Painting the Town Every Color: A Look at Rainbow Road
Hey there, everyone. I’m Sabaku. After weeks of playing around with the new Standard format and getting distracted by old video games, I’ve finally gotten the urge to write another article here. With Night March gone from the format, I feel like talking about another deck that could potentially be another OHKO monster: Rainbow Road (basically Rainbow Force Xerneas and friends). During this article, I’ll be talking about the basic components of this deck, some potential add-ons, and how the deck holds up against opposing decks.
The Primary Colors
Being a Fairy type, Xerneas doesn’t get a lot of opportunities to attack Pokemon that are weak to it. The only relevant Pokemon that are weak to Fairy are Giratina-EX and the occasional Rayquaza-EX; however, that fact can be overlooked thanks to its Rainbow Force attack. Rainbow Force does a base 10 damage plus an additional 30 damage for every unique Pokemon type on your bench. With an attack like that, you can say that Xerneas is a distant cousin of M Rayquaza-EX, but thanks to the Steam Siege expansion and the introduction of dual type Pokemon, it becomes easier for Rainbow Road decks to increase their unique type count. All it takes is a full bench including Volcanion-EX, another dual type Pokemon such as Bisharp, and three other uniquely typed Pokemon for Xerneas to deal 220 damage, enough to knock out common Mega Evolutions such as M Mewtwo-EX and M Scizor-EX in one hit.
As great of an attack Rainbow Force is, Xerneas itself is still not very durable. While 120 HP with a resistance to Dark types is nothing to scoff at, there are still a lot of commonly seen Pokemon that can deal that much damage on a regular basis. Add on the fact that Rainbow Force requires three Energy, and Xerneas’ lack of bulk becomes a substantial problem. Without cards like Max Elixir to help it get more Energy, Xerneas will have a very hard time getting the Energy it needs to actually attack.
Below is a skeleton for a Rainbow Road deck
Xerneas is our main attacker, so want to maximize our odds of getting it onto the field.
Shaymin-EX is good draw support. No way around that
While Volcanion-EX won’t be able to deal any direct damage by himself, it is our fastest means of adding more power to Rainbow Force. Just having one Volcanion-EX will add 60 more damage to Rainbow Force, so if it gets knocked out or Prized, that can be troublesome for Rainbow Road decks.
No, not the Safeguard Carbink, but the other Carbink. While the Carbink we’re using still takes damage from EX Pokemon, Energy Keeper is still a very useful ability. It gives Rainbow Road decks a way to attach Energy without having to worry about disruptive cards such as Crushing Hammer and Team Flare Grunt.
4 VS Seeker, 4 Trainers' Mail, 4 Ultra Ball, and 4 Max Elixir
These Trainer cards are pretty much a given for Rainbow Road. Xerneas needs Energy acceleration in order to be able to do its job reliably, so we run the maximum count of Max Elixir.
2 Float Stone
Float Stone is one of our only means of getting benchsitters such as Volcanion-EX out of the active slot. Shaymin-EX and some of our other benchsitters have more manageable retreat costs, but if Volcanion-EX is stuck in the active slot, you’re fighting an uphill battle.
4 Professor Sycamore, 2 N, 1 Lysandre, and 1 Teammates
4 Professor Sycamore and 2 N provide us with reliable draw support. 1 Teammates is included due to how squishy the Pokemon in Rainbow Road decks are sans Volcanion-EX. Only 1 Lysandre is included in the deck since Xerneas already deals enough damage to deal with most Pokemon.
2 Sky Field
I’ve only listed the Pokemon that are absolute requirements for now, but once we get into the side attackers and the different Pokemon in general that will be used to fuel Rainbow Force, Sky Field is going to be needed if we want to keep dealing high amounts of damage consistently. You may want to play multiple copies of key Pokemon onto your bench as a failsafe in case one of them gets Lysandre’d and knocked out, and Sky Field gives us the space to be able to do that while still meeting the type requirements for Rainbow Force. As a bonus, if Sky Field gets discarded, that’s an opportunity to remove any Shaymin-EX on the bench.
1 Super Rod
Super Rod is needed to keep our Xerneas and dual type Pokemon out of the discard pile and ready to be played. You could play more Xerneas to the bench and not discard them at all, but you’ll often want to be able to save the space for other uniquely typed Pokemon until you’re able to play Sky Field.
8 Fairy Energy and 4 Double Colorless Energy
These are the minimum Energy requirements for Rainbow Road decks. Max Elixir may be somewhat inconsistent with only 8 basic Fairy energy to look for, but it does the job well enough. If you can manage to hit at least one or two Max Elixirs, that could be enough to keep up your offensive momentum with Rainbow Force.
The Secondary Colors
Now that the more required cards are out of the way, it’s time to go over the more optional choices, and believe me, there’s a lot to go over here. I’ll start with what I consider the most optimal choices and work down from there
Steam Siege Galvantula is a surprisingly effective tech for Rainbow Road to use. Its Double Thread attack allows it to deal 30 damage to two Bench Pokemon, and unlike most attacks that hit Bench Pokemon, it still factors in Weakness and Resistance. While the attack itself is lacking in raw power, it is perfect for softening up bulkier targets such as Mega Evolutions and pretty much anything substantial using Fighting Fury Belt. Since there are also no existing means of removing Pokemon from the bench such as Super Scoop Up in Standard yet, using it for the purpose of sniping your opponent’s benched Shaymin-EX is also a viable strategy that can potentially net you 4 PRIZE CARDS in two turns. If you’re not using it for Double Thread, then at the very least, it’s another dual type Pokemon that adds 60 more damage to Rainbow Force, and its pre-evolution, Joltik, has free retreat, so that’s a nice bonus in and of itself.
Fighting Fury Belt
With the absence of Startling Megaphone and Xerosic in the Standard format, Fighting Fury Belt is a reliable means of bolstering Xerneas somewhat lacking defenses. With the extra 10 damage it can deal thanks to the Pokemon Tool, Xerneas also has an easier time reaching damage benchmarks, needing only 5 unique types on the bench to OHKO less bulky EX Pokemon such as Mewtwo-EX and 7 to OHKO Zygarde-EX with a Fighting Fury Belt equipped.
Yet another Stage 1 dual type Pokemon that could see some usage later on. For a single energy of any kind, Bisharp can use Retaliate to deal 30 damage plus 60 damage if one of your Pokemon was knocked out during your opponent’s previous turn. While Bisharp can’t be expected to deal obscene amounts of damage like Xerneas, being a part Steel dual type allows it to score revenge knockouts against opposing Rainbow Force Xerneas and other weakened Pokemon that managed to survive Rainbow Force.
Once again, with reliable Pokemon Tool removal gone, tools such as Exp. Share suddenly become more reliable. If you feel that Xerneas is too weak defensively in spite of holding a Fighting Fury Belt, you can always opt to switch to Exp. Share in place of it. Being able to move Basic Energy over to your other Benched Xerneas is pretty nifty since, after the Energy transfer, all it takes is a single Double Colorless Energy to attack with almost the full power of Rainbow Force immediately. Unlike Fighting Fury Belt, it also isn’t limited to Basic Pokemon, so if you’re using Pokemon such as Galvantula and Bisharp, you can have an easier time using your techs to attack without wasting Energy attachments.
Olympia or Escape Rope
With no cards in Standard right now that can remove your Pokemon directly from the field, being able to preserve your switching options becomes more important. With Olympia, you have a reusable Supporter that can be used as another way to keep Pokemon such as Volcanion-EX out of the active slot. It also heals your previous Active Pokemon, so that could be used as a method to power up Power Creation if you can’t use Rainbow Force for some reason or another. If you don’t want to waste your Supporter for the turn, though, you can always use Escape Rope instead. It may not be recyclable, but it gives you at least one out if you’re worried about Jolteon-EX and its Flash Ray, although that’s not a substantial issue.
More Basic Energy
Having more Basic Fairy Energy means better chances at having a successful Max Elixir, and that’s always nice. It also gives you more reason to use Super Rod on your Pokemon instead of your Basic Energy.
Mew or Mew-EX
They’re another unique type for the deck that can be used to fuel Rainbow Force, and while Fates Collide Mew has free retreat and can use Rainbow Force at the cost of less bulk, Mew-EX can use the attacks of more than just Xerneas and has a little more bulk, but needs one Energy to retreat and gives up two Prize Cards when knocked out.
Speaking of Jolteon-EX, you also have the option of simply running Pokémon Ranger instead. It’s recyclable thanks to VS Seeker, and it gives you a way to get around Giratina-EX and the effects of Chaos Wheel if you don’t have time to attach Basic Energy.
Rainbow Force Xerneas already has the power to steamroll most opponents, but if your opponent is playing defensively or runs a lot of viable one-prize attackers, increasing your Lysandre count would be ideal since you can target more substantial threats on the field and drag in your opponent’s EX Pokemon.
Garbodor or Hex Maniac
If you’re really that scared of Greninja BREAK or Steam Siege Yanmega, you can use Garbodor or Hex Maniac to shut down Giant Water Shuriken and Sonic Vision. They can also be used to hinder Zoroark and decks relying on Shaymin-EX, but using either Garbodor or Hex Maniac also shuts down Carbink’s Energy Keeper ability and the abilities of both Mews, so it’s a double-edged sword that could work against you in the end.
Hoopa-EX and Friends
If you don’t feel like using any non-EX Pokemon to meet your Rainbow Force requirements, you can instead choose to use Hoopa-EX and a myriad of other differently typed EX Pokemon to power up Rainbow Force; however, having so many two-prize benchwarmers can be more of a liability to Rainbow Road as a whole.
Xerneas BREAK is another substitute for Fighting Fury Belt. It provides a modest boost to Xerneas’ health, and since Xerneas BREAK isn’t a Basic Pokemon, it is not affected by Flash Ray; however, there are two downsides to using Xerneas BREAK over Fighting Fury Belt. First, it’s a BREAK evolution, so if you evolve from a regular Xerneas into it, any Basic Energy on it is no longer protected by Energy Keeper Carbink. Second, Xerneas BREAK’s attack is overshadowed very easily by Rainbow Force, so if you’re going to use Xerneas BREAK for just the added bulk anyway, you might as well use Fighting Fury Belt or just outright switch to Geomancy Xerneas so that you can get more use out of Life Stream.
It’s a way to see what’s in your Prize Card pile, and any means to make searching for Double Colorless Energy and other dual type Pokemon easier is appreciated.
Threats to Face
Whether or not you go first depends on how lucky you think you are with your draws and Max Elixir. You could potentially get a first turn Rainbow Force, but you’ll usually want to go first anyway so that you have more time to set up your Stage 1 Pokemon if you’re using them.
vs. M Mewtwo-EX: Easier than you think
M Mewtwo-EX takes some time to Mega Evolve, and that’s time that can be dedicated to setting up your field and powering up Xerneas. Xerneas only gives up one Prize card, and with a myriad of dual type Pokemon or differently typed EX Pokemon, it’s Night March all over again for M Mewtwo-EX. It is possible to fall short damage-wise, though, so if you can’t knock it out in one hit or get out a Mew or Mew-EX to attack it, it’s best to focus on the benchwarmers or chip away at it with Galvantula since Damage Change can possibly be used thanks to Shrine of Memories to heal off any damage you deal.
vs. M Scizor-EX: Depends on their Garbodor, but usually not a fun time
M Scizor-EX is a Metal type, so regardless of if you run Fighting Fury Belt or Xerneas BREAK, Xerneas is going to get knocked out in one hit. Energy Keeper Carbink protects you to an extent from Crushing Hammer, but if they get up Garbodor fast enough, it can be hard to get any momentum. Parallel City can also be used to minimize how much damage you’re doing with Rainbow Force, but if you’re running multiple dual types, it shouldn’t be as bad of a problem. Exp. Share makes things easier by lightening the burden of getting another Xerneas ready to attack, but this is still a hard match-up to overcome.
vs. Darkrai-EX / Giratina-EX: Relatively easy
Darkrai-EX will be faster than Rainbow Road, and it’s probably one of the most consistent attackers that are currently in existence, but between the raw power of Rainbow Force, Xerneas’ resistance to Dark, and Giratina-EX weakness to Fairy, you should have good odds of winning. Max Elixirs and Exp. Share will allow you to be able to keep up the momentum, and both cards give you outs against Chaos Wheel. Fighting Fury Belt also makes it harder for Darkrai-EX to do its job properly.
vs. M Rayquaza-EX: Depends on the bench
Both M Rayquaza-EX and Xerneas share a lot of similarities with one another. A lot of times, the match will come down to how both decks play. M Rayquaza-EX is faster and won’t have to worry about losing Sky Field if you’re running it as well, but Xerneas gives up fewer prizes and can potentially run other techs to turn the tide of battle. If you’re running Galvantula, your odds of winning are much better since you can target opposing Shaymin-EX and M Rayquaza-EX, but if not, it’s an uphill battle. EX-heavy builds of Rainbow Road also have a good chance at winning if the offensive momentum can be maintained.
vs. Rainbow Road: EX-heavy < not EX-heavy
If two Rainbow Road decks ever have to face each other, the one that’s more likely to win is usually the one that has fewer benchwarmers to worry about. The power isn’t as import as it is against EX-heavy decks, and techs such as Bisharp and Galvantula allow Rainbow Road to approach the mirror match at multiple angles. If two Rainbow Road decks that focus more on non-EX techs were to face each other, the match becomes more tactical since Bisharp can deal with other Xerneas and Galvantula can snipe Joltik and Shaymin-EX.
vs. M Gardevoir-EX (Despair Ray): Better for you if you use Fighting Fury Belt
If you’re not using Fighting Fury Belt or have trouble finding them in your deck, M Gardevoir-EX will have an easier time than most winning against you; however, if you’re able to accelerate properly with Exp. Share or Max Elixir, the match isn’t as scary. Fighting Fury Belt also buys you some extra time to attack with Rainbow Force since M Gardevoir-EX decks would need to discard an entire Bench in order to knock out Xerneas in one hit.
vs. A Swarm of one-prize Attackers: Another uphill battle
Listing every viable one-prize attacker would take a while, but the main ones to think about would be Zoroark, Vespiquen, and Yanmega. Xerneas doesn’t trade well with decks that focus on overwhelming the opponent with a myriad of one-prize attackers that need minimum Energy investment. You’ll be lucky if they need to play a lot of Shaymins to get any momentum, but it’s not something you should count on to win.
vs. Volcanion / Volcanion-EX
Fire decks utilizing Volcanion-EX can have a fun time against Rainbow Road if they are allowed to continue using Steam Up and Volcanion. Volcanion becomes a very reliable one-prize attacker with the power of Steam Up, and Volcanion-EX is capable of knocking out variants of Xerneas not using Fighting Fury Belt in one hit if it comes down to it. Running any sort of ability locking cards makes things much simpler, but if you can consistently attack Volcanion-EX, you should be fine.
Rainbow Road is an archetype that has a lot of potential in a meta that focuses on Mega Evolutions and bulky EX attackers in general. It’s raw power supplemented by the multiple dual type Pokemon in existence and Max Elixir allow it deal high amounts of damage consistently, thus making this deck a decent enough substitute for people who miss being able to rampage with Night March decks. Rainbow Road can choose to either be straightforward by running multiple EX Pokemon to meet the requirements for Rainbow Force or be more technical by using other non-EX Pokemon such as Garbodor, Galvantula, and Fates Collide Mew. I do hope that everyone reading this article enjoyed it. If I missed anything or you just enjoy simply chatting with other people in general, please feel free to leave a comment below. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go somewhere and let myself get absorbed into old GBA and Gamecube games. See you guys later!