Exploring Expanded — A Top 4 Arizona Regionals Report and Five Excellent Plays for Philadelphia
Hello everyone! I’m glad to be back again with another article here on PokeBeach. Since my last article I placed in the Top 4 at the very first Regional Championship of the season. Here I’m going to be talking about the tournament itself, my card choices, and how the results of the tournament will affect the Philadelphia Regional Championship as well as some unique deck choices for that tournament. I won’t be able to attend the tournament myself unfortunately, but I hope I can help steer anyone that is going in the correct direction.
I was rather nervous during the days leading up to the tournament. I had been testing everything and could not comfortably find any deck that I was very comfortable with. I had almost committed to falling back on my trusty Trevenant BREAK deck that I had played at my last two Regional Championships until a talk with Brit Pybas left me convinced that Greninja BREAK could find success in Expanded. My first thought was that there was no way Greninja could be as good in Expanded as it was in Standard simply because Expanded was so much faster! With turn one Item-lock in the form of Vileplume and Trevenant along with the ever terrifying Archeops I wasn’t confident, but after doing a lot of testing with the deck I became convinced it had to be the play and committed to it about a week before the event began. It appeared to be able to beat every deck as long as it could properly setup, which has always seemed to be the case with Greninja.
Greninja W 1-0
This round was unfortunately against my main local testing partner and longtime friend Jacob Willinger. We had tested a lot of games together before this tournament so a round one pairing was especially horrifying, especially in such an abysmal mirror match.
Rainbow Road LWL 1-1
This round was against Kale Chalifoux, a nice guy from Canada, however our games were not nearly as nice. Game one I draw dead and lose, game two he prized horridly and lost. Game three I dead draw and lose the series.
Vileplume Toolbox WW 2-1
This matchup was especially easy because my opponent did not run Glaceon-EX or Trevenant-EX on top of not drawing especially well. Since he didn’t have a good attacker against my deck I was able to quickly overrun him both games.
Night March LWW 3-1
This series was especially terrifying because game one I went first, open Talonflame and a Supporter but unfortunately whiff an out to a Froakie only to have my Talonflame Knocked Out the following turn. The next two games go as planned with Giant Water Shuriken proving to be too much for for the squishy little Night Marchers to handle despite prizing two Frogadier in game two.
Darkrai-EX / Giratina-EX WW 4-1
Dark decks have never been especially great against Greninja despite being such powerhouse decks. They have never had a phenomenal attacker to work with against Greninja as all of their options are mediocre at best, and this proved to be the case during the matchup here.
Primal Groudon-EX WLL 4-2
I quickly win game one here as my opponent opens abysmally. Game two I am on track to win but my opponent spooks me with a Delinquent play that takes my last Energy and entire hand out of play giving him the win. Game three leaves us with very little time remaining and I did not want the series to end in a tie, so I begin playing very quickly making some careless mistakes along the way that ultimately cost me the series. This is where I want to take a bit to talk about maintaining focus with every play. Getting anxious about the amount of time remaining is normal, but you cannot let it derail your playing ability. If you misplay yourself into a loss because you’re trying to ensure the series does not end in a tie then that is clearly not beneficial at all for your tournament. It is better for the round to end in a tie than to sacrifice playing ability for speed.
Donphan WW 5-2
Greninja’s Donphan matchup is comedically easy and is exactly what I needed after my last round against Primal Groudon-EX. Talonflame Resistance, Rough Seas, and the fact that I was one of the only Greninja decks playing Lysandre made short work of the once format defining elephant.
Trevenant WW 6-2
Game one I remember that my opponent broke the Item-lock to get a KO with Wobbuffet on a Greninja BREAK that allowed me to play a lot of Items to search out more Greninja pieces, find a Supporter, and take control of the game. Game two my opponent opened poorly and I was able to make good use of my Items before he could stabilize which put me a bit too far ahead.
Rainbow Road LWT 6-2-1
This matchup was especially close, and a bit tilting due to a less than friendly opponent. Game one I drew poorly and was blown out, and game two I was able to take my last two Prizes on turn two of time resulting in a tie.
End of Day One: 6-2-1 29th place
I was ecstatic to have squeaked into day two after my last round tie leaving me incredibly uncertain on whether or not I would be advancing in the tournament. I knew I would have to do incredibly well day two in order to make the Top 8 cut, but made sure to catch enough sleep to ensure I was capable of doing just that.
Night March WW 7-2-1
I was very relieved to be able to play against a good matchup round one of day two, however the series was a bit close. Game one I got a lucky Bubble heads combined with a misplay by my opponent to keep me from being immediately benched out of the series. My opponent used a VS Seeker on turn one going first for a Professor Juniper in his discard thinking I might play Ghetsis like Caleb Gedemer who also made day two with Greninja, however this kept him from having access to the AZ in his discard and kept my little Froakie alive. The rest of the series played out relatively normally without me missing a beat and overpowering with Giant Water Shuriken.
Vileplume Toolbox WW 8-2-1
These games played out much differently than my round three opponent because this Vileplume deck featured both Glaceon-EX and Trevenant-EX making it a bit trickier to deal with. However the combined power of Talonflame under Item-lock and Giant Water Shuriken was too much for my opponent to handle.
Dark / Maxie’s Hidden Ball Trick W 9-2-1
This matchup was one that I had expected to be playing a lot of, and had catered my Greninja deck specifically to defeat it. However, I was playing against Phinnegan Lynch and knew if there was a window for him to win then he would find it. With my opponent missing the turn one Archeops due to a prized Jirachi-EX and my setup going mostly uninterrupted I was able to win a long game one. Game two did not have enough time to finish but I felt I was in a dominating position regardless.
Night March LW 9-2-2
This matchup was streamed and also my most frustrating of day two. I don’t remember a whole lot other than drawing comedically terrible both games and being only able to squeeze game two out because of a misplay on my opponent’s end that allowed me to get back into the game.
Night March WLW 10-2-2
After a tie in the last round I knew I had to win this round in order to be guaranteed Top 8, and I intended to do just that. I was playing against Kian Amini and knew I would have no room for error to guarantee the win. Game one went exactly as planned, but game two was reminiscent of my previous round and made me feel nervous going into game three. However I ran incredibly hot with Kian drawing a very average game and was able to win rather quickly.
End of Day 2: 10-2-2 1st Seed going into Top 8
I was feeling very confident after going 4-0-1 on day two and not losing a single series the entire day. This confidence quickly drained when I learned there were two other Greninja decks in Top 8 with zero of us playing any kind of tech for the mirror match. This loss of confidence was even furthered when I realized I would be playing against TJ Traquiar in Top 8. TJ is a friend of mine, but is also one of those players I have never ever beaten before. TJ has beaten me at Worlds 2015, the win and in for Top 8 at the Boston Open 2015, and in Top 4 of Seattle Regionals 2016. However, the matchup seems relatively easy for me so after some talk with Drew Guritzky who had also made Top 8 with Greninja and played TJ earlier in the day I regained some confidence.
Top 8 Sableye / Garbodor WW
The first rule for this matchup for the Greninja player I should point out is to not start Talonflame. Starting Talonflame is the only way the Sableye / Garbodor player has a chance because it is something that is not Greninja they can lock in the Active spot due to Team Aqua's Secret Base. Game one I started Talonflame thinking that being able to put cards like Super Rod and Fisherman into my hand would prove optimal, but I believe it is not the way to go. The Sableye deck usually only plays one copy of Trick Shovel so they’re not particularly aggressive or fast about decking you out. You should start with one Froakie, evolve it manually into a Greninja, and just use Moonlight Slash repeatedly. Save your Greninja BREAK evolution for a potential Confuse Ray play from the Sableye. If they try to use this route multiple times it may prove worthwhile to setup a second Greninja. Eventually you will get down to one Prize and your opponent will use N, followed by Delinquent the following turn to remove your hand and possibly the Energy you had as well. They will then attempt to use Trick Shovel to lock you out of the game while simultaneously decking you out. Both games played out similarly, but it is very hard for the Sableye deck to completely lock you out of your entire deck as long as you didn’t kill too many resources setting up.
Top 4 Greninja L
The mirror match for this deck when neither player is playing Hex Maniac or Pokémon Ranger is absolutely atrocious. It basically becomes a mind-numbingly endless war of Shadow Stitching use that results in one player decking out. I lose game one because of a minor error on my end, and time is called before a game two that I was on track to win.
Thus ended my tournament run in Arizona. I believe that Greninja was the perfect call for the tournament, and my only regret is not being a bit more prepared for the mirror match and maybe a bit over-prepared for Archeops. It is interesting to note that only three Greninja decks made day two, while all three made Top 8. I believe this is another testament to the strength of the Greninja BREAK deck and proves just how powerful the deck is.
Muscle Band and Zero Bursting Balloon
I love Bursting Balloon in Greninja decks, but I just couldn’t find cuts in the list to make more space for damage modifying cards. Muscle Band helps a ton of math and is also very strong in the deck. The only matchup I found myself really wanting the Bursting Balloon back in for is Rainbow Road. Xerneas is annoyingly big with a Fighting Fury Belt, and their ability to KO you from turn one on is terrifying. I think a split similar to what Drew had is most likely optimal, as they can both be very good in the right scenarios.
Three Greninja BKP and One Greninja XY
I had never really thought about playing four Greninja from BREAKpoint like Drew did until I saw him do it. I always considered the Greninja from XY a staple and found the niche usefulness of Mist Slash to be a great addition. However, I have recently been trying four Greninja from BREAKpoint in testing and have found myself not really missing the Greninja from XY. I’ll have to do some more testing to determine which is better, but I believe there is a great argument for both.
Lysandre / Wally
I selected these as my tech Supporters because I thought they would help combat the meta I anticipated. Lysandre on an Archeops and around Active threats like Wobbuffet and Trevenant proved very useful in testing. Wally is a reusable out to Archeops and was very good insurance against having your Froakie killed on turn one. A common play for my first Aero Blitz was to grab a Dive Ball and Wally if I only had one Froakie out on my first turn. That way if the Froakie was killed I could simply use Dive Ball and Wally to ensure I still had Water Duplicates on the following turn.
I really enjoyed the added consistency of this card to Greninja. Thinning your deck of extra Talonflame was amazing, and allowing more access to your one-of Supporters when you wanted them through VS Seeker was also a plus. While the consistency help was nice it is definitely not a necessity.
No Startling Megaphone
The Tool removal was a last minute cut for the second Splash Energy . I value the consistency of Splash Energy over the use of Tool removal because I expected there to be little to no Garbodor and Computer Search was my only way to search it out making it inconsistent. Fighting Fury Belt could sometimes be an issue but I really wanted the list to focus on consistency.
So what kind of effect will the success of Greninja have on the next Expanded tournament? I’m hoping that we can get to the bottom of that here. With Greninja taking three of eight spots in top cut and winning the entire tournament, it seems like it should have a huge target on its back at Philadelphia. I anticipate cards like Garbodor and Archeops to surge back into popularity in order to combat the Frog, and the release of Karen could allow some new decks to surface if the playability of Night March takes a hit. Discussing every individual matchup in detail proves difficult in a format that had the most recent tournament feature 16 different decks in a Top 32 cut. Instead of trying to cover every individual matchup I’ll focus mainly on how the deck can handle its matchup against Greninja BREAK, and then proceed to discuss potential techs and variations to the list that could affect how a few other potentially common or bad matchups play out. Let’s take a look at some decks I believe have a shot at taking down Philly Regionals.
This concludes the public portion of this article.
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