An Elite Expansion — The Elite Format and Three Unusual Expanded Decks

Hello everyone! Alex back with some more insight into the Pokemon TCG! I just got off a week one Regional Championship trip that saw me go 4-4. Yikes! Definitely not one of my best performances I’ve turned in at a major tournament. I made a last minute deck change the night before the tournament, and even though I thought it was the wrong choice, the same 60 card list ended up winning the whole thing! So shout out to TJ and Drew for letting me use their list, even though I tanked with it! It’s time to focus on Edmonton Regional Championships! And as always, don’t be afraid to ask questions if you want or need more help! I’m always willing to talk!

My family worships the Denver Broncos. My Dad spent a good amount of time living in Denver after he got out of the military. He and my mom even met there! An early injury to his knee kept my Dad from playing sports in High School, but that never stopped him from liking football. Originally, he’s from South Dakota, so he had a lot of teams that were all about the same distance away to root for. To give you just a taste of how much our family loves the Broncos, we put John Elway at the top of our Christmas tree every year. Autographed footballs, helmets, and Fatheads litter our office at home. So you can imagine how our family felt in February of this year.

After that rush of the Super Bowl is over, everyone goes back into that dreaded moment in time: the off-season. Sure, the Draft and trade rumors can sometimes be enough to hold you over, but let’s face it, it’s just not the same. Backyard two hand touch, Madden NFL games, and Fantasy Football research are just placeholders for the real thing. This off-season is even longer for those teams that don’t ever taste playoff football (insert jabs at the Bills, Raiders, and Browns here). The same sort of feeling can even strike the Pokemon off-season!

But wait, Pokemon has an off-season? You bet it does! If you’re one of the many people who fell just shy of a World Championship invite, or live too far away from Columbus to go to Nationals, you have a solid four month gap where there is almost no competitive Pokemon short of League Challenges. If you happen to be one of those people, then today is your lucky day! Over the next three articles published by yours truly, I will be taking you on a journey through alternative formats that you and your friends can play over the summer! I will also be discussing some unique Expanded lists at the back half of the article featuring Fates Collide for you crazy kids that need your list fix!

The Elite Format


Of the three formats I am going to be covering, this one is probably the most unknown. The reason being is because we here in Spokane came up with it! Or at least we believe that we did. Some others may have had a similar idea, but we’ve been able to balance it and make it a viable option for something to do over the summer.

First and foremost, this format does require a bit of preparation, as well as six or more players. It also requires a good deal of proxies, unless you own 10+ copies of every card in existence. In our past experiences, it is always better to print off color or black and white copies, rather than drawing your own when playing in unconventional formats. This is because old cards are not as well known as current format cards, and this can lead to confusion, misplays, and misinterpretation of the rules. It’s always best to print!

“It’s like trying to fit four giant puzzle pieces together from different puzzles” is the best way I’ve heard this format described. The most simplest way to explain how to play is that each time before you play, you randomly generate four Pokemon sets from Base Set to the most current expansion. With those four sets, you build decks and play them in a Swiss tournament among your friends!

The best way to go about this is to find a random number generator online somewhere and roll four numbers. Each number is best corresponded to the sets in order of release, so Base Set is number one, Jungle is number two, and so on and so forth. We have also found that it is best to limit the rolls to only one set from Black and White-on. This helps the format not to be so overpowered with the new power creep we have.

We have also found it best to ban all Pokemon-EX cards that have more than 150 HP. If we didn’t most all decks would be centered around the new Pokemon-EX cards, no matter how good, just because of the high HP and tank nature these Pokemon bring. Cards like Jirachi-EX and Celebi-EX are okay, since playing them yields that risk of the two Prize exchange.

Balance Changes

In terms of interacting between older cards and newer cards, there are a few balance changes that we decided to make to keep everything linear. The first change is that every type of Trainer card can only be one type and not two. During the EX series, all cards said both Trainer and Supporter on them. In the Black and White and XY series, cards say Trainer and either Supporter, Item, or Stadium on them. In order to avoid confusion and to keep cards played as they’re indented to, all non Pokemon or Energy cards are either a Supporter, Trainer, or Stadium. This means that cards like Skyla and Dowsing Machine receive a small nerf. In today’s format, these cards are allowed to grab Stadium and Supporter cards. Under the new rules, these cards can only grab Trainer cards, or essentially cards that act as Item cards.

Another thing that we’ve made uniform is the way Pokemon Powers, Poke-Bodies, Poke-Powers, and Abilities interact with each other. It loosely follows the “a square is a rectangle but a rectangle isn’t a square” rule. Basically if an effect shuts off or damages anything with a Pokemon Power or Ability, it applies that effect to everything with those four traits. If an effect shuts off or damages anything with a Poke-Body, it only effects Poke-Bodies, and any stagnant Ability or Pokemon Power. Some examples of this include Mr. Mime from Jungle with Invisible Wall and Bouffalant from Dragons Exalted with Bouffer. The reciprocal is also true. If an effect shuts off or damages anything with a Poke-Power, it only effects Poke-Powers and any activated Ability or Pokemon Power. Examples include Shaymin-EX from Roaring Skies with Set Up and Blastoise from Base Set with Rain Dance. The rule of thumb is if an Ability or Pokemon Power says the words “you may”, then it’s a Poke-Power. If it doesn’t, it’s a Poke-Body.

And the last change we’ve made is small, but definitely needed. Any card with Dark or an owner in its name does not need to have that same Dark or owner card to evolve. So basically this means that Brock's Onix can evolve into Dark Steelix, or any other combination of these traits.

Set Up and Game Play

When planning out an Elite Format, it is best to give people a few days of warning. This set up doesn’t work when everyone shows up to play and nobody has rolled random sets yet. If you try to do this, you will end up spending three to four hours just researching the cards, combinations, and details of every set. Even if you are very knowledgeable about all the sets rolled, you will still need to build and print out cards to play these decks, all a very time consuming process. At the height of our interest in this format, we had message threads and texting trees set up to get the word out about what sets were rolled for that week. I even committed a little bit of time to go over what cards were in each set and some cool combinations we could play. This is definitely not a format you can just pick up and run with. It does take a little bit of preparation, but it’s worth it in the end!

For gameplay and set up, we use the older rules where you can attack and play Energy turn one, but no Trainers, Supporters, or Stadiums can be played if you go first. Going first with the newer rules is just too good when mixing old formats and new formats. The coin flip is also performed after the starting Pokemon have been placed faced down.

After all is said and done, you can either do swiss rounds or standard round robin to determine the winner. It’s very hard to make judging decisions sometimes, so it’s good to make sure to keep an open, unbiased mind when playing. After all, this is supposed to be a fun off season format! So do exactly that, have fun with it!

Example Format

Since there isn’t really any more to talk about in terms of strategy or decisions when making this format, I’ve decided to give you an example of some decks that we made through this process. The next two articles will have a lot more strategy and in-depth analysis about the formats, but since this format is always completely random, I don’t have much to offer on how to win your Elite Format. The big reason we do this format is to improve our deck building skills. I believe Pokemon is divided into three distinct aspects: deck building, gameplay, and luck. We can’t control luck, and improving game play comes with practice, so we have to find ways to improve our deck building skills. Alternative formats are by far the best way to increase your deck building skills, since putting value on certain cards can be tricky in standard formats when you have so many outside voices telling you what is right and wrong.

Anyway, I got a little off topic there. In this first example, we played with the sets Aquapolis, Delta Species, Dragon Frontiers, and Plasma Blast. I always get really excited for these formats, so I usually make two or three lists per format just in case anyone forgets a deck. Here is one of the decks I played this format.

Pokemon (22)

4x Tropius (PLB #5)3x Cradily (PLB #4)3x Lileep (PLB #3)3x Holon's Electrode (DS #21)2x CARD NOT FOUND2x CARD NOT FOUND2x Dusknoir (PLB #104)1x Aggron (PLB #59)1x CARD NOT FOUND1x Jumpluff (AQ #17)

Trainers (29)

3x Professor Juniper (PLB #84)3x Caitlin (PLB #78)3x TV Reporter (DF #82)1x Copycat (DF #73)1x Town Volunteers (AQ #136)4x Root Fossil Lileep (PLB #87)4x Ultra Ball (PLB #90)4x Switch (DF #83)3x Energy Switch (AQ #120)2x Pokémon Catcher (PLB #83)1x Master Ball (PLB #94)

Energy (9)

6x Grass Energy (BLW #105)2x Metal Energy (BLW #112)1x Psychic Energy (BLW #109)

It seems like a really cool deck right? Every time that we roll into Plasma Blast I always try to make Cradily work! In fact, this is actually the second time we rolled Plasma Blast. The first time we also randomly drew into Holon Phantoms and the card Holon Fossil. Pair that with Root Fossil Lileep and Ultra Ball, and you have yourself a deck that hits Lileep turn one or two almost every single game! Alas, that list is lost to the wind, and this is its little brother. The idea is to get an early Lileep using Caitlin, Ultra Ball, and Root Fossil Lileep. After that, drawing into a Cradily and using Lifesplosion to get out an array of attackers and Bench sitters to win yourself the game.

Tropius and CARD NOT FOUND are the only Basic Pokemon in the deck. Both of them provide either great stall, or great draw to get yourself into the desired Lileep hand. Tropius also has a great second attack in case you fall behind early in the game. Energy Switch and CARD NOT FOUND are good ways to either charge up a Lifesplosion, or to take the Energy off of Cradily after you’ve already used the attack. The other Stage 2s are in the deck for various matchups and situations.

A friend ended up piloting the deck for me, as I had a juicy Gardevoir deck I used to win the tournament. After the tournament, he said that TV Reporter was actually one of the most clutch cards in the deck. This I was quite surprised about, since it was mainly in the deck because there wasn’t a whole heap of draw support in this roll. He said he managed to draw into the Lileep / Root Fossil combo many different times with it, allowing him to get ahead in the game early. Stuff like this just goes to show how cool combos and be generated from this format. It also proves how through research, practice, and analysis of your deck, that you can improve your play just by sitting down and having a few games with friends!

I’ll give you one more example just to really show you what this format can do. For this deck, we rolled the sets Neo Discovery, Skyridge, Secret Wonders, and Dark Explorers.

Pokemon (20)

4x Empoleon (DEX #29)3x Prinplup (DEX #28)4x Piplup (DEX #27)3x Aerodactyl (DEX #53)3x Unown E (ND #67)1x Unown Z (SW #72)1x Qwilfish (SW #101)1x Suicune (SW #19)

Trainers (34)

4x N (DEX #96)3x Desert Shaman (SK #123)4x Random Receiver (DEX #99)4x Ultra Ball (DEX #102)4x Old Amber Aerodactyl (DEX #97)4x Switch (SW #128)4x Pokémon Catcher (DEX #111)3x Rare Candy (DEX #100)1x Night Maintenance (SW #120)3x Twist Mountain (DEX #101)

Energy (6)

6x Water Energy (BLW #107)

Now this deck is not as creative as the last one, since it was an archetype back when Dark Explorers first came out. However, this provides a good example of how to take an existing archetype and update it. This process is very similar to how people alter current format decks once a new set hits. I think it’s kind of cool how the Elite Format can improve your deck building in multiple ways: finding cool concepts that would never work in Standard, buffing old / new cards to make them playable, and getting you prepared on how to look at a set and determine what makes a deck better or worse.

My idea with this deck was to create a much faster version of Empoleon. I played the penguin for many months, even after it died, and to this day it is still one of my all time favorite decks. Empoleon was never really known for its speed, but I knew if I included some Pokemon like Unown and the old Supporter, Desert Shaman, I would be able to not only out-speed my opponent, but also turn my deck into a faster, harder hitting Empoleon. I also found out that not a lot of cards in this format could hit 140 damage very easily, so I was always going to be able to out-trade my opponents. All I would need was one or two Aerodactyl and I would be set for the game.

And there is your crash course on Elite Format! I wish I had a few more words about it, but really there isn’t much more to talk about. In the next two parts of the series, I will be covering Cube drafting for Pokemon, and 100-Card Singleton, or U150 as it is called in Pokemon. Expect a whole lot of insight for those! Our group in Spokane cube drafts at least once a week, so I’ll have a lot to say about that!

Week Three Plays

Now it wouldn’t be a complete article without giving you some of my thoughts on plays for week three of Regional Championships! If you’re going to Edmonton, Salt Lake City, Marlborough, or Kansas City, you’ll be playing in a whole new format that will only be used once for that weekend. The only real place to go for information and theories is online, so I would be doing all of you a disservice if I didn’t throw you at least a couple of lists!

Before I get started, I’m going to be frank with you: I’m not the biggest fan of this set. There are a lot of cute new cards that will help certain decks out, but nothing that is going to drastically shape the format. With that being said, I find myself looking to older ideas that can still pack a punch. Stuff like Yveltal-EX, Primal Groudon-EX, and Bronzong are all things I expect to see a lot of come week three.

This concludes the public portion of this article.

If you'd like to continue reading, consider purchasing a PokeBeach premium membership! If you're not completely satisfied with your membership, you can request a full refund within 30 days.

Each week we post high-quality content from some of the game's top players. Our article program isn't a corporate operation, advertising front, or for-profit business. We set our prices so that we can pay the game's top players to write the best content for our subscribers. Each article topic is carefully selected, goes through multiple drafts, and is touched up by our editors. We take great pride in our program!