A Quaking Punch in the Expanded Meta
Hello Flipside Gaming readers! My name is Alec Geissler, a new writer for the site and today I am going to be diving into the Expanded format and what to expect going in to Richmond and Portland Regionals. I am very excited to be bringing you this article and I can’t wait for many more to come! Starting off, we saw TPCi release a new ban list of cards effective after Richmond and Portland. The new additions to the ban list were the following cards:
- Chip-Chip Ice Axe
- Island Challenge Amulet
- Lt. Surge’s Strategy
- Red Card
- Reset Stamp
- Unown (LOT 91)
I think these additions to the ban-list are very good additions and help make the format a lot healthier. The decision to ban these cards after the Regionals is an odd choice. My other issue is not banning Archie’s Ace in the Hole. Archie’s brings a concept in the expanded format that shouldn’t be able to be accessed.
Archie's is a very linear deck that has explosive starts with an energy-super driving stage 2 in play allowing early brutal attacks like Cross-Division GX spreading 20 damage across the board or Towering Splash GX dealing 100 damage to all of your opponent's benched Pokemon. I land on the side of banning it in the debate over this card, but it has not been overly successful. It isn't been wining every tournament and falls victim to its own inconsistencies, so we are stuck with the glass cannon in the format.
Going back to the ban-list, it is really odd to me that they waited until after these tournaments to make effective the banning of these cards. It may have seemed short notice and don't want to affect everyone's beloved decks but the cards are being banned for a reason! Why make us suffer through a few more weeks of a lame duck format? These cards combine to shred the opponent's hand on the first turn of the game and are recurred with Junk Hunt or Resource Management to keep the lock going, using Chip-Chip Ice Axe to set the top card of the opposing deck to the least impactful. I do think that a control deck, namely Sableye/Garbodor, Zoroark-GX/Control or ZoroToad has the potential to win the tournament simply because once you get your opponent in that lock, they can’t play the game ever again unless you mess up. The control decks are tricky to play and have a high skill barrier to entry, but experience can help a lot. If I were going to Richmond or Portland, these are the 3 decks I would be choosing between. Let’s go ahead and take a deeper look at these 3 decks and how they each thrive in this format.
Sableye/Garbodor has had a new lease on life with the printing of all of it's lock pieces coming in the last few months. Without Lt. Surges Strategy, Reset Stamp, Mars and Chip-Chip Ice Axe, the deck wasn't as good at assembling the lock and these additions make the deck one of the best in the format. We did see Ryan Pena take that old version to a Top 8 finish to Daytona Beach last season losing to ZoroToad in Top 8. ZoroToad is usually a favorable matchup because of Faba and Garbage Collection but he prized Faba game 1 and had unfortunate draws in game 3.
The meta is shifting in favor for Sableye for success. You have good outs vs turbo decks such as Turbo Dark, Rayquaza, PikaRom, etc. with Trashalanche Garbodor and Articuno GX acting as a cheap 1 prize attacker or a way to reset their souped up attacker. Against Zoroark decks such as ZoroGarb, ZoroControl, etc. you can keep cycling Faba and run them out of energy. As soon as you get Zoroark in the infinite lock as well, the game is pretty much close to over. Sableye mirror appears to center around the lock entirely and I would personally offer the ID if I knew my opponent was playing the same deck. Personally, if I were going to Richmond, SableGarb would be my number one option going in purely because of comfort with the deck and knowing my ability to win games and do the operations of the deck quickly. The one thing I can recommend if you are playing SableGarb for Richmond, make sure you know when your opponent is slow-playing and call the judge if needed. People tend to stall out the games versus the control decks to try and force the tie but as the pilot you need to make sure your opponent is respecting the boundaries of pace of play.
Zoroark-GX Control (a.k.a. ZoroControl) is another very strong deck for Richmond and would be my number two option. ZoroControl and SableGarb are similar concepts, different decks obviously but both decks thrive on the same sort of combo in Reset Stamp, Lt. Surge’s Strategy, Mars/Handiwork/Flare Grunt/whatever supporter combo the game calls for in the scenario you’re in and Chip Chip Ice Axe. ZoroControl thrives due to its versatility in ways to control your opponent . ZoroControl usually bench locks your opponent with Sudowoodo GRI and Parallel City, can basic ability lock with Silent Lab and recycles any 3 cards back into deck with Oranguru UPR where as Sableye DEX puts strictly items back into hand which can be shuffled away by an N or Stamp if you don’t get the perfect lock off. Branching outside of recurring items allows you to recur different lock pieces than traditional Sableye builds.
ZoroControl has the benefit as well in matchups where if you know you can’t deck your opponent out, you have Riotous Beating to be able to do damage and take six prizes to win the game instead. The last expanded event ZoroControl did well at was Nicholas Moffitt at Greensboro landing in the top 16. I really liked his list with some cool inclusions such as Wondrous Labyrinth Prism Star, Lugia-GX LOT/ Counter Gain and Magcargo at the time was very good. I personally started with Nicholas’s list and made changes according to how the format changed and what new cards we got. If I were to play ZoroControl for this event, I would NOT go into this event without Karen. It is very good vs Mewtwo decks and very good against Night March which is just a bonus effect. You want to have a lot of experience with the deck if you hope to do well, in-game priorities change often and matchups can be very different from one another. I would not play this deck if I didn’t have at least 100+ games into the deck.
I am going to be covering ZoroToad for the rest of my article because I think this deck is being heavily slept on right now and has potential to be one of the best decks for the event. We saw the deck rip off a string of good results last season. Dead Draw Gaming’s Caleb Gedemer brought home Daytona Beach Regionals with the deck with his teammate Danny Altavilla finishing in the top 4 as well. We also saw Caleb finish 2nd at Dallas regionals with ZoroToad but a different variant. In Dallas, they did not play the Hypnotoxic Laser/Virbank City Gym package whereas they did in Daytona Beach. The “Laserbank” combo helps do relevant damage versus tag team decks to be able to close out the game much faster. Doing 40 damage max per turn would take forever to be able to finish the game and would result in a lot of ties whereas doing up to 70 per turn and potentially putting your opponent’s active to sleep is very powerful. Having access to Quaking Punch turning off items for your opponent has always been good and being able to put your opponent to sleep while locking items is so detrimental to their game-plan. You guys have seen this deck in action and do well in the past so I want to just jump straight into the list I would be playing for Richmond, explain why I play some techs I do and run through a few matchups quick.
This is the list I am playing as of right now. I currently don’t have any changes I would make to the list except maybe cutting Adventure Bag for a Pal Pad, but I have really liked it when I’ve gotten to use it. Everything feels like it has a slot in the deck. Let’s talk about some of the inclusions I made!
I am very excited to talk about this card the most. Trumbeak has been one of my favorite cards in the deck from all the games I have played to the point where I have gotten so much use out of it that I can not stress enough to not cut this card. Its main use is for the Sableye/Garbodor matchup. It sounds strange but it’s one of, if not the best, answer to the lock they put you in. Let me explain further; SableGarb’s lock versus ZoroToad is recycling Faba with Garbage Collection (Trubbish NVI’s attack) because you are hopefully Quaking Punching them every turn. If they Garb lock you, that’s okay because what you hope to do is Faba their float stone on their Garbotoxin that they are sure to have out. If they don’t, that makes this step of the process 100x easier than it should be. As soon as they garbage collection the faba back on the top of their deck, you can trade “x” times and grow a big hand, Ultra Ball for Trumbeak and then lost zone their Faba so they can’t get rid of your double colorless energies (DCE’s) anymore. Without Trumbeak, ZoroToad typically lost in four turns or however many turns it took for SableGarb to get the lock going because no ZoroToad list that I have seen succeed has played basic energy mainly because there is no space and no need to. I also love Trumbeak because if you know your opponent has a very low deck and they need say Guzma to win the game and they have one left in deck or so you think, you can Trumbeak and hope to hit it so it disrupts your opponent heavily and potentially brings you back into the game. I have had a lot of fun using this card and I am so glad that a one card inclusion can lock up a pretty unfavorable matchup without it.
This card is very hard to explain on paper. In my testing groups, I have gotten the question multiple times of “Do you really need guru?” or “What purpose does it serve?”. I don’t really answer these questions solidly every time because I don’t know how to explain it. I find Oranguru very useful, don’t get me wrong but I just can’t put the words to it. I find it to be a very game-based resource. There are some games where I feel like I am blowing my opponent out of the water and I don’t ever need to resource management and then there are games where I feel like I can win by deck out because my opponent is mis-managing resources or I can just lock them because they over-bench and I loop laser bank combos, hammers, etc. Turbo decks do sometimes give this deck a little bit of an issue just because of sheer tempo but they are very fragile to consistency and late game low hand sizes. If you can get going after they explode and loop a lock on them, you can comeback into the game. Sleep flips are very key to the matchup/s and if you can get sleep to stick for a turn or two in a row, you’re going to be in great shape.
Something I want to note quick is that I don’t have any of the controlling cards that I mentioned ZoroControl and SableGarb abuse such as Chip Chip, Stamp, Surge, etc. I don’t think they can be added into this variant of the deck successfully simply because you can’t loop that combo and item lock all together. I think you would have to decide whether you want one or the other. The old ZoroToad variant Caleb Gedemer played to Dallas sort of had a combo to it. I think this variant could be good still, but I have not put any games into the deck and don’t really know how I would build it but don’t count it out. Let’s go ahead and talk about a few matchups I would expect to hit at Richmond and how to approach them.
SableGarb Slightly Favored to Favored
I sort of explained the matchup a little bit back when I explained Trumbeak because that’s really all the matchup is. If you conserve your items + energy accordingly and don’t draw bad, there shouldn’t be a way for you to lose in theory. SableGarb fiends off its item usage and Quaking Punch is such a detriment to their game plan that they pretty much can’t do anything for the whole game. If you draw terribly and you can’t get the Faba/Trumbeak combo off, you’re going to be either very far behind depending on how your opponent draws or out of the game completely. I feel confident in this matchup though and would not be worried about it going into VA.
I think this matchup is better than a lot of people portray it to be. Archie’s fiends off items like SableGarb and if they don’t get turn one Archie’s off, they pretty much lost the game. Their deck is not very consistent anyway so turn one Archie’s is very unlikely in theory but of course it happens. Even if they do get the Archie’s going, you’re still okay because of Hypnotoxic Laser and sleep flips being very key to the matchup. If they do get a big Mewtwo & Mew-GX built up and have a ton of energy on it, you can just Guzma their Blastoise and let it sit up there while being item locked. Archie’s is such a high roll deck and I feel like the consistency of our deck just gives us a big advantage from the start. Again, Archie’s is something I would not worry about facing going into this regional.
Turbo Dark Even to slightly unfavored
I think Turbo Dark is going to be one of the highest played decks in the room. I do think 20% of the room will be playing it. The matchup is very even in how I’ve been testing it. The sheer tempo of Turbo Dark makes it potentially unfavored but if they don’t start the absolute flames, Quaking Punch really affects them and how many energies they can get on the board. Laser flips again are a huge part of the matchup because you want them to not attack as many turns as possible. Turbo Dark also if they do not thin correctly really struggles with a late game N and you can potentially Plumeria your way to victory. This matchup I am slightly scared to hit because of the explosive turn ones that Turbo Dark can have but I feel confident in my gameplay to pull it out.
They can play Faba 4 times and win the game, nothing you can do to control that. If they flare grunt and skull grunt two energy, just scoop up the game. If you know your opponent is playing ZoroControl, hope they don’t know what you’re playing, ask to ID and hope they take it.
Mewtwo/Gardy Slightly Favored to Favored
This matchup hasn’t been as bad as I thought it would be. Yes, they do have access to Lost Boomerang GX and are able to pick off two of your Zorua and lost zone them. I have gotten that done to me multiple times, but I find myself still winning games because of Sudowoodo and Toad with Fury Belt item locking my opponent. Looping Toad’s versus Mewtwo is so hard for them to overcome and you can setup your Zoroark’s in the time you’re looping the toads. At the very end of the game, you can afford to just take your last 3 prizes with Zoroark because you’ll be in such a good position and they can’t really deal with a Zoroark two shotting their MewMew with Laserbank full bench Riotous Beating. I would love to hit this matchup because I have tested it so much and know how it goes to the point where I can beat my opponent no matter what they do unless I draw poorly.
Overall, I think ZoroToad is one of the strongest plays going into this event. It has access to win versus every deck in the format and you take a lot of 50-50’s with a few favorable/unfavorable matchups. I do highly recommend you do not go into this event playing this deck without at least 20 games put into each of the matchup’s I listed above except for ZoroControl. If you can figure out your turns and what you need to do each turn with attacking, supporter choice, when to laser, etc. I think a good pilot can go very far with this deck. If you made it all the way to here, thank you so much for reading this article. It means a lot to me since I am just starting to get into the writing side of the game. If you liked this article, there are very many more to come! I would love to shout out Flipside Gaming for bringing me on as a new writer for them and I can not wait for what the future holds for us as a partnership. I would love to shout out my sponsor, Nerd Rage Gaming, for always having my back ever since the true start of me playing competitively and being a great group of friends. I also would love to shout out my fellow writing partner Luke River Morsa for telling me to go for it because I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t give it a shot. If you don’t know who I am, you can go check out my twitter @geisslertcg and give me a follow. Thank you guys again for reading this and I will catch you all on the flipside!
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