Hey DDG fans! This is Cody Michael Graham again, and today I’d like to share with you all which decks I think you should be on the lookout for going into US Nationals here in just a couple of weeks. In particular, I think it would be beneficial to break down what I consider to be a Top Ten list, and then run through a quick list of strengths and weaknesses for each deck. My list will be based in part on results from states, but obviously the recent addition of Fates Collide (FCO) adds a new dynamic, especially with the return of everyone’s favorite draw supporter: N.
As with any new format, it’s a fun challenge to predict exactly how new cards will impact the metagame. New Pokémon like Glaceon EX, Alakazam EX (and the Mega), Mew, and Bronzong BREAK all seem so cool, but will it be worth it for you to give them their first tournament trial at the largest event worldwide? Integrating them into existing decks can be awkward too, as finding that perfect count is always hard. Unfortunately, I cannot answer those questions specifically, but my personal predictions will hopefully give everyone a small head start as they prepare for US Nationals!
10) Wailord EX!
Let me just start off by saying: OMG. I can’t stand Wailord. With that, you absolutely can’t deny Wailord’s steadfast disruptive power. Your goal while playing Wailord is to not give up six prizes. That is it. Wailord is not an overly complex deck, but it can easily be argued that it is one of the more skillful decks in Standard (as sad as that makes me).
A normal turn playing Wailord usually just includes healing as much damage as possible, maybe digging up a niche Pokémon for certain situations (Giratina EX to cause problems for Mega Evolution Pokémon, Aegislash EX for decks reliant on special energy, Durant FLF for opponents who are holding a deck in their hands, etc), and passing. This deck is full of energy disruption cards, which makes it extremely difficult to muster enough attacking power for a knockout, even with cards like Puzzle of Time to recycle those precious Double Colorless Energy.
Bottom line, Wailord EX makes my cut for top ten decks purely because some decks just cannot knock it out before it heals itself. However, the decks that do beat Wailord EX usually beat it very handily, either due to attacking for weakness or being able to inflict heavy damage with abilities.
9) Greninja BREAK
Next, and what might seem surprisingly low on the list: Greninja BREAK. I think Greninja BREAK has received a lot of hype lately because many people think N is exactly what the deck needs to solve its consistency issues. Before, it was reliant on Professor Sycamore for drawing cards, which often led to players being forced to discard valuable resources, such as untimely evolution cards or recovery cards. I’m not going to disagree with that, but the fact remains that the deck can still be very inconsistent. Being a Stage 2 BREAK evolution, it’s tough to contend with a metagame that is so largely dominated by basic attackers and Stage 1 Pokémon. To boot, Hex Maniac has become a staple in nearly every deck in Standard, with some decks often electing to play two copies of this powerful frog-stomping supporter.
Furthermore, there are at least two very strong item-locking Pokémon in standard, and Greninja is heavily reliant on being able to search out and set up attackers early. Without being able to use cards like Dive Ball and Level Ball to set up Greninja lines, you are essentially praying to be able to draw into everything that you need against these lock decks.
8) Mega Sceptile EX
Here is where some shockers should start. Mega Sceptile? What even is that? First off, shout out to Kyle Malecek, whom I believe to be the single strongest Mega Sceptile (Mega ScepKyle) player in North Dakota, the Midwest and maybe the US. Aside from having an auto-win to Greninja due to Mega Kyle’s ancient trait: ΘStop, preventing it from being affected at all by other Pokémon’s Abilities. Mega Kyle offers some of the same stresses as Wailord EX in that you almost need to KO it in one hit, or you run the risk of all damage being healed off on your opponent’s next turn when it attacks with Jagged Saber, which not only deals 100 damage, but allows you to attach up to two energies from your hand to your bench and then heal ALL damage from those benched Pokémon you just attached to. Sound a bit ridiculous? It sure is.
At 220 HP, Mega Kyle is very difficult to OHKO. That requires eleven Night Marchers for Night March to KO, twenty Pokémon for Vespiquen to KO, a full Sky Field bench for Mega Rayquaza, six Metal Energy on a Genesect EX, etc. With no fire types being much of a threat to anyone, Sceptile is the only Mega Evolution I would even consider going into US Nationals.
7) Trevenant BREAK
It shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone to see this deck in my Top Ten. Being able to lock your opponent out of item cards before they even get a turn to play anything is absolutely insane. In a format where most of the metagame revolves around using cards like Battle Compressor, Trainers’ Mail, Ultra and Level Balls and other deck-thinning items to make your deck completely streamlined, suddenly not being able to play any items will completely ruin most strategies.
What holds Trevenant back, in my opinion, is the sheer strength of Darkness, Trevenant’s weakness. Darkness has historically been one of the top contenders series after series, and there is just no reason to assume differently now. Lysandre is another problem card for Trevenant, and literally every deck plays at least one copy. Trevenant only locks items when it is in the active spot, so when you Lysandre out something like a Shaymin EX, not only can you explode with all those items in your hand, but you’ll likely KO that Shaymin now, and be able to VS Seeker for the Lysandre again before you attack, so you can do the same thing the next turn.
It’s worth noting that the stadium card Rough Seas counters Trevenant quite effectively, since it can heal all damage done to Water Pokémon by Silent Fear as long as it is in play.
6) Mew Toolbox (Mew FCO/Manectric EX/Crobat PHF; Mew/Basics; Mew/Eevees)
Mew Toolbox is one of those new decks that came to life after FCO released, and there are literally a ton of different ways to play it. The best ways I have seen so far include pairing Mew with Manectric EX and Crobat, allowing Mew to copy Manectric’s attacks (for one fewer energy because of Dimension Valley) while adding damage with bats. That is just a lot of destructive potential, and is likely to have turns taking multiple KOs, which will without a doubt turn the tide of any game.
Another way to put this deck together is to make a Mew-Lock with Jolteon EX and Glaceon EX. Jolteon and Glaceon have attacks that prevent damage from basic and evolution Pokémon, respectively. If you’re playing against Night March, for instance, and you use Jolteon’s Flash Ray, Night March is now in a world of hurt, because it needs to do a lot of different things to even be able to touch your Mew/Jolteon EX. This deck also is likely to play nuisance cards like Seismitoad EX, Jirachi XY67 or Regice AOR, just for more lock options. This deck is really disgusting when it sets up, but again, this is definitely a pioneer deck. Nobody really knows the best counts for different cards, or exactly how to build it yet. I wouldn’t recommend playing this unless you were a very competent deck builder.
5) Vespiquen AOR 10/Vileplume AOR
The other turn 1 item locker, Vileplume. This deck was widely successful throughout States purely due to its ability to consistently make your match a one player game. Loaded with cards like Unown AOR, Trainers’ Mail, Battle Compressor and Acro Bike, this deck is heavily reliant on the coin flip to go first and the hopeful set up Vileplume on turn one, effectively locking your opponent out of playing any items for the game.
On paper and in theory, this deck is really strong. However, playing such high counts of certain cards and such a high quantity of Pokémon can sometime stick you with some unplayable hands. Also, being solely reliant on Double Colorless Energy means that if Giratina EX attacks you, you usually lose. Again, only playing special energy, if Aegislash EX gets benched, and you don’t have six other prize cards to take, you probably lose.
The nature of this deck is strictly high risk, high reward. Going first, and setting up everything you want, you should rarely lose. Going second, and having a dead hand full of Pokémon, you’re in for an uphill struggle.
4) DCE.Dec (Raichu XY, Zoroark BKT, Vespiquen AOR 10, Zebstrika BKP)
Now for the sleeper… kinda. None of these cards are sleepers on their own, but the combination of useful Double Colorless attackers that are able to punish different decks in different ways should really be worth being aware of. Yveltal XY and a few Darkness Energy is all this deck needs to effectively contend with that pesky Night March, beyond trading non-EX attackers and waiting for someone to either have to bench a Shaymin EX or miss a turn of attacking.
Raichu hits that ever-popular lighting weakness, Zoroark deals with Trevenant and any other deck that gets stuck benching a bunch of Pokémon, and Vespiquen is the catch-all for everything else. Zebstrika plays a valuable role as yet another counter to popular Pokémon like Yveltal EX, Mega Rayquaza EX, and Trevenant, but it also is a very interesting way to blow up on those potentially emerging lock decks! Zebstrika’s ability makes it so that Raichu and itself can attack through Pokémon like Jirachi after it uses Stardust, or Aegislash EX as it sits in the active spot blocking special energy, or Glaceon EX after it uses Crystal Ray. Another angle is if you don’t need it in your given matchup, just throw it away to make Vespiquen more vengeful. Not only is this deck really fun to play, but it also seems to have an answer to everything in the metagame. Problems I see it having are the same as any other Vespiquen deck: just so many Pokémon! Clunky hands are just going to be unavoidable. Thankfully, Nationals is best of three format, which will allow more forgiveness for decks that yield the occasional unplayable hand.
3) Bronzong PHF Variants
Here is where I feel like some people might really disagree with me. Bronzong has been around for a while now, and it hasn’t done anything exceptional for quite some time. What did it gain that makes it suddenly a stand out performer? Well, it did gain Bronzong BREAK, which is huge in my opinion since it offers a way for metal decks to deliver some major pain to the bench, something metal has been lacking for a while now. It also gained Genesect EX, which is capable of hitting some pretty high numbers very quickly due to the powerful Metal Links ability of Bronzong. Lastly, it gained the new Bronzong FCO that effectively makes your bench impervious to the effects of your opponent’s attacks. This stops Pokémon like Trevenant BREAK dead in its tracks.
Between Bronzong PHF being able to perpetually recycle energies, Bronzong FCO guarding the bench, Genesect EX hitting big KOs and Aegislash EX blocking special energy attackers you have a lot of different options for different situations.
2) Yveltal XY/BKT/Zoroark BKT (w/ or w/o Gallade BKT)
Here it is: Yveltal! Everyone should’ve known this would make the cut. I’ve been messing with Yveltal a ton lately, and I have no doubts it will be a strong deck going into US Nationals. It’s just another deck with super strong options and it seems to have a way out of anything. I’ve even dropped Yveltal EX completely at this point and just play a few Yveltal XY and one Yveltal BKT (anyone who has played against me knows I can’t build a deck incapable of doing bench damage). A thick Zoroark line with a couple BREAKs make things difficult for your opponent too because it forces them to bench Pokémon more conservatively.
The big debate between my friends and me lately has been whether or not to include Maxie’s Hidden Ball Trick. Earlier this season, players were electing to include Maxie as an answer to Mega Manectric EX, as one Gallade can usually handle two Mega Manectrics, which is an exchange that is impossible to maintain for your opponent. However, Manectric has seen less and less play throughout the season. Gallade will never be a bad inclusion, but can those slots be taken up by something more useful now? Maybe.
1) Night March
Tier Zero. The deck you need to be able to beat going into US Nationals. If you cannot beat a decent Night March deck being played by a decent Night March player, you need to pick a different deck. Night March has defined itself as the best deck in the Standard Format all season long, and nothing from Fates Collide is countering it. In fact, it gained Mew, which is effectively another Night Marcher that can allow Night March to throw away more Marchers for more damage and a more streamlined deck.
It is no coincidence that the other nine decks in this Top Ten have made the cut because of their decent/positive matchups against Night March. In fact, many of them made themselves popular because people wanted to specifically counter Night March! The sad part is Night March was still able to maintain a positive record against nearly all of them, and the decks that it did not have a positive matchup against had significantly less data to base that matchup off of.
Before I end, I do have some honorable mentions that I couldn’t justify in the Top Ten.
Mega Manectric EX (w/ or w/o Water)- Fell out of the metagame largely due to Gallade.
Mega Rayquaza EX (w/ Jolteon EX)- Weak to lightning, Joltik is bad news unless that Jolteon gets up.
Mega Alakazam EX (w/ or w/o Wobbuffet PHF and/or bats)- Weak to Pumpkaboo.
Seismitoad EX Variants (w/ Slowking BKP; Hammers; Giratina EX; Turbo Toad)- Weak to grass. Weakest of the three big item lockers in Standard since it guarantees a turn for your opponent to set up.
Jolteon EX/Glaceon EX/Vileplume- Abandon the Mew for Vileplume, lock attackers and items. It just has a lot of moving parts, and doesn’t seem to hit the Vileplume first turn as often as the more offensive Vespiquen/Vileplume.
Fighting.Dec (Zygarde EX, Lucario EX, Regirock EX, Focus Sash, Hawlucha FFI, Strong Energy, Fighting Stadium, etc.)- Just attach and attack and do a lot of damage. Unfortunately, the main attackers are weak to either Grass or Psychic, which are two of the most dominant types in Standard right now by way of Vespiquen and Pumpkaboo, respectively. Also, doing 100+ damage for one energy is cool and all, but Joltik only has 30 HP.
For what it’s worth, this is my list. Like it, hate it, share it, use it. Feel free to tell me anything you think I have overlooked in the comments section of this post!