A Standard Victory Lap — Vespiquen, Turbo Dark, and Passimian / Mew

Welcome back everyone! I have tons of new stuff to share with you all today! I’m excited to be pumping out two articles again this month, but life is still as hectic as ever. I am fresh off a first place finish at the 70+ player ARG Circuit Series event that took place in Medina, OH this past weekend and am busily preparing for the St. Louis Regional Championship. Amidst the craziness this week, I also have midterms to study for and still plan to wait in line for a Nintendo Switch Thursday night! But before I take off for St. Louis, I want to take some time to update everyone on a few brand new developments in Standard format, information that is going to be especially useful for anyone traveling to Australia for Internationals or looking to capitalize on this month’s League Cups! In today’s article I will go into detail about my innovative Circuit Series winning Vespiquen list, interview Owen Robinson to talk about his Top 8 Passimian / Mew deck from the Circuit Series, and close with a unique Turbo Dark list that has been testing extremely well for my friends and I. Thanks for joining me and I hope you enjoy the read!

Editor’s note: Andrew wrote this article before St. Louis Regionals.

Anaheim’s Impact

Leading up to the Anaheim Regional Championships, which I was not able to attend, I was very hyped on Yveltal-EX / Tauros-GX / Garbodor and Decidueye-GX / Meowth / Lugia-EX. I published lists for them here and I’m happy to say that my predictions were strong! YTG earned a Top 8 finish in the hands of Igor Costa along with a number of Top 32 placements, while Derrick Xu was able to take a version of my Decidueye / Meowth / Lugia deck all the way to a Top 8 finish in the Senior division. The one thing that caught me off guard was the number of Turbo Dark decks that dominated the event. I was also totally astounded by the winning deck in Master’s Division, Darkrai-EX / Giratina-EX / Salamence-EX. With only a week to take this information in and prepare for the Circuit Series event in Ohio, I started testing so that I could make the most informed opinion possible for the following weekend.

The Circuit Series was a free tournament that offered $1,000 in cash to the Top 8 finishers, with $400 cash going directly to the winner. Due to the stakes, I knew the event would have a decent turn out, but I was confident that with some hard work I could put together a deck that would earn me a decent pay day. My first order of business was to test Yveltal / Tauros / Garbodor versus Turbo Dark. I had admittedly underrated Turbo Dark and did not do nearly enough testing with it leading up to Anaheim. Sure enough, my post-Anaheim testing showed that YTG got demolished by Turbo Dark. I was astounded! I didn’t know what to do! With YTG and M Mewtwo-EX / Garbodor remaining popular choices, I didn’t feel 100% confident playing my Decidueye-GX deck either. And since Giratina-EX had reared its ugly face at the top tables again, I couldn’t justify Vespiquen. I thought about succumbing and playing Turbo Dark, but I knew that deck would have a target on its back. Since Turbo Dark had clearly established itself as a contender for the best deck in format, we would surely be seeing hard counters at the Circuit Series. I considered my other options. M Gardevoir-EXM Rayquaza-EX? Volcanion-EX? Every deck had a crucial problem and nothing seemed right. I stayed up late with a few friends the night before the tournament trying to decide what to play but found nothing, so I decided to sleep on it.

Vespiquen / Zoroark / Marowak

I woke up early the morning of the Circuit Series thinking about Vespiquen. I don’t know about you all, but it’s totally regular for me to stay up all night contemplating cards the night before a tournament. Unlike Turbo Dark, Vespiquen was no longer in the lime light and would likely not be hard countered with Karen. Vespiquen also had a manageable 50 / 50 Turbo Dark matchup that could turn favorable if piloted right. My only hesitation was Giratina-EX. I had tried playing Pokémon Ranger to deal with Chaos Wheel with no success. Ranger is just too hard to search out and use effectively without Battle Compressor in the Standard format. I had tried Marowak for its Body Guard Ability at a League Cup before, but failed miserably with it. The one time I faced Giratina, my opponent got turn two and three Lysandre Chaos Wheels on both of my Cubone while also going first. I had no chance. I decided that this was probably an anomaly and decided to try Marowak again. After all, there was no one else I needed in the deck. Garbodor is not needed to win the Greninja BREAK matchup and with a little luck, I can beat Volcanion-EX without Vaporeon too. Since Giratina won a Regional the week before, I decided that a hard Giratina counter would be the right approach.

Pokemon (28)

4x Vespiquen (AOR #10)4x Combee (AOR #9)2x Zoroark (BKT #91)2x Zorua (BKT #89)2x Marowak (FAC #37)2x Cubone (BKT #77)4x Shaymin-EX (RSK #77)4x Unown (AOR #30)3x Klefki (STS #80)1x Tauros-GX (SM #144)

Trainers (28)

4x Professor Sycamore (XY #122)2x N (FAC #105)2x Lysandre (FLF #90)4x VS Seeker (RSK #110)4x Ultra Ball (SM #135)4x Acro Bike (PRC #122)2x Revitalizer (GEN #70)2x Special Charge (STS #105)2x Float Stone (BKT #137)2x Forest of Giant Plants (AOR #74)

Energy (4)

4x Double Colorless Energy (EVO #90)

I love this list and I think that this is easily the best version of Vespiquen that I have played in Standard. I felt like this thing was firing on all six cylinders the entire tournament. Besides the obvious inclusion of Marowak, Tauros-GX also finds a welcome home here. It may seem counterintuitive to include a Pokemon-GX in a non-EX deck, but Tauros really pulls a lot of weight in this list. Usually, you would start games by Sky Returning your Shaymin-EX into random Pokemon that you don’t mind getting KOd. Now, you can Sky Return into Tauros in order to force your opponent into awkward positions. If they hit into Tauros, they risk losing their early attacker to a Mad Bull GX. We all know that Vespiquen out trades every deck at the end of the game, but Tauros gives you an option to keep pace with your opponent at the beginning of the game too. Even if your opponent doesn’t hit into Tauros, Tauros usually buys you a couple turns in order to set up while your opponent tries to figure out a way around it. By the time they have done that, it is usually too late! When playing with Tauros in the deck, I try to be careful when using Horn Attack, especially against Yveltal-EX. I prefer to Sky Return into my Tauros so that I don’t leave any Energy on Tauros while in the Active spot. If you leave a Double Colorless Energy attached to Tauros, it makes it easier for your opponent to OHKO it with Evil Ball. Additionally, if you decide to go in with Horn Attack, your opponent has an opportunity to remove the Energy with Enhanced Hammer, or Ninja Boy into their own Tauros for a surprise KO! Sky Return serves multiple functions. Not only do you put damage on your opponent’s side of the field, you clear your own board of Shaymin-EX while also conserving your Energy for Bee Revenge! Additionally, Sky Return puts Shaymin back into your hand, so that you may either draw more cards on the following turn with Set Up or discard Shaymin with Professor Sycamore. Sky Return plays get a huge boost with the help of Tauros-GX!

Circuit Series Matchups

5-1-1 and fourth seed going into Top 8.

  • Top 8 versus Owen Robinson with Passimian / Mew: WLW
  • Top 4 versus Alexander Holtz with Turbo Dark: WLW
  • Finals versus Holden Sheeks with Lurantis-GX / Solgaleo-GX: LWW

Vespiquen versus Turbo Dark

This matchup is relatively close. I recorded two wins and two losses versus the deck on the day (if you break down my win versus Turbo Dark in Top 4). Unfortunately, luck plays a decent part in this matchup as a well timed N and Silent Lab can leave you dead drawing for enough turns to lose the game. To mitigate this, you want to burn through as much of your deck as you can early on. You generally don’t want to leave Unown on the Bench as you might do in other matchups, they are better off in the discard. You want to thin your deck out as much as you can because as soon as Turbo Dark starts to N you, you need to hit draw cards. I usually lead by Sky Returning into Tauros-GX early on. From there, I might use Zoroark to try and put damage on a Darkrai-EX with Energy or to take out a Shaymin-EX before sweeping with Vespiquen. This matchup is a Prize-race. If you have too many Shaymin-EX on board, Turbo Dark can close a game out instantly with back to back Lysandre plays. You need to have a healthy fear of Turbo Dark in order to beat it. Every Shaymin you put on the board is a huge liability in this matchup. Even if you are taking big Knock Outs, Exp. Share keeps their Energy on board, so they are usually always capable of KOing one. Sky Return is your friend here. You want to clear Shaymin off the board so that in the final turns of the game you are poised to win as long as you can stream Energy attachments.

Vespiquen versus Dark Tina

In this matchup you get out Marowak and just pray your opponent doesn’t get an insane early Lysandre play on your Cubone. From my experience, Darkrai-EX / Giratina-EX is clunky and usually not aggressive enough to be killing your Benched Marowak early in the game. Tauros-GX is a fine wall to chill behind while you set up your Cubone, but you want to make sure that you aren’t being too passive either. You need to be applying some pressure since sitting behind Tauros for too long will give your opponent the time they need to pick off your Cubone. A typical Darkrai / Giratina deck will only be able to power up two Giratina-EX in one game, so your mission is to take out both Giratina while under the protection of Marowak’s Ability. The sweet thing about Marowak is that even if your opponent does Lysandre and KO it with Chaos Wheel, you are still under the protection of Marowak’s Body Guard until they Chaos Wheel without Marowak in play. This is the same interaction that happened between Mr. Mime and Darkrai-EX. Even if Darkrai Knocked Out Mime with Night Spear, Mime’s Bench Barrier protected the Bench from taking damage! This happens because all the effects of an attack occur before you check for Knock Outs. So the effect of Chaos Wheel tries to go into effect, and fails, all before Marowak is Knocked Out! This technicality is what makes Marowak playable. Even if Marowak is gunned down, you still have an additional turn to attach DCE and deal with the imposing threat of Giratina! And if you can’t KO Giratina during that turn, you at least have a turn to try and find yourself another Cubone.

Vespiquen versus Passimian / Mew

My Top 8 match versus Owen was an odd one. We joked as we were playing that it felt like a “bad Night March mirror.” Just like a Night March mirror, you want to keep your board clear of Shaymin-EX while also being the first to take a KO. This is difficult for Vespiquen to pull off versus a speedier Basic deck, but if they are able to take the first KO, it usually means that they had to play a Shaymin, meaning that you will have an opportunity for a comeback. I was able to win versus Owen by keeping Shaymin off of my board and punishing him for each Shaymin drop. Eventually, Owen missed what he needed to set up in game three and I was able to steal the series. All in all, I think that Vespiquen is more consistent than Passimian / Mew, and when it comes down to late game N, your deck should always be thinner than theirs. I had no idea that Owen played a Delinquent in his list, and he was able to Delinquent my entire hand away early in game one of our series. To our astonishment, I was able to top deck a Professor Sycamore to dig me out of the perilous situation. Owen joked that he had witnessed three “Mahone miracles” during our series.

Vespiquen versus Lurantis-GX / Solgeleo-GX

This matchup is a total wash in favor of Vespiquen. I scooped game one of my series versus Holden before sweeping the finals because my set up was bad and I was forced to attack with Tauros-GX early on, the Pokemon you don’t want to hit the field in this matchup. Lurantis-GX / Solgaleo-GX is good because, once it sets up, which it always does, the deck is poised to take massive OHKOs every other turn or so for the remainder of the game. If the opponent is able to achieve a quick start with Sol Burst GX, they can take a few big KOs before needing to charge up with Flower Supply again. Lurantis / Solgaleo fares very well versus Turbo Dark and YTG.  The thing is, none of this matters to Vespiquen. 230 damage is overkill. Solgaleo and Lurantis’ attack costs are too high to maintain trades with Vespiquen’s speedy damage output. All you have to do is set up a couple attackers and put some damage on the board somewhere before sweeping your opponent’s field. You will usually start off by 2HKOing a Lurantis and a Solgeleo each before finishing off a Lurantis or Shaymin-EX for game with a fully powered Bee Revenge.

This concludes the public portion of this article.

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