The Butterfly Effect — How Roaring Moon Decks Changed My Mind

Hello PokeBeach readers! Isaiah here, and I am happy to be writing another article for you all! Last time, I talked about Snorlax and its position going into the final Regional Championships of the pre-rotation format. Now that rotation has occurred, and the Europe International Championships has concluded, it is time to take a broader look at the meta going forward.

The Europe International Championships honestly was not too surprising. In what is possibly the least surprising combination of things possible, Charizard ex won the tournament in the hands of Tord Reklev. He was not the only Charizard ex deck in Top 8 too, defeating another one in the Top 4. Isaiah Bradner was able to get second with a unique take on Giratina VSTAR that played Banette ex and the Lost Origin Banette, but I am not too sure that this deck will hold a long term position in the metagame. A few Pidgeot ex Control decks made it into the Top 8 too, with one losing in Top 4 to Isaiah Bradner’s Banette ex. Next, a couple Iron Hands ex / Iron Crown ex decks made it to the Top 8 too, including Latin America Internationals Champion Juho Kallama. I think Juho Kallama’s list is particularly interesting with the inclusion of Technical Machine: Crisis Punch, something that I hope continues to be a trend going forward. Finally, to round out the Top 8, one player playing Roaring Moon with Dudunsparce was able to squeak into the Top 8. The rest of the Top 16 was filled with a few more interesting decks too, including Fabien Pujol’s Gardevoir ex deck, a Lost Zone Toolbox deck, and a few more Roaring Moon decks.

Overall, these results were nothing too crazy, but I was certainly taken aback by how well the Roaring Moon decks were able to perform. When my friend João Pedro Medeiros messaged me that he was playing Ancient Box the night before the event, I kind of laughed about it, as I did not believe the deck was that great, but he certainly proved me wrong with his Top 16 finish and with Gabriel Fernandez winning in the Senior Division with a very similar list. Similarly, I did not expect much from the Roaring Moon / Dudunsparce deck, notably naming the deck “Highway Robbery” when I built it on Pokemon TCG Live for the first time because I expected the deck to be terrible. Based on the outcome of the testing that I did at first, I thought I was correct too, but with a change to a list more like the decks that did well this weekend, the deck may be better than I expected it to be. If you read the title, I am sure you have put together that my opinion on these decks has now changed dramatically, so how about I take you through why I thought these decks were bad, and how they were able to change my mind.

How do Roaring Moon decks work?

As one would certainly expect, most Roaring Moon decks are centered around Roaring Moon’s Vengeance Fletching attack, which does 70 damage plus 10 more for each Ancient card in your discard pile, meaning that cards like Ancient Booster Energy Capsule or Explorer's Guidance are able to contribute to the damage total, not just Pokemon. However, the two most important cards for this are Earthen Vessel and Professor Sada's Vitality. As the main methods of accessing the Energy cards in your deck, searching for them using Earthen Vessel then attaching them with Professor Sada’s Vitality after they have been discarded, you would already like playing high counts of both, but the fact that they contribute to the Ancient card total is huge too. In the late stages of the game, it is somewhat likely that you are able to reach for one-hit Knock Outs with Roaring Moon, easily taking a Knock Out on 280 HP Pokemon like Giratina VSTAR or Pidgeot ex, but sometimes you can even push for a massive 330 damage into a Charizard ex. If you do this, the game is almost certainly over at that point.

On paper, this deck looks really good, but I found myself hating the archetype. Damage did not feel like it ramped up fast enough in the Dudunsparce variant, Roaring Moon ex was awkward to use in either variant, and Koraidon is the worst card ever at times. It just was an all around miserable experience. I felt like I was only barely squeaking by with the Koraidon version, often winning because my opponent threw a free win instead of winning because my deck was good, and in the case of the Dudunsparce version, I was just drawing terribly. I had pretty much given up on the deck, but while I was playing a different deck, I got DUMPSTERED by a Roaring Moon / Koraidon (I will call this Ancient Box from now on). It was not even close, and I was not drawing bad or anything. It made me second guess everything I knew about Pokemon. As a result, I decided to take a picture of the cards in their discard pile and try and recreate their deck list. With some changes, I queued up some games with the new deck list, and I was borderline unstoppable, winning roughly 12 games in a row.

In a way, seeing this new deck list was my own version of the butterfly effect. If you are not familiar, the butterfly effect can be defined as “the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state” (or at least that’s what Wikipedia tells me). All of a sudden, my opinion on a deck that I previously considered bad was able to change dramatically solely because of what deck list I was working with. This change was taken a step further when I discussed the deck with João before the night before the Europe International Championships, and when I tried his deck list, I fell in love with it immediately. It felt so perfect, and I am not sure why. The slight changes to Gabriel Fernandez’s Senior Division winning list have felt perfect too, solving every issue that I ever had. The deck feels more consistent, and by extension way more powerful. The damage seems like it ramps up way quicker in this new deck list, and I think I would probably be playing it for the Orlando Regional Championships if I was going. The Dudunsparce variant has also interested me a bit more as of late too. While I have not played the deck much more than my initial games with the deck, I like the deck lists that did well at the Europe International Championships, and I could see the deck being strong going forward.

Now that I have examined the basic premise of Roaring Moon decks, I want to take a deeper look into both versions and compare them against each other. First, I am going to start with the more traditional Ancient Box deck, as I like it considerably more.

Ancient Box

As I have stated previously, this deck feels like a consistent powerhouse in this format. With the means to ramp up its damage rather quickly to the point that you are threatening one-hit Knock Outs very early in the game, Ancient Box has felt like one of the best decks that I have played in a while. Reminiscent of Vespiquen decks from around 2017, the deck is made by slowly ramping up your damage and understanding how to use each of your resources to methodically take all six of your Prize cards. My personal favorite part of this deck is the turn in the game where you get to essentially go all in with a massive spike in damage output while, at the same time, setting up the cards in your deck to win the game on the following turn thanks to Super Rod and Pal Pad essentially allowing you to build your own perfect hand off of an Iono, often while holding game in your hand regardless of if your opponent manages to play Iono or not. I will say that this deck is deceptively difficult to play with many moving parts and a variety of ways you can easily cost yourself the game by messing up sequencing or forgetting a way that you can possibly lose by setting up your checkmates. However, when you do win with this deck, it is one of the most fulfilling and satisfying feelings.

This concludes the public portion of this article.

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