Hey there, Pokemon fans. PMJ here. It’s August and that means soon the new format will be upon us! I’m super hyped for what Primal Clash-on has in store for us. If you’re not competing at Worlds this year, you’re probably already hard at work looking over what could be useful in the upcoming format. Steam Siege brought us a lot of cool new toys to play with and in this article I’m going to be going over three decks that spotlight some of these toys. I’ll be presenting deck lists and reviews for each of them, go over a couple honorable mentions at the end, and we’ll call it a day. Sound good? Let’s get right into it.
Deck #1: Volcanion and Friends
It’s one of the most hyped cards in Steam Siege, and for good reason. Volcanion-EX has an amazing Ability that has perfect synergy with baby Volcanion, also from the same set. Let’s take a look at a sample list and go over what it is that makes this deck so powerful.
The strategy behind this deck is to use Volcanion-EX’s Steam Up Ability to power up your Pokemon. It only works on Basic Fire-type Pokemon, but that’s fine because that’s all we’ve got. Our main attacker is baby Volcanion. For one Energy, Power Heater does a base 20 damage and accelerates two Fire Energy from the discard onto two of our Benched Pokemon. With Fighting Fury Belt attached and augmented by two Volcanion-EX, Power Heater does an amazing 90 damage, just for a single Energy – and it even attaches the Energy we paid the Steam Up cost with to our Pokemon for us! You can’t ask for a better attack.
Though Volcanion and Volcanion-EX are the stars of this show, we have a supporting cast that helps them succeed in their quest to burn everything to the ground. Entei is another non-EX attacker who can potentially hit for huge damage and is the easiest way to deal with M Rayquaza-EX. If the Ray player has a full Sky Field-enhanced Bench of eight, two Steam Ups is all Entei needs to OHKO with Combat Blaze. If Entei has Fighting Fury Belt on, all you need is one. Flareon-EX is another attacker that we can use if we need to consistently hit big numbers but can’t use Entei thanks to the opponent’s small Bench size. Assuming you have Fighting Fury Belt attached and have used Steam Up twice, a three-Energy Blaze Ball does 180 damage and a five-Energy one does 220. Flash Fire, Flareon-EX’s Ability, ensures we will always be able to pull an Energy off of someone else if we need to, letting us power it up twice as fast (shout outs to Blacksmith, RIP sweet prince). Half of the Pokemon in this deck are Pokemon-EX, so we’ve got our old friend Hoopa-EX to bring everyone together.
The Trainer line is pretty standard, so I won’t spend too much time on it, but there are a couple standouts. Ninja Boy is an A+ card in this deck for a few reasons, not the least of which is that you can pull off the kind of SURPRISE SWAP JUTSU tricks I wrote about in a previous article. We also require specific Pokemon for certain matchups (we probably won’t use Entei outside of fighting Ray decks, for example) and Ninja Boy lets us tailor our Bench just the way we need it. Every Pokemon in our deck is a Basic Pokemon, so Pokémon Ranger is required to get around Jolteon-EX‘s Flash Ray and Greninja‘s Shadow Stitching. Fortunately for us, Ranger only eliminates effects of attacks, so using Ranger won’t erase the bonuses from Steam Up. Unfortunately for us, Ranger only eliminates effects of attacks, so Hex Maniac and Garbodor are still going to be thorns in our side.
Closing thoughts: The deck is quick and powerful, but can struggle against early Ability lock. Greninja BREAK decks, which are still very good and completely viable post-rotation, are this deck’s worst nightmare. Being hit for Weakness is one thing, but losing Steam Up is arguably worse as you will no longer be able to OHKO anything. The status of this deck will depend solely on how well Greninja does in the new format, but it’s still a very strong deck and sure to be a top play for Cities, oops I mean League Cup events.
(Unrelated aside, how about those changes for the 2017 season? Crazy, man.)
Deck #2: Gardevoir and Friends Her Slaves
I’ve been thinking about how to build this deck consistently for a while now. There are two versions: one that’s a little slower using Xerneas and cute tricks like Absol and Hawlucha from Steam Siege. The other one, well… just see for yourself.
Unlike Volcanion, where our supporting Pokemon exist to cover our bases and help in different matchups, Mega Gardevoir is a one-woman show. This is a very straightforward deck – get a Gardevoir up front and use Despair Ray every turn from turn two onward. There are no frills. There is no plan B. It’s all Gardevoir, all the time.
In EX-heavy decks, Hoopa-EX is a natural inclusion, but in this deck we run a normally unheard-of three of them. In this deck, Hoopa-EX is our lifeline and the key to consistently powerful Despair Rays, so we need to run more than just one or two.
With a Bench of 8, Despair Ray does 190 damage if you discard all of them. This is just barely enough to OHKO Pokemon-EX that don’t have Fighting Fury Belt, and it’s not wise to toss out your benched Gardevoir; you’ll need to build more up as the game goes on, after all. Don’t be afraid to take the 2HKO, or Lysandre a Shaymin for an easy, discard-free two Prizes. Despair Ray is cheap and easy to power up, so don’t think you can’t afford to 2HKO something.
I haven’t come up with a consensus on who to discard first with Despair Ray. Shaymin-EX has the lowest HP out of everything in the deck and is an easy two Prizes for your opponent; however, its Retreat Cost of one means that if they are simply trying to stall, we have more than just the three Switch to use as an out. We can easily afford to pay one Energy to retreat if we need to because Super Rod can get it back later. Hoopa-EX is really the opposite. It has a ton of HP and is hard to OHKO outside of Weakness, so it can take a hit. If your opponent is trying to stall, all you need is a Switch and you’re golden. That said, those three Switch are the only cards with which you can get Hoopa back to your Bench, and if they’re either used up or Prized then it can be bad news bears if he gets stuck up front. I still tend to leave Shaymin, though, because having a potential twelve outs is better than having three.
Let’s take a closer look at the Trainer line. We don’t run too many Supporters in this deck because we want to be constantly drawing cards with Shaymin. I’m not saying we need to Set Up for 4-6 every time, but being able to take at least three cards is nice. Pokémon Fan Club is an interesting play because you can get two Hoopa with it, turning those two Pokemon into six for either the Mega Gardevoir you need or just to fill your Bench for a nice fat Despair Ray. It’s kind of a way to circumvent not being able to take Hoopa-EX with Scoundrel Ring.
Pokémon Ranger is pretty much exclusively for Glaceon-EX. The only other way to handle it is by attacking with Gardevoir-EX. Fortunately, Luminous Blade 2HKOs, even after a potential Rough Seas. The downside is that it costs three Energy to use and you have to discard one to use it. Not being able to use Despair Ray can clunk up your Bench and leave you wide open to getting Lysandre stalled. Hex Maniac lets you get past Giratina-EX as Mega Gardevoir. It can also buy you time against Greninja, who this deck can struggle against in the late game.
Since Mega Gardevoir is our only attacker, it’s imperative that she is our Active Pokemon at all times. Odds are against us that we will start with Gardevoir-EX, so we need ways to get Hoopa and Shaymin out of the Active spot. There are three non-Supporter cards that can do the job: Switch, Escape Rope, and Float Stone. All three have their pros and cons. Switch does what’s written on the box. No muss, no fuss. Just switch, take note of your opponent’s disappointment as you foil his plan to buy another turn or two, and get back to sacrificing your Pokemon for the greater good. Escape Rope does the same thing, but also disrupts your opponent. Notably, Escape Rope gives you a temporary reprieve from Glaceon-EX and, if you have the Lysandre in hand, you can set her up for the 2HKO. Float Stone gives you a longer-term solution, making it all but impossible to Lysandre stall you; however, since we’re constantly discarding our Pokemon (and our Float Stones with them), it makes Float Stone less appealing. I opt for Switch because it’s simple and I might not want to change my opponent’s Active Pokemon. I could Lysandre them back up but that would cost my Supporter for the turn. Depending on how threatening Glaceon-EX ends up being in this format, I would run either 3 Switch or 2 Switch and 1 Escape Rope. What do you guys think?
Closing thoughts: There is another Gardevoir-EX you can use, but it’s inferior to the Steam Siege version. (It also looks much less menacing, and we can’t have that cramping our style.) Like our friend Volcanion, Greninja BREAK can also give us a headache because we really want to be able to use Scoundrel Ring as often as possible. It’s also important to be conservative with your discards and try not to excessively discard Pokemon just for the sake of getting them off the field. They won’t have the Lysandre every turn and you might need that extra damage later. You only have so many Super Rods. On the positive side, this deck has a stellar time against Darkrai-EX / Giratina-EX and an uncommon Weakness. With Metal decks’ best friend Bronzong rotating out, and Fire decks looking to make a comeback, Metal decks might not be seen that much, at least early on. Mega Gardevoir also completely trashes M Mewtwo-EX, who I wrote about in my last article. I feel that the deck can just be a little bit inconsistent because it’s super linear and you can’t really afford to have things go wrong. Still, I feel like this is a strong deck with a lot of potential. It’s definitely one to look out for.
Deck #3: Xerneas and Friends (Rainbow Road)
This deck has been around in some vein ever since Xerneas was released in BREAKthrough, but it hasn’t been considered top tier. It did well at a couple Regionals, but that was notably in the Expanded format, where Night March is a lot less threatening. Now that Night March is leaving Standard, will this be Xerneas’s time to shine? Maybe so.
Let me start by saying that this is definitely not the only way to build this deck. It has been fairly consistent in my testing, however. One of this deck’s biggest downfalls has been its reliance on Sky Field in order to hit OHKO range on Pokemon-EX. With only a Bench of five, you hit for a paltry 160 and that’s just laughable. This build attempts to solve this problem by using dual-type Pokemon to conserve Bench space. If you have Ninetales, Shaymin-EX, Xerneas, Galvantula, and Bisharp on your Bench, Rainbow Force does 220 damage. Now we’re talkin’. And we don’t even need Sky Field to do it. Not requiring Sky Field opens up our Stadium choices. I’ve chosen to use Silent Lab because our strategy isn’t reliant on Set Up (and we can always use it before we drop the Stadium in any case), and it also hinders the setup of other decks by blocking Hoopa-EX, Shaymin-EX, and Volcanion-EX.
Ninetales is an important member of the squad. He stops a lot of problematic Stadiums from being played, most notably Parallel City which is more than just a little annoying. Parallel City forces you to play with a Xerneas + dual-type + dual-type Bench which puts you back to that 160 damage we talked about earlier. Not good. Ninetales also stops Ray decks from playing Sky Field, which caps their damage output at 150. This is conveniently 10 damage short of being able to OHKO Xerneas with a Fighting Fury Belt attached, so that’s pretty good especially considering we can OHKO them back.
Galvantula is your answer to Greninja BREAK decks. Double Thread tears their Bench apart, doing 60 to two of their Benched Pokemon every single turn. If they get a Greninja BREAK up and going, Xerneas can easily OHKO.
Bisharp’s attack is nice to fall back on in an emergency. It does 90 damage for one Energy if you use it right after a KO. Right now, the only Pokemon Bisharp can hit for Weakness is fairies, but if the time comes that you can do 180 for one, you should consider taking it.
The other dual-types in Steam Siege aren’t worth using. Volcanion-EX is the only one since it’s a Basic Pokemon, but he shares a type with Xerneas, so it would only add thirty damage. On top of that, we can’t use Steam Up, so he’s not worth it… in this build.
Closing thoughts: Xerneas can do obscene amounts of damage with little effort. The biggest weakness is that Rainbow Force costs three Energy. It can be alleviated a bit by Double Colorless Energy, but it leaves you more susceptible to Crushing Hammer and Enhanced Hammer. You can try to use Exp. Share to conserve your Energy, but that leaves you with 120 HP. This deck is also terribly weak to Zoroark; Mind Jack can OHKO Xerneas if Xerneas doesn’t have a belt. The good news is that you can OHKO him back pretty easily.
Like I said, this isn’t the only way to go with this deck. Garbodor fits this deck like a glove with its low amount Abilities to lock. Raichu can take advantage of a big Bench. Volcanion-EX’s two types can add sixty damage just by putting him into play. Vespiquen could even get a new lease on life as a late-game finisher or as another answer to Water Box decks if they resurface after finding out how to replace Seismitoad-EX. Try out your own builds and let me know how it works.
Free attacks! The deck completely folds under Ability lock. Instead of building a deck around this Pokemon, try adding it in as a secondary attacker in another deck.
Mill on steroids. I can get the T2 Melting Floe, but I whiff it or just mill 3 every single time.
Spam Mega Boost to feed Canyon Axe’s hefty Energy cost. Don’t forget that you can attach Strong Energy to Mega Steelix! It’s fun, but really, really slow and a bit inconsistent.
Bacon bird may have stolen M Gallade-EX‘s attack, but that doesn’t mean he can use it any better. We still need a way to spread damage around, preferably without attacking, or else this one’s gonna stay in the binder.
That’s all for this article. Shout outs to the PokeBeach Skype chat room for being cool cats and helping me tweak my lists and to you, reader, for reading. Be sure to comment in the thread and let me know what you think of this set. Do you think that one of the honorable mentions is really a sleeper deck that’s gonna tear the format wide open? Or perhaps there’s an existing deck that uses cards from Steam Siege in a way I didn’t mention? It’s definitely possible – the scope of this article only covered decks that prominently featured cards from Steam Siege. I’m excited to hear what you all have to say!
Your pal, PMJ