Hey guys, it’s Zander Bennett back again with another article. I’m here to explain whether or not the $30 you spent on the Keldeo vs. Rayquaza Battle Arena Decks is worth it! And this is an easy question. Yes, Karen is great!
It entirely changes both Expanded and Standard, personally I think for the better. Night March reigned supreme in Standard for all of last season, and my good friend Connor Finton translated that success over to Expanded, winning Kansas Regionals. Looking at Arizona, Night March’s last stand, four Night March decks made day two, with Ryan Allred taking a 9th place finish and Kian Amini getting 16th, but it’s about time for other decks to see the light of day.
Vespiquen also had a solid run in Expanded last year, with Jimmy O’ Brien winning Lancaster and then pulling an extremely impressive 23-0-2 record between Lancaster Regionals (15-0-1) and day one of Fort Wayne (8-0-1). Ryan Sabelhaus made Top 8 at Fort Wayne with it, Dylan Bryan made Top 8 there as well. Vespiquen’s success continued into winter with Rahul Reddy making Top 8 at Virginia Regionals, Kevin Baxter getting 2nd at the same event, and Dalen Dockery also bringing home a 2nd place finish at Saint Louis. In Standard Fred Hoban reached Top 8 at Nationals with Vespiquen / Vileplume and Brandon Flowers got 12th at the World Championships with the same deck. Ross Cawthon’s crazy Yveltal / Vespiquen / Octillery deck ended his season with a Top 4 finish at the World Championships. Looking at Seniors too, Jesper decimated the World Championship Senior division with his unique Yanmega / Vespiquen deck that surprised everyone.
Both of these decks have a tough time now with Karen. Not much explanation needed, Pokemon discard strategies lose a lot of power with this simple Supporter. This card isn’t just good because it beats certain decks, it helps decks too, and that is what we are going to dive into today!
Karen is a much weaker Lysandre's Trump Card, and we all know the effect that Lysandre's Trump Card had on Standard, it was so influential that it was eventually banned. Getting resources back is a huge deal. The main selling part of Lysandre's Trump Card was getting back things like Double Colorless Energy and Hypnotoxic Laser, but Karen limits you to just Pokemon. This isn’t as bad as it seems with cards like Shaymin-EX existing. If you Professor Sycamore away a bad hand filled with your evolutions, you now have an easy way to retrieve them. It’s got plenty of plus sides in each format, so let’s take a look at some of the decks that benefit!
This deck is not the first deck that everybody considers when they are thinking about Standard, with Mega Pokemon and Volcanion-EX seeming so dominant. Without Crobat being legal, there’s nowhere near as large of an incentive to run Golbat, and without Golbat, your damage caps at 160. I have a way to play around that limitation so let’s take a look at my list.
This list overall isn’t as crazy as you might think, and honestly, it’s rather linear, but still highly effective. Karen helps this deck a ton because you are able to get back any Unown or Shaymin-EX used during the game, and draw through your deck hitting all the Pokemon you need to so you can get the full 160 damage Circle Circuit. I’m going to go out of order discussing cards for now, but it makes the most sense this way.
Four Bursting Balloon
This card is what makes this deck good. With no Tool removal in the Standard format, Bursting Balloon is a highly unexplored card, taking a third of an Pokemon-EX’s HP if they choose to attack into it. The math for this card works extremely well with a capped out Circle Circuit dealing 160 damage, which kills M Mewtwo-EX and M Scizor-EX if you can activate Bursting Balloon. Against M Mewtwo-EX, you have to play a little backwards though, as instead of doing the 160 and then having them attack into the Bursting Balloon, you have to let them attack into you, they take their 60, and then you hit them with the 160 for a KO. Putting a Bursting Balloon on the Raichu that just did 160 leaves them in a tough spot, if they attack, they will get Knocked Out by another Raichu swinging for 160. Between taking Prizes on Shaymin-EX, you can easily, but awkwardly, win this matchup.
M Scizor-EX is also a little awkward with them being able to discard your Stadiums, but if you play conservatively with your resources you can win. The four Puzzle of Time and two Milotic allow you to get back Sky Field whenever you need to, so you build up your hand for a turn where you can go “Sky Field, bench three Pokemon, and Circle Circuit for 160.” With a Bursting Balloon, they have to either Lysandre something, accepting their fate for the next turn, or pass, with the Bursting Balloon being able to KO them if you attacked.
M Rayquaza-EX is easy, they are weak to Lightning so there’s not much to talk about. If for any reason they run Altaria, you can still do the Bursting Balloon math I described or just Lysandre KO the Altaria at some point in the game.
The main matchup that Bursting Balloon doesn’t help is Darkrai-EX / Giratina-EX. I want to run two Pokémon Ranger just for this matchup. If you Pokémon Ranger, you need to have a ton of cards in your hand, as in Sky Field, Double Colorless Energy, and access to three Benched Pokémon, as well as a Bursting Balloon. This is not a matchup that I am worried about, as the main Dark variant is relying on Fright Night Yveltal and Yveltal-EX, both of which are easy to deal with due to Circle Circuit and Weakness.
Overall, this card is highly effective, and is the only reason this deck is worth discussing.
2-2 Milotic and Four Puzzle of Time
This is a weird inclusion as you would think that Milotic and Puzzle of Time do the same thing. However, these cards make up the late game consistency of the deck. Milotic is also a Bench sitter and hasn’t got any worse since the deck included Crobat. Being able to get back Puzzle of Time to give you more uses of double Puzzle of Time is always convenient. You don’t need Special Charge because we already have a lot of recovery, and the same goes for Eco Arm. If you were to cut the Puzzle of Time, these would be the first two cards that you would need to add in, or at least just Special Charge.
Four Shaymin-EX and Three Unown
This deck loses games with awkward hands in the opening turns. If you set up, you win, and this engine gives you the highest likelihood of a strong setup happening. Shaymin-EX is just fantastic with this deck, being able to blitz your hand down and draw up, as well as Unown being a Benched Pokemon that you can save for advantage whenever you need it later on within the game.
One Hawlucha STS
This card is spicy. It was originally put in the list because I couldn’t think of other relevant Bench sitting Pokemon to run, but I played a few games with this Hawlucha and it is crazy. It’s so randomly useful, and it also takes up a Bench space, but just being able to get something out of their Active that isn’t useful for you to deal damage to and instead hit something that matters is never something to be slept on.
Mew-EX is crazy, not only in the sense that it provides a fifth attacker, but it’s an attacker that can one shot a M Mewtwo-EX with Circle Circuit. This makes your matchups versus Mewtwo decks without Garbodor super easy, as they have to attack into the Mew-EX, or they get Knocked Out again, and if you throw a Bursting Balloon on it, then Raichu can follow it up with another KO since they are forced to attack into the Bursting Balloon. Against Garbodor versions, since you are a non-EX deck, you can afford to take the time to Lysandre their Garbodor.
Pokemon Ranger and Giovanni’s Scheme
These are two cards that I’m really unsure on, but I bring them up because they are important.
Pokémon Ranger is a solid card that gives you a chance versus Giratina-EX, but in one turn you’ll literally have to go Sky Field, Double Colorless Energy, full Bench, and a Bursting Balloon to do 160, and hope that they don’t have another Giratina-EX powered up so they have to attack into you to block you from Special Energy and in the process KO themselves out. It’s a card that prevents an autoloss, but just barely.
Giovanni's Scheme allows you to take an OHKO on a 180 HP Pokemon-EX whenever you need to, which is helpful, but all of the decks that run Pokemon-EX that aren’t Mega Pokemon are running Fighting Fury Belt, so you need to be able to do 220 consistently and this card doesn’t do that while Bursting Balloon does. There is a chance chance that they won’t have a Fighting Fury Belt every time, and you can do cute things with Hawlucha and Giovanni's Scheme, but it may not be perfect for this metagame.
As an alternative to running Pokemon Ranger and Giovanni’s Scheme you can run two Hex Maniac. Without Battle Compressor in format, we have to run multiple copies of Supporters that we want to see. Hex Maniac offers a ton of utility in matchups like Volcanion-EX, Mew / Dark, and Greninja BREAK. Drew Kennett just won Arizona Regionals with Greninja BREAK, even if it is a different format, the deck doesn’t change much going into Standard. In fact, the only cards that Drew ran that are not in Standard right now are two Muscle Band (which can become a fourth Bursting Balloon and something else rather easily), a Sacred Ash (which can become a Super Rod), a Startling Megaphone (which is the only thing that can’t be replaced), and a Computer Search. In fact, Travis Nunlist, who also got Top 4 at Arizona with Greninja, wrote an article about three rogue decks for Standard, with one of them being Greninja BREAK. I highly recommend checking it out.
This deck wouldn’t be a good deck if it wasn’t for Karen, without Sacred Ash in format and Super Rod not being strong enough here, Karen gives you that hyper aggressive edge you need in a format where M Rayquaza-EX is so hyped that Parallel City is an simple fit in every deck without a Stadium.
This concludes the public portion of this article.
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