How to Build a Hive: A New Deck for Roanoke

Hello everyone! We’ve entered into quarter two of our 2019 Pokemon season, and have finally reached the end of our long information-lacking July. The holiday season is also about to begin! This Thanksgiving weekend has almost certainly brought to mind feasts, football, and, for those of us traveling to Roanoke, Pokemon! Lost Thunder is also finally legal for tournament play, and while the LAIC has given us our first taste of the new format, most of us still have yet to play it ourselves. Despite its newness, weeks of theorycrafting and testing have given us a solid idea of where the format is going, and what we can expect going forward. Even so, there are still plenty of yet unexplored and underrated options available to us – the format is still rather new, after all!

For this article, I’ll be going over one of those rogue concepts which I would consider one of my top choices going into Roanoke. More importantly though, I’ll be giving a thorough look into the process of creating this deck, with an eye to how you can use that process to evaluate new and possibly overlooked cards.

Initial Deck Creation

Step One: Find the Card to Build Around

Before we can even begin to build a deck, we first want to start with what card we want to try and build the deck around. This is the most open-ended part, where we decide “I want to try and build a _____ deck!” As such, there’s not much strategy, just a decision to make. The criteria to decide which card to spend your time building around can be entirely up to you as well. Does the card look particularly competitive? Does it have unique attacks or abilities? Does it look fun? This deck-building process works in pretty much the same way for any card, regardless of that card’s innate usefulness, so don’t feel limited to only building around “good” Pokemon — not only is that a bit more boring, it can also lead players to overlook strong deck concepts.

Once you’ve found the card you want to try to build around, the first thing to do is to brainstorm the various ways in which the card can be played. What kind of deck will the card fit into — an aggressive deck, a slower, tankier deck, a disruption deck, or maybe something else? From there, you can start to look at what other Pokemon and Trainer cards can combo well with it. You can generally (but not always) get a feel for what kind of deck you want to build by looking at the base stats for the Pokemon you want to build around: its attack costs and damage output, its HP, its Ability (if any), its Stage, and whether or not it is a GX. HP is one of the biggest factors — if your Pokemon in question has lower HP, then it will be necessary for your deck to play faster to ameliorate your opponent’s ease of getting KOs. Whether it is a Basic, Stage 1, or Stage 2 Pokemon will also affect how quickly you can get it into play, while attack costs and damage output will affect how quickly and efficiently you can attack with the card (that is, if you want to — the card might be suited to a support role, rather than an attacking role).

Let’s look at how my example fits into this. In this case, the card that I’ve chosen to build around is Vespiquen, a new card from Lost Thunder. I’ve chosen Vespiquen not only because it allows me to write about yet another Pokemon with a March attack (in this case, Combee), but for its potential competitive value. Vespiquen is a quick, non-GX with low Energy costs and high damage output for those costs. A Stage 1 that can do 120 damage for only one Energy — that’s quick! As such, my initial design for Vespiquen will be that of a fast, aggressive deck.

Step Two: Potential Partners

At this point, we have the basics of our deck — we know one Pokemon that we want to try and build around, and we have a general idea of how we want the deck to play. Now, we want to fill in the rest of the deck, starting with what other Pokemon we want to put in. If the Pokemon you’re trying to build around functions best as an attacker, then you want to consider Pokemon that can assist it. On the flipside, if the Pokemon you’re trying to build around is more of a support Pokemon itself, then you want to consider other Pokemon which can function as the deck’s attacker. Look for cards that synergize well with the unique aspects of the card that you’ve chosen.

Choosing Vespiquen as our card of choice makes this step quite a bit easier, since it naturally restricts that list to only other Grass-type Pokemon. After all, including any other type of Pokemon makes Vespiquen useless as an attacker! A quick go-over of the Grass-types in Standard brings us to this list of potential Pokemon to include in a Vespiquen deck:

While all of these Pokemon have theoretical potential in a Grass deck, most aren’t going to be all that helpful in our goal of a fast, powerful deck focusing on Vespiquen as a main attacker. We can quickly whittle this list down, eliminating all of the cards that would be other attackers — the Lurantis-GX, Alolan Exeggutor, Golisopod-GX, and Shiftry-GX — as well as those that don’t seem to fit in with the relatively low-HP Vespiquen, such as Cherrim, Tsareena, and Shaymin. That remaining options can be placed into three groups: Pokemon that increase our damage output (Decidueye-GX, Lurantis, and Dustox), Pokemon that help us search out more Pokemon (Grovyle and Shiinotic), and other supporting Pokemon (Victreebel, Ninjask and Shedinja).

Since Vespiquen requires a constantly full Bench in order to have any damage output, including one of the “search” Pokemon would work well with our intended deck goals. Both Grovyle and Shiinotic have effectively the same Ability, but playing Grovyle also opens up the option to include Sceptile and / or Sceptile-GX, a possibility we don’t get with Shiinotic. Since Sceptile in particular could be a strong tech against decks such as Blacephalon-GX or Buzzwole-GX, Grovyle is the clearly stronger option.

If we decide to include Grovyle, that still gives us six different ways to build Vespiquen, assuming we have room for one more Pokemon line. For increased damage output, Lurantis appears to be the best of the three options, since it’s a Stage 1, and thus can increase our Vespiquen’s damage as early as turn two. While Decidueye-GX might have a bit more flexibility, it is also a slower option, as well as one that uses up more deck space, a problem it shares with Dustox. The other two options are both intriguing, but appear to have less synergy with Vespiquen than a Pokemon that can modify damage.

This concludes the public portion of this article.

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