the top decks we’ve seen thus far in Expanded, largely thanks to its ability to include specific tech cards such as Archeops or Hex Maniac to deal with such problems. The sheer flexibility and overwhelming attacks this deck offers are a lethal combination and it is why Dark-type decks will remain at the top tables of nearly every major tournament in the foreseeable future. While a rogue deck like M Mewtwo-EX or an explosive Fairy deck may give this deck trouble, those are few and far between right now in Expanded, leaving Yveltal-EX / Darkrai-EX a solid and safe bet for this Winter Regionals.
The biggest price you pay for teching out any deck is the decrease in consistency. Dark-type decks rarely lose consistency by including a tech or two when compared to most other decks, but even a minor setback in consistency may become a factor in such a large tournament as Regionals. With nine or 10 rounds of Swiss on day one alone, you’re going to want your deck to be as consistent as possible while also being capable of dealing with the meta and your opposing matchups. The beauty of the current format is that there is no clear-cut best deck right now. Players will often be pushed to their creative limits to come up with ways to counter the meta while maintaining their deck’s consistency to get a leg up on the competition. You could easily drop the Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick, Gallade, and Archeops from this list in order to add consistency throughout the rest of the deck, but then what happens when you hit a rough matchup like Vespiquen / Flareon where you may need that Archeops in play to take control of the board? This is where finding that fine line between too many techs and not enough techs becomes a little more clear; it depends mostly on what your matchups look like going into a tournament.
Seismitoad-EX / Crobat
The next deck I’m going to go over is Seismitoad-EX / Crobat, which also includes a Manectric-EX for a couple of rough matchups. Unlike the previous deck, this is a complete control deck designed to shut down a large portion of your opponent’s resources while slowly chipping away at their Pokemon’s HP. Just as you would expect with a control-based archetype, this deck includes several forms of disruption: Seismitoad-EX’s Item locking attack, the discarding of your opponent’s Energy cards via your own Supporter cards’ effects, among other things. From there, your Crobat line can add extra damage onto your opponent’s Pokemon each turn, allowing you to take KOs when you need them. This is the list I’m working with right now:
Only 3 Seismitoad-EX
I always ran four copies of Seismitoad-EX in this deck, until recently when some of the other PokeBeach premium writers convinced me that this deck functions fine with only three copies, largely due to cards like Super Scoop Up and AZ to remove damage counters and deny your opponent KOs. With that said, Seismitoad-EX is still, without a doubt, this deck’s main attacker, locking down your opponent’s Item cards with its Quaking Punch attack. Of course, we still have four copies of Ultra Ball as well as plenty of draw power to make sure we can manage a Quaking Punch as quickly as possible. Using the maximum of four Double Colorless Energy is a mainstay in any Seismitoad-based deck in order for it to boot properly.
Manectric-EX has long been viewed as a backup attacker to Seismitoad-EX, often times with greater results than the original backup attacker — Mewtwo-EX. It’s merely there to flex a little muscle when needed. While Mewtwo-EX technically has a higher damage cap, Manectric-EX helps out by hitting for Weakness against Yveltal-EX and M Rayquaza-EX, both of which can be problematic for this deck if they get going quick enough. Manectric-EX also offers a Bench-sniping first attack. With Crobat and Golbat‘s ability to place damage on your opponent’s Pokemon, having an additional Bench-sniping attack certainly isn’t a bad thing. Just remember that if you do use Manectric to attack, you’ll be breaking Seismitoad-EX’s Item lock on your opponent, giving them access to a lot more cards than they would normally have.
Rock Guard is an interesting Ace Spec card that I originally deemed useless, until Kristy Britton dropped it onto her Seismitoad-EX against me at last year’s U.S. National Championship. To put it mildly, it caught me by surprise. With virtually no setup that game and a near-complete lockdown of my resources via Quaking Punch and Silent Lab, I had very little to work with. Having 60 extra damage thrown my way whenever I swung at her Seismitoad only made matters worse — much worse.
First off, this card is absolutely brutal against low-HP attackers such as those featured in Night March decks, and the 60 damage dealt by Rock Guard’s effect can also speed up the otherwise slow process of dealing damage with this deck. Secondly, it’s a card that some players may not see coming and could end up surprising them in a similar manner to the way it caught me off guard last July. This card might not win you a game single-handedly, but it will definitely make taking KOs and ultimately drawing all six Prizes much easier.
Perhaps the most frustrating card in this deck for your opponent, other than Seismitoad-EX itself, is Silent Lab. Now why would you run this card in a deck that already runs Hypnotoxic Laser and Virbank City Gym? It’s simple — there are some decks that are incredibly reliant on Abilities; shutting them down on top of locking their Item cards out of play puts many players in a very sticky situation. This is a superior play compared to Garbodor because it still allows us to use our Crobat lines effectively and can also be played on the first turn, forcing your opponent to have a counter-Stadium in hand if he or she wants to draw cards off of a Shaymin-EX or set up his or her board through the use of Hoopa-EX. This is especially helpful against Vespiquen decks that rely on Shaymin-EX and Unown to draw cards early on to prepare the board and discard pile for a big Bee Revenge attack. Since Seismitoad has a Weakness to Vespiquen’s Grass typing, you want to limit the Vespiquen player’s options heavily, perhaps even using a Ghetsis in conjunction with the Silent Lab on the first turn to cripple their resources as much as possible and take immediate control before they can explode and start streaming OHKOs on your Seismitoad-EX’s.
The other two decks that come into play here are M Rayquaza-EX due to its reliance on Hoopa-EX to set up, and Archie’s Blastoise which often uses Jirachi-EX to search out Archie's Ace in the Hole on the first turn. By shutting down your opponent’s opening play, you can shut down their entire deck and ensure a win before the game even gets started. This is the essence of Silent Lab.
This deck has incredible lockdown potential. An early Ghetsis followed by a Silent Lab can shut down most turbo decks that run off of cards like Battle Compressor, allowing you to lock their Items with Seismitoad-EX for the remainder of the game. Even if you don’t go first, those decks have a single turn to set up before Quaking Punch renders their Item cards useless. Furthermore, one or two Bats can KO a Pokemon without attacking at all, providing your opponent is playing a deck with lower HP Pokemon, such as Night March. This has proven to be an effective strategy over the past year as Crobat has become the most successful partner for Seismitoad-EX in most areas. The ability to take away your opponent’s resources while chipping away at your opponent’s Pokemon is a solid strategy and definitely makes Seismitoad-EX / Crobat a strong play for Regionals.
Despite all the advantages Seismitoad-EX and Crobat offer, this deck also has one glaring weakness — a lack of versatility. Outside of Supporters, it has little room for tech cards and thus becomes predictable in game. It’s easy to build for this reason, but having less options means having fewer ways around certain situations where you might need them. Also, while this deck doesn’t rely on quite as many coin flips as a Seismitoad variant running Crushing Hammers, you’re still playing the coin flip game with cards like Hypnotoxic Laser and Super Scoop Up. These things don’t detract from this deck’s overall potential for the most part, but they are both things to be aware of when playing this deck in a tournament.
This concludes the public portion of this article.
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