A Whole New World — An Introduction to the Expanded Format

Welcome back PokeBeach fans and subscribers! I hope everyone had a fun and happy holiday season.

This article is going to be different from my usual deck breakdown. Today, I wanted to give insight on the Expanded format for newer players or players who don’t play Expanded often. Since the upcoming Dallas Regionals will use Expanded, I figured I’d try to help anyone looking to play in their first Expanded tournament or get better acquainted with it. I will go over which cards I think are necessary if you want to play Expanded, how some strategies or cards become stronger, a simple tier list, and provide a checklist of every card you’ll need to build yourself a winning deck.

The Necessities

Ace Specs

Ace Specs are cards that you can only play one copy of in your deck — not one of each, one total. This makes the one you choose for your deck critical.

There are quite a few more Ace Spec cards than I have listed here, but these are the most powerful and more diverse ones that can fit in most decks, or have a place in the meta. Also, I would suggest always having an Ace Spec in your deck, as there is no reason to not at least have Computer Search or Dowsing Machine in your deck.

Since you can only have one, there’s no need to own more than one of each.

Computer Search

Computer Search is the strongest and most vanilla Ace Spec. I say this because (unless you have zero cards in deck, don’t have two cards to discard, or are under Item lock) it’s always useful. It’s always good to be able to search your deck for any card you need, and even if there’s a better Ace Spec choice, it’s never a bad card.

Dowsing Machine

Dowsing Machine is the second strongest Ace Spec and can be fit into nearly any deck as well. The reasons it’s not quite as strong as Computer Search is you can’t use it if you haven’t used any Trainer cards, it is limited to getting Trainer cards, and it doesn’t help you turn one if you have a dead hand. However, Dowsing Machine is preferred when your deck is already consistent enough, and getting resources from your discard pile is more important than getting them out of your deck.

Night March is the deck you’ll typically see Dowsing Machine in; getting back a Battle Compressor or a Puzzle of Time that you had to discard too early is exceptionally strong. Having Computer Search to grab Double Colorless Energy is nice, but with multiple Shaymin-EX, Zoroark-GX, and Teammates, it’s not too hard to hit.

Life Dew

Life Dew is a great card, but because of Field Blower, Startling Megaphone, and Tool Scrapper, it’s typically not played. There was a time when it was played in Night March and Vespiquen / Flareon decks, but that was because Tool discarding effects weren’t as popular. Currently, at least one Field Blower is standard in most lists, so the only deck that can truly make the best use out of it is Sableye / Garbodor because Sableye can infinitely recycle it with Junk Hunt. Just grab two Puzzle of Time and keep denying Prizes. You can use it more times than your opponent can use a Tool removal effect.

Scoop Up Cyclone

Scoop Up Cyclone was never highly played, but you would see it here or there in decks. It was primarily played in decks that play Golbat and Crobat to easily reuse them or heal off your attacker. It’s effect is undeniably strong, it’s just a more situational card. Most players opt to play AZ or Acerola instead, which can be reused more reliably with VS Seeker.

Scramble Switch

Scramble Switch was mostly played in Primal Groudon-EX decks to switch all your Energy to a fresh Primal Groudon and heal the old one. Primal Groudon currently isn’t viable, so you shouldn’t expect to see Scramble Switch, but its effect is still powerful.

Special Energy

I would recommend having four of each of these, same goes for any useful Special Energy.

Blend Energy GRPD

Blend Energy GRPD is the more popular of the two Blend Energy because the types are played more. This Energy has seen play in Golisopod-GX variants and played in Sableye / Garbodor.

Blend Energy WLFM

Blend Energy WLFM was only ever played in Garchomp decks, which were never too good or popular. I can’t think of a deck it belongs in for the current Expanded format, but nevertheless, you never know when it will become useful.

Mystery Energy

Mystery Energy is mostly played in Trevenant BREAK decks, but has also been used in Wobbuffet / Accelgor decks.

Prism Energy

Prism Energy hasn’t been used since Aromatisse or Klinklang decks were popular, but it’s still an incredible card that can enable more flexible strategies.

Wonder Energy

Wonder Energy has primarily been used in Gardevoir decks, whether that be M Gardevoir-EX in the past, or Gardevoir-GX now. It’s crucial against things like Espeon-EX, Accelgor, Trevenant BREAK, and more.


I would suggest having four of each of these Items. Their importance in their respective decks cannot be overstated.

Battle Compressor

Battle Compressor is an insanely powerful card that allows discard-pile-based strategies like Night March and Vespiquen / Flareon to exist. It also adds a great deal of consistency to decks like those, especially when you can discard Supporters and put them back into your hand with VS Seeker. It’s primarily used in Night March, Dark decks, and some Sableye / Garbodor lists.

Level Ball

Level Ball is great for any set up decks that don’t play Brigette. It’s been phased out of most decks because Brigette is a more consistent effect, but some decks still opt to play it because they need to play a different Supporter turn one, like Wally in Trevenant decks.

Muscle Band

Muscle Band has been pretty much phased out by Choice Band, but it still finds its way into some Fire decks, Greninja BREAK, or any deck that wants to do extra damage to all Pokemon instead of only Pokemon-EX or Pokemon-GX.

Pokemon Communication

Pokémon Communication is a great card for decks that run many different Pokemon and it helps you get the ones you want, when you need it. It can also turn a dead hand with an evolution Pokemon into a live one by swapping that Pokemon out for a Shaymin-EX or a Tapu Lele-GX.

Trainers’ Mail

Trainers' Mail used to be huge in many Expanded, and Standard decks when it was still in format. Now it finds its way into just a few, notably Night March, Sableye / Garbodor, and Blastoise. It’s an incredible consistency card that lets you dig for anything you may need.

VS Seeker

VS Seeker allows you to run lower counts of certain Supporters, allows for consistent use of one-of Supporters, and serves as added consistency after you use a draw Supporter. From then on out, you have extra cards that can become any Supporter you’ve used. This card is played in every Expanded deck I can think of. It’s the most important Item in the format.


I would suggest getting four of each Stadium — they are all quite powerful in their own regard.

Sky Field

Sky Field has found its way into a few different decks, the most known being M Rayquaza-EX, Raichu variants, and Rainbow Road. Recently it has been incorporated into Zoroark-GX decks because Riotous Beating does more damage when you have more Pokemon out.

Dimension Valley

Dimension Valley has been playable since it came out. It finds its way into three decks currently: Night March, Garbodor / Necrozma-GX, and Trevenant BREAK.

Rough Seas

Rough Seas isn’t as popular anymore because of the decline of Trevenant, but in the past it has been used in Greninja, Water Box, Wailord-EX, and Eelektrik variants. Healing damage every turn can make your opponent need an extra attack to get a KO and sometimes you can even heal something back to full health.

Shrine of Memories

Shrine of Memories saw its biggest play in M Mewtwo-EX decks, but you never know when it’ll be handy to have that effect. Shining Celebi and Celebi-EX have the same effect, but can’t be used if Garbotoxin or Hex Maniac are in effect; so that would be your biggest reason to play this over those two if it was crucial to your strategy.

Silent Lab

Silent Lab is fantastic for decks that don’t rely as much on Basic Pokemon’s Abilities. This is usually seen as a one-of tech in Trevenant decks to help deal with Latias-EX or to stop Tapu Lele-GX or Shaymin-EX, but it also makes sense in any deck that needs the effect and doesn’t want to dedicate Bench space to Alolan Muk, which has the same effect.

Team Magma’s Secret Base

Team Magma's Secret Base saw almost no play for the longest time until Gyarados came out. Gyarados is a strong deck that is easily countered, but typically works out when it is a surprise play.



This is one of the best Supporters ever made in my opinion. It adds incredible consistency to decks that fill their Bench, and it helps you save resources. It’s even stronger in decks that have Sky Field because you have the potential to draw 16 cards.

I would suggest having three of these — I don’t think you’ll ever need four in a deck because of VS Seeker.


Ghetsis thrives in a format such as Expanded that has a slew of excellent Item cards, but it can be hit or miss. You can either wreck someone by eliminating their whole hand, or most of it; or you can only hit a couple cards, or even help them out if you put cards back in that they didn’t want to discard with Professor Sycamore or Professor Juniper. It’s also excellent against Sableye. Since they rely on having Puzzle of Time every turn, it can help you slow them down or even leave them with an empty hand.

You only need one copy of Ghetsis.

Hex Maniac

Hex Maniac is an amazing card that allows decks that don’t run Garbotoxin to shut off their opponent’s Abilities. It’s especially great with VS Seeker because you only need to play one copy and you can use it more than once.

I would recommend you try to get two copies of Hex at least, most decks only play one and don’t need three and definitely not four.


Lysandre has been kind of phased out by Guzma, but it is still a great option in most lists. It doesn’t force you to switch and sometimes you need to keep your Active Pokemon right where it is. With VS seeker, you can easily play both Lysandre and Guzma and pick which one you need, when you need it.

This is currently a card you probably only need one of.


Being able to grab two of anything you want is incredible. Teammates is typically played in Night March but also sometimes in Greninja BREAK as well.

You only need one copy of Teammates due to its situational nature.


Xerosic isn’t played as much as it used to be since it’s kind of slow, but it’s still a nice card that gives you two powerful effects. Right now, it’s probably only played in Sableye decks, but it’s still worth having one copy.


For Pokemon, I only have two that I would call necessary, and that’s because one is used in many decks, and the other is currently used in a good portion of decks, but the rest are typically deck-specific cards.


The reason Exeggcute is on this list is because Zoroark-GX is so popular. Propagation pairs perfectly with Trade; you can keep using Exeggcute to pay for Trade and not discard useful resources.

I would say owning two of these should be enough; it’s not a bad idea to pick up four, however, because some strategies in the future might require it.


Not every deck still plays Shaymin-EX, but some of the top decks do right now, such as Night March and many Zoroark-GX variants. Set Up is an incredible Ability that helps you push for the cards you need; it’s absolutely worth picking up.

I would suggest owning three since I don’t think any deck currently plays more than that.

Standard Staples that Carry Over

For those of you who don’t even own Standard cards yet but are looking to get into Expanded, here’s a quick list of Standard-legal cards you need to pick up:



Special Energy



Cards and Strategies Made Better with Old Sets

When looking to build an Expanded deck with newer cards like Zoroark-GX or Gardevoir-GX, you should look back at the older sets and see if there are better versions of the pre-evolutions. For Zoroark, people tend to play the Zorua with Paralyzing Gaze because having the chance to Paralyze your opponent can save you in a pinch and is typically more useful than the doing a small amount of damage. There’s also Zubat with Free Flight, Tool Drop Trubbish, and Garbage Collection Trubbish. There are plenty of other examples of better versions, so I won’t go through them all, just make sure to do the research when playing an Expanded deck. Previous versions of the final evolution can fit right into decks as well, such as Zoroark with Foul Play.

Cards, or sometimes entire strategies, can be made immensely stronger with Expanded cards. Take Lycanroc-GX / Zoroark-GX, which just won Memphis Regionals. That strategy becomes so much stronger with the help of Sky Field, Exeggcute, and Colress. Having Ace Specs make your decks stronger as well, of course. Another example is Necrozma-GX, which has a powerful GX attack but doesn’t see much use in Standard because it requires three Energy. In Expanded, however, you can pair it with Dimension Valley and power it up with only a Double Colorless Energy. With the help of Expanded cards like Terrakion and Entei, Counter Energy decks are more viable because they now have a wider range of attackers. Greninja even gets a boost from Dive Ball and other consistency cards.

There are plenty more examples like this, just remember to look at the vast variety of cards Expanded has to offer when building a deck. There are almost 30 sets in the Expanded format, so there are probably strategies that haven’t even been thought of yet!

When it comes to getting these cards, it’s worth noting that some Expanded cards are expensive because the sets are no longer printed, so try to get cards you think have potential or are good before they get hype and skyrocket in price, such as Paralyzing Gaze Zorua. You also don’t need to buy every card I’ve mentioned, just get the cards for the specific decks that you want to play.

Tier List

This is a general Tier list of the decks played in Expanded. Some of these are decks you will see little to none of at tournaments, but Expanded has such a diverse card pool and some people love to play old cards they loved from the past, so you can’t rule anything out when metagaming for this format.

Tier 1

Tier 2

Tier 3

Tier 4

Meta Checklist

These are the decks in Expanded that I think will be most popular and I’ve seen the most talk about. I’ve made a handy checklist for anyone looking to acquire the cards to play each deck. Many of the Expanded cards required for them overlap with several other decks, making it even easier to build a deck.

Zoroark-GX / Seismitoad-EX / Alolan Muk


  • Trainers: Colress, Computer Search
  • Optional: Wonder Energy, Hex Maniac, different Ralts or Kirlia

Golisopod-GX / Zoroark-GX

  • Trainers: Colress, Computer Search
  • Pokemon: Exeggcute
  • Optional: Ghetsis, Hex Maniac, Paralyzing Gaze Zorua, Shaymin-EX


Night March

Lycanroc-GX / Zoroark-GX

  • Trainers: Colress, Computer Search, Sky Field
  • Pokemon: Exeggcute, Shaymin-EX
  • Optional: Ghetsis, Hex Maniac, Paralyzing Gaze Zorua

Sableye / Garbodor

Seismitoad-EX / Zoroark-GX

Trevenant BREAK


Dallas Regionals is coming up, and I’m excited, but not fully prepared yet. Luckily, I still have some time to test. I think Expanded is a fun format that brings a nice change from playing Standard all the time.

I sincerely hope this article helped anyone looking to get into the fun world that is the Expanded format. I want to wish best of luck and safe travels to anyone going to Dallas, and I hope to see you there! It’s been a pleasure writing for you.

See you next time,