Hit, Run, Repeat — Hitmonchan / Wobbuffet in Expanded

At the end of my last article, I offered my initial takes on the Expanded format after the release of Team Up and the bans of Unown, Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick, Delinquent and Lusamine. I stated that we may be looking at pure Prize race games between big, aggressive decks such as Archie’s Blastoise, Rayquaza-GX, and the newcomer Pikachu and Zekrom-GX. I was also thinking that, if those were the hyped decks, then non-GX decks such as Buzzwole / Garbodor could make a comeback.

Today, I want to expand on this last idea. Non-GX decks seem well-positioned going into Toronto and Greensboro Regionals — perhaps the best they’ve looked since Night March’s hour of glory, back in simpler, Zoroark-less times. Alolan Exeggutor, for example, is basically useless in Standard, but shines in Expanded thanks to Exeggcute and Double Dragon Energy. It also has good synergy with the format’s star, Zoroark-GX.

Although I believe that card has potential, the deck I want to talk about today is based on another non-GX Pokemon that’s completely irrelevant to the Standard format but fares much better in Expanded: I’m talking about Hitmonchan. With Wobbuffet as its partner, it revives the hit-and-run style of deck, up to the name of its attack.

In this article, I’ll talk about what makes this deck good and worth considering for the upcoming Regionals.

1. The Theory of Hit and Run

Newer players may not be familiar with the hit-and-run style of Pokemon decks, so here’s a refresher: Pokemon that have an attack that sends them back to the Bench are valuable because they allow you to send up another Pokemon to take a hit. This means that, unless your opponent has a Guzma or similar effect, your attacking Pokemon will not be Knocked Out — and if they do have a Guzma, then they’re not playing N, Colress, or some other Supporter. What’s more, you can send a Pokemon that has an Ability that only works while it’s Active. Examples include Trevenant, Hoopa, or Shuckle-GX; for the rest of this article, I’ll refer to them as walls.

The most successful hit-and-run Pokemon in recent memory is Accelgor. It’s unique, both because it goes back in the deck rather than into the hand or to the Bench, and because it’s one of the few Pokemon with an attack that Paralyses without needing a coin flip. Accelgor was played in a variety of decks, some with walls, and some without. Its biggest achievement was winning the US National Championship in 2013, alongside Gothitelle and Dusknoir. Gothitelle was a solid wall because it prevented the use of Items such as Switch or Escape Rope that could be used to break free of the paralysis. Trevenant replaced it when it was released. A few years later, in Expanded, the best wall to use with Accelgor became Wobbuffet, as Switch wasn’t played but Abilities like Keldeo-EX‘s Rush In were. Since the release of Guzma, though, every deck has an easy out to paralysis and Accelgor has fallen into oblivion.

The second most successful hit-and-run Pokemon in recent memory is Donphan. Originally a forgotten uncommon, it gained relevance when Furious Fists was released, bringing the Fighting type some support, most importantly Strong Energy. With it and Muscle Band, Donphan could deal massive damage, and the deck was briefly a solid contender in Standard. In Expanded, though, it hasn’t enjoyed success at events bigger than League Cups.

Hitmonchan can be seen as a successor to Donphan: it deals 10 less damage and has lower HP, but is a Basic Pokemon, which means it takes far less space in the deck and can attack earlier, meaning it can out-speed some non-GX decks. Thanks to Diancie Prism Star, Strong Energy, and Muscle Band, Hitmonchan can deal 90 damage in a single attack, even to non-GX Pokemon. That means it reliably 2HKOs Basic Pokemon-GX (Shrine of Punishment can add damage if there’s a Fighting Fury Belt on the other side) and can KO most evolving Basic Pokemon. It should be mentioned that Korrina can easily grab Diancie Prism Star and Muscle Band, so the damage adds quickly.

Of course, the attacker is only one part of the deck’s principle: the other is the wall it switches to. Wobbuffet is the main wall Pokemon to use in the Expanded format. It’s a Basic, which makes it easy to grab via a simple Nest Ball. Most importantly, it shuts off a good number of important Abilities: Zoroark-GX’s Trade, Shaymin-EX‘s Set Up, Blastoise‘s Deluge, Exeggcute’s Propagation, Rayquaza-GX’s Stormy Winds, Tapu Koko Prism Star‘s Dance of the Ancients, and dozens more. Having Wobbuffet permanently Active prevents many decks from working properly, which means they can’t deal with Hitmonchan’s speed.

Wobbuffet can even attack if your version of the deck is playing Prism Energy or Psychic Energy. Psychic Assault can be used to 2HKO a Pokemon after Hitmonchan has dealt damage to it. It’s also an attack you can use against opposing walls like Xurkitree-GX or even Vileplume, thanks to Wobbuffet’s Ability. Don’t hesitate to attach to Wobbuffet if you don’t have a more pressing target — it can help you in the long run.

2. Backup Attackers

Despite its great qualities, Hitmonchan’s damage output is still limited. Thankfully, we can use a number of other Pokemon to help in the deck:

The Fighting Types

As expected from any Fighting deck, Buzzwole is a great addition, as it can deal huge damage on the right turn, being able to OHKO even a Pokemon-GX with a few damage boosts.

Another one-Energy attacker that works wonderfully with Hitmonchan is Hitmonlee. If you used Hit and Run, Hitmonlee can deal 90 damage to the Bench. This lets it find easy KOs on non-GX Pokemon, and can also snipe a Shaymin-EX on the Bench with the help of Shrine of Punishment damage. It’s good to have Hitmonlee for the turns where you can’t attack the Active Pokemon; for example, when a Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX uses Moon’s Eclipse GX.

The Ultra Beasts

With Prism Energy and Beast Energy Prism Star, it is possible to include a small Ultra Beast package, like in Standard Zapdos / Jirachi.

On the right turn, Nihilego can copy an attack to, generally, ensure a KO. Examples include Buzzwole-GX‘s Knuckle Impact, Diancie Prism Star’s Diamond Rain in the mirror match, many different GX attacks, and so on.

Celesteela isn’t the most played Pokemon, but it is another Ultra Beast that can deal massive damage for one Energy on one crucial turn. In the Japanese metagame, Celesteela can OHKO Gardevoir and Sylveon-GX, which is why it was included in the list that made top 16 at the Expanded event at Champions League Chiba. Despite that, it also has potential in non-GX matchups such as the mirror match. Assuming a player takes a Prize every turn, if you take the first prize and can get a second one, you can then use Buzzwole since your opponent has four prizes remaining. They will take their third Prize after you, possibly with their own Buzzwole, which means both players have three Prizes remaining. At that point, Celesteela can come in and take a Prize. Nihilego can then take a Prize on the next turn.

As for the last Prize to take? That’s where Kartana-GX comes in! It’s another Ultra Beast that uses one Energy. Of course, it’s a Pokemon-GX, so playing it too soon can turn the Prize race in the opponent’s favor, but, on the last turn, it can get a Prize card even if there are no easy targets left. In addition to giving the deck a GX attack to use, Kartana-GX has another use: its Ability. Specifically, it can remove Flash Energy from a Pikachu and Zekrom-GX, giving them their Weakness back and letting Hitmonchan or Buzzwole take a KO.

The Others

With its Memories of Dawn Ability, Mew can copy the previous Pokemon’s attacks as a Psychic type. It doesn’t benefit from Diancie Prism Star or Strong Energy, but against Psychic-weak Pokemon it can have uses, despite its frailty. Be careful, you can’t use Hitmonlee’s Special Combo after Mew uses Hit and Run — it only works if Hitmonchan was the one to attack.

I’ve also been trying out Oricorio in the deck. With its Fighting Resistance, it can actually tank some hits, whether in the mirror match or against Buzzwole-GX. In both cases, it can also deal some good damage in return with a Muscle Band or Choice Band. Oricorio’s other use is to use Supernatural Dance against discard-based decks — that is, Night March and Vespiquen, should they be played. Oricorio can take multiple Prizes in one turn in these matchups and is therefore a reliable win condition.

Finally, Zapdos makes sense as a one-Energy attacker in a deck that wants to retreat Wobbuffet into another Pokemon. It can deal damage early in the game, even if it doesn’t benefit from Electropower like in a dedicated deck. Compared to Hitmonchan, it doesn’t need Diancie Prism Star to OHKO a Basic Pokemon, but it also doesn’t retreat into Wobbuffet. This means that, in some matchups, you don’t want to use it at all. That said, with its Fighting Resistance it can be good in the mirror match.

This concludes the public portion of this article.

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