Picking the Plays — The Expanded Meta and My Top Choices for Portland

Hey everyone! I’m here with my first article in recent memory about the Expanded format. While a lot of players are focused on the Standard format with Australia having just concluded, I’m going to be talking about some of the best plays for Portland Regionals coming up. I will not actually be attending Portland, but I’ve been playing a ton of Expanded recently. The Expanded format is also relevant for Toronto Regionals in a couple of months, which is a tournament I am considering attending. In this article, I will go over my deck choice for Collinsville and briefly talk about how that tournament went for me. Then, I will glance at each Expanded deck and how relevant I expect each one to be for Portland. Finally, I’ll go over some of the best Expanded plays for Portland Regionals.

Collinsville With Mega Gardevoir

I tested lots of different decks for Collinsville, but in the end, one clearly stood out as the best.

Pokemon (16)

3x M Gardevoir-EX (STS #79)3x Gardevoir-EX (PRC #105)4x Shaymin-EX (RSK #77)2x Hoopa-EX (AOR #36)1x Dragonite-EX (EVO #72)1x Rattata (EVO #66)1x Giratina (PRXY #XY184)1x Jirachi-EX (PLB #60)

Trainers (36)

3x Professor Sycamore (BKP #107)3x N (FAC #105)2x Lysandre (AOR #78)2x Hex Maniac (AOR #75)1x Skyla (BKT #148)1x Karen (PRXY #XY177)4x VS Seeker (PHF #109)4x Ultra Ball (FAC #113)4x Gardevoir Spirit Link (PRC #130)4x Max Potion (BKP #103)2x Float Stone (BKT #137)1x Super Rod (BKT #149)1x Computer Search (BCR #137)4x Dimension Valley (PHF #93)

Energy (8)

8x Fairy Energy (XY #140)

I chose to play Mega Gardevoir because it worked very well in testing and has positive matchups against nearly every deck in the format. The only decks that Gardevoir struggles with are M Rayquaza-EX, Rainbow Road, Accelgor, and Decidueye-GX. I did not expect any of these decks to be very popular. I expected some Seismitoad-EX / Decidueye, but I felt like this matchup wasn’t terrible, just slightly unfavorable at worst if they run Tauros-GX. I ran some interesting cards like Float Stone and Skyla, and do not regret any of my choices. I would go over the card counts and in-depth matchups like I normally do, but I feel like it would be a waste of time. I can’t find myself recommending M Gardevoir-EX for Portland because three of its bad matchups made Top 8 at Collinsville. While it has good matchups against just about everything that I haven’t mentioned, the decks that it does poorly against should show up in Portland after their successes in Collinsville. Here’s how my tournament went:

Final: 5-3-1

I started the 700 person tournament off strong at 5-1, but then my deck started bricking horribly and I started drawing atrocious hands. Beginning round seven, I started consistently seeing hands with three Max Potion, three Gardevoir Spirit Link, and three Dimension Valley at a time. These nightmarish hands caused me to lose two matchups that I consider to be complete autowins: Night March and Turbo Dark.

In round one, I played against a very difficult matchup but my opponent got incredibly unlucky. He was only able to get out one Solgaleo-GX in the entire series. Naturally, I lost that game. Rounds two and six I played against Yveltal, which is a favorable matchup regardless of Archeops. I was able to win against both of those decks without too much trouble.

In round three, I played against the gimmicky Sableye / Tsareena deck. I don’t think this deck is competitive, and I was surprised to see high profile players bring it to the tournament. My opponent went first both games and was able to strip my hand down to zero in addition to getting the top deck control with Trick Shovel. However, Trick Shovel control will usually expire before Hypnotoxic Laser wipes my board, especially with Gardevoir-EX‘s Life Leap being able to heal Poison damage. I didn’t do anything special in this matchup, my opponent’s deck just inevitably imploded before I succumbed to Hypnotoxic Laser damage.

In round four, I played against a Toad / Decidueye-GX deck. I was very surprised that this deck made it to 3-0, but my opponent played the matchup very well and showed that he knew what he was doing. Unfortunately, I prized two Dimension Valley in both games. This caused me to lose the Stadium war every time, and consequently miss attacks more often than I’d like. One of the games was very close, and I imagine the series may have gone differently had I not prized two Valley in both games. Round five was against a much more manageable Item-lock deck. Even with Trevenant‘s various tricks, Gardevoir has such a favorable matchup against it. I somehow lost a game, but was able to wipe the floor in the other two games. Trevenant just has an incredibly difficult time beating Gardevoir.

In round seven I played against fellow PokeBeach writer Ahmed Ali. He was playing Volcanion, to no one’s surprise. In game one, I started Jirachi-EX and was immediately playing at a two Prize deficit. Fortunately, I was able to stream Hex Maniac and Max Potion for many turns in a row. I drew disgustingly perfect in that game. The reverse was true for the following two games. In game two, Ahmed played his hand down to zero in order to take a turn two Knock Out on my Gardevoir-EX, which had just hit his belted Volcanion-EX for 20 with Life Leap. I then responded with a turn two Despair Ray to clear my Bench and put the belted Volcanion at 180 damage, with Rattata in hand. I did not have the Bench space to play the Rattata that turn. Ahmed hit his AZ off his Prizes, so he healed the Volcanion and passed. Apparently he also hit an Ultra Ball off the Prizes, so on the next turn he was able to Ultra Ball for something and just go off, KOing my M Gardevoir-EX. I drew terribly in game three, but time expired just as I was about to lose.

Rounds eight and nine consisted of me drawing atrociously awful hands in two of the games, and drawing decently enough to win one game. Since round nine was essentially a money match for Top 64 and $250 with a tie being dead to both of us, I scooped the last round because I was in a losing position when time was called. Technically, I ended at 5-2-2. I was disappointed with both of these last two rounds. My friend Chip bubbled at ninth place with Mega Ray, and my friend Alex actually won the tournament with Mega Ray! I was incredibly happy for him after watching the intense finals match. Also, shoutout to PokeBeach writer John Kettler who got second place with his Decidueye-GX concoction that has now taken over the Standard format.

So Many Decks to Choose From

The Expanded format is somewhat notorious for its variety. There are so many legal sets and viable decks, it is sometimes hard to keep track of them all. In this article I want to take a brief look at just about every viable Expanded deck. I’ll use the results from Collinsville and personal experience to explain where each deck belongs in the Expanded format. I’ll guess at how popular each deck will be in Portland and why they could or could not be strong plays. I will end this section with my personal tier list.

Accelgor / Wobbuffet

Accelgor just made Top 8 at Collinsville and it also got second place at Philly awhile back. It was not represented all that much in Collinsville, but Anthony Nimmons managed to make it work. I actually think that Accelgor might be the best play going into Portland, and I will go over a list a bit later. Trevenant is one of the deck’s hardest matchups, and Trevenant is on the decline. Accelgor’s strategy of Paralysis every single turn is enough to take on just about every deck in the format. In addition, Silver Bangle and Virbank City Gym allow Accelgor to OHKO Pokemon like Shaymin-EX, Seismitoad-EX, and Keldeo-EX. With Virbank City Gym and no Bangle, Poison actually KOs Shaymin-EX going into your turn. Interestingly, Anthony’s list does not have Silver Bangle, and that is one of the few things I disagree with. I think Accelgor is something to watch out for and test with in preparation for Portland.

Aerodactyl / Maxie’s

Aerodactyl / Maxie’s is a fantastic and unique deck that Grafton Roll and Michael Canaves both made Top 32 with in Collinsville. The typical build runs only one or two Basic Pokemon, and uses Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick and Old Amber Aerodactyl to consistently put powerful Pokemon like Gallade and Aerodactly in play. These Pokemon are strong enough that they were not intended to be played as Basics, but this deck exploits the game mechanics and essentially lets them function as Basics. With heavy counts of Talonflame and low counts of Basic Pokemon, the player can  often mulligan (even with suboptimal Talonflame hands) until they find a hand that they are content with starting with. With mulligans and the heavy space commitment to the Maxie’s engine, a turn one Maxie’s is a common occurrence.

I think a few players might try and pick this deck up now that people know it exists. When I was testing it for Collinsville, it seemed more like a gimmick than anything else. It definitely has its share of favorable matchups and the deck does work, but it doesn’t always hold up against more consistent meta decks. The deck is also incredibly vulnerable to Ghetsis and N. I would not recommend playing this deck at a Regionals, especially with the amount of skill, practice, and technical play it requires. I do not think it is consistent enough to pull off another strong finish, but expect some people to play it. That said, it is incredibly fun and it can work, so you can definitely mess around with it.

This concludes the public portion of this article.

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