Good day ‘Beach goers! Hope you all are doing well. My last few weeks have been hectic as usual, but I am moving along towards my invite at a steady clip. Since I last wrote, I was able to capture an 18th place finish at the St. Louis Regional Championship with Raikou / Eelektrik and a second place League Cup finish with Decidueye-GX / Vileplume, landing me at 322 / 500 Championship Points. Though I just wrote an article a couple weeks ago, already, much has changed. St. Louis has confirmed Vileplume is a serious threat in both Expanded and Standard, and reinstated M Rayquaza-EX as a top level deck. Though I was able to finish day one of swiss at St. Louis with an 8-1 record, earning a third place seed in Top 32, I had a rough day two to say the least. If anyone saw my dismal streamed game versus M Rayquaza-EX where I whiffed all five Thunder Wave flips across two games and got Hexed approximately every single turn, that pretty much embodied how day two went for me. I simply missed the ball. That happens though, and I was proud to be the only person piloting Raikou / Eels in day two of St. Louis. If a couple things fell my way, I think I could have easily landed Raikou / Eels in the Top 8 of the tournament. Today I will review the Raikou deck that I piloted at St. Louis and go into depth with a few matchups. Additionally, Rahul Reddy will be stopping by to shed some light on his unique Volcanion-EX list that he was able to carry all the way to a Top 4 finish! Thanks for joining me and I hope you enjoy the read!
Raikou / Eels
When selecting a deck for St. Louis, I wanted to play something that was consistent, low maintenance and could operate well under Item-lock. Ever since the deck started popping up at Regionals last year, I have been itching to play Raikou / Eelektrik but never settled on a list that I was excited about. Even though many of my friends dismissed the deck as bad, I always kept an evolving version of Raikou / Eels sleeved up for testing. When it came down to the final week before Regionals, I realized that my Raikou list was beating most of the top level threats I was worried about. I loved that the deck was self sustaining and used minimal numbers of Pokemon-EX. Since the Expanded metagame is so large, I didn’t dwell on my decision too much. Raikou is a consistent deck with well rounded matchups so I packed my deck box and refused to pack any other cards on my trip to St. Louis so that I wouldn’t stress about what to play. I already knew that I had made a good decision based on testing and I didn’t want to second guess myself. Here is the list I ended up with.
Pretty early on in my testing, I decided that I really disliked the Keldeo-EX that many people were playing in their list. In theory, Keldeo is there to get you out of Status Conditions. But I might ask, what Status Conditions are you worried about? Healing Wobbuffet / Accelgor‘s infamous Paralysis is shut down by Wobb’s Bide Barricade and Seismitoad-EX / Crobat uses Silent Lab so that the effects of their Hypnotoxic Laser stick. Consequently, more and more decks have been cutting Keldeo from their rosters in favor of Trainers like Switch, Escape Rope, AZ and Olympia.
Keldeo is also a problem on the Bench. Not only does the Sacred Sword Pokemon limit the number of Eels or attackers you can have in play, it is also a huge liability! The ideal board position for Raikou / Eels is a few Eels with a couple of Raikou. Ideally both Jirachi-EX and Mewtwo-EX stay in the deck unless they are absolutely needed. Keldeo just gives the opponent another Pokemon-EX target to gun down while not offering the deck anything that can’t be obtained with a few more Trainer cards.
Two Switch, Two Float
Speaking of Trainer cards, I decided on a two Switch / two Float Stone split for this deck. Float Stone is a mainstay. The card fits great on an Eelektrik and gives the list the list free Retreat, something it desperately wants for Eelektrik’s Dynamotor Ability. Switch, on the other hand, is a little different. The reason we run Switch is so that we can get out of Status Conditions, but also so that we can charge a Raikou or a Mewtwo-EX that was already in the Active position. For instance, if I have a three Energy Raikou in the Active and three Eels on the Bench, one of which with a Float Stone attached, I could use Switch to bring the Raikou back to the Bench, Dynamotor three times, attach from the hand once, and retreat Eelektrik for free to swing in with a seven Energy Raikou the following turn. Switch also speeds the list up, allowing the player to move a Raikou or Mewtwo with Fighting Fury Belt equipped from the Active position. Mobility is an important part of any Eels list, and I found this split to work out quite well.
Two Colress, Two N
I love Colress, always have, and the card is absolutely insane in Raikou / Eelektrik. Since we don’t run Shaymin-EX to draw additional cards during our turn, Colress is the deck’s way of making big plays happen. When you need to draw into everything you need to take a KO, say two Eels, a Lightning and a Switch, Colress for 10 is your best friend. When you need to set up a big Hex Maniac or Karen play, Colress will help you make that happen. And most importantly, when trudging through a matchup against Item-lock, Colress will allow you to draw enough cards to continue to make things happen without the use of Items. Occasionally, Colress will be a poor opening Supporter, however, since the list runs an impressive seven Ball search cards, Colress can even boast effectiveness on the opening turn of the game. I’ve seen lists that don’t run any Colress, and I can confidently say that Colress won me a significant number of my matchups over the course of the St. Louis Regional Championships.
Three Ultra Ball, Four Level Ball
Only three Ultra Ball? Yup. A little bit odd, but totally reasonable for this deck. Since we don’t run any copies of Shaymin-EX, Level Ball actually becomes the superior Ball search card for this list. Level Ball quickly and efficiently searches out the deck’s Eel line while also doubling as an out to a Supporter by grabbing Jirachi-EX for its Stellar Guidance Ability. Ultra Ball are still important, of course, to search out Raikou and Mewtwo-EX, but a full suit of Level Ball allows this deck to set up very efficiently nearly every game. Not to mention, we do still play Computer Search, which is like an Ultra Ball with the added benefit of literally being able to grab any card in your deck! Some people may cut into the Ball line in order to include cards like Trainers' Mail, but Mail is really not essential in a deck like this. Raikou / Eels is a low maintenance and self sustaining deck that doesn’t require intense card combos to function. Once the deck is stabilized, which is achieved by playing a large amount of search cards, the deck runs itself with little additional maintenance needed! Just keep drawing into backup attackers and you’ll be good to go!
One of the final exclusions from this list was any sort of Item based Pokemon recovery like Super Rod or Sacred Ash. Many lists I have seen online are playing both Karen and a recovery Item, which I think is redundant. If you play Karen to counter Night March and Vespiquen, you should be able to lean on your copy of Karen to replenish the deck with Eelektrik and Raikou if need be. However, it is worth pointing out that in the 14 rounds of best of three swiss that I played at St. Louis, I never needed to use Karen because I was running out of attackers. Four Raikou and a single Mewtwo-EX was always enough to win me a game. Games that I did use Karen, I did so in order to put the opponent’s Pokemon back in the deck, not my own. Super Rod and Sacred Ash are not needed in this deck in any way, shape or form. Karen is enough. That being said, if you wanted to cut the Karen because you are not worried about your Night March matchup, I might throw a Sacred Ash in there, just to be safe!
The other one-of Supporter is Hex Maniac. Both Hex and Karen, though used sparingly throughout the weekend, were useful in the matchups that I needed them. Both cards were also accessible when I needed them because of Jirachi-EX‘s Stellar Guidance and Battle Compressor combined with VS Seeker. Hex made the cut because it is such a powerful card. One copy of Hex can single handedly win the mirror by stopping the opponent’s flow of Dynamotor. It also allows you to evolve your Eels under Archeops. Hex temporarily breaks Vileplume‘s oppressive Item-lock, something that was very relevant at St. Louis, and Hex stops Decidueye-GX‘s onslaught of Feather Arrow. Hex is just a useful card in Expanded Format, and I don’t think I would play many lists without it, especially with Vileplume’s growing popularity.
This concludes the public portion of this article.
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