A general rule in the Pokémon TCG is that end-of-season formats tend to be the most aggressive. With more cards at players’ disposal, it’s logical that decks can be pushed to their extreme, and that means you need to contend with faster and faster decks. Compare Buzzwole / Garbodor, the main non-GX Pokemon deck from the start of the season; the far more threatening Zapdos / Jirachi, or the awkward Rayquaza-GX / Vikavolt to Pikachu and Zekrom-GX. I’m not implying that control or slow decks can’t exist–they’re not in a great spot right now, but that’s more to do with the amount of Tag Team Pokémon being pushed than a general rule, but fast decks are the ones that set the bar for a format. Take Expanded, for example: slow decks like Seismitoad-EX / Zoroark-GX or Sableye / Garbodor can be powerful. If you want to find out if a deck has a chance in the format, it’s useful to compare it to an aggressive archetype like Archie’s Blastoise or Night March. A good number of original Expanded deck ideas can be discarded on the basis of being strictly worse than Night March; it’s a good baseline even when it’s not actively being played.
Basically, these decks set the bar for how good a deck must be to compete in the format.
To get back to the Standard format, Madison regionals were an excellent example of how decks get more and more aggressive as the season reaches its end. The winning Blacephalon-GX deck included Welder, solving one of the main issues with the deck. Some top players used a Reshiram and Charizard-GX list that got three spots in Top 8. It used Kiawe like Ho-Oh-GX / Salazzle-GX did at the beginning of the season, but with Welder and support Pokémon such as Jirachi and Dedenne-GX, it is less predictable. The Pikachu and Zekrom-GX list that Xander piloted to a Top 4 finish uses two Marshadow and two Dedenne-GX, reaching Shaymin-EX levels of non-Supporter draw power. Any deck that claims to be a part of this metagame must be able to deal with this level of threat. Which brings up an important question: can slower lists using Green's Exploration do so?
I’m fascinated by Green’s Exploration as a card. I don’t like that it promotes playing without Abilities, given that Abilities are what makes the game fun and interesting, but Green’s Exploration doesn’t promote brute force. Instead, by letting you search for Trainer cards–often including a Supporter for the next turn–it makes players think ahead. This is another interesting part of the game that is sorely missing now compared to when I started playing the game nine years ago. Green’s Exploration can appear to be too slow for this metagame. Yet, Reshiram and Charizard-GX won Santa Clara regionals and made Top 8 in Madison as well as Sydney regionals. I don’t have hard data about smaller events, but what I’ve seen suggests that, although less popular, the Green’s Exploration variant finds success at League Cups. I know the debate still rages, and several players such as PokeBeach’s own Caleb Gedemer, have stated that the Jirachi variant is better. In this article, I want to take a more measured approach and explain why there’s merit to running Green’s Exploration. Reshiram and Charizard-GX will be my main focus, but it’s not the only deck I want to cover. I still need to report on Gardevoir and Sylveon-GX, although I don’t have great news on this front.
This concludes the public portion of this article.
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