Richmond Regionals: Control and Counter Meta

Luke Morsa
October 28, 2019

Richmond Regionals is just over a week away, and personally I am right in the midst of my most rigorous testing so far this season. Expanded is a format with such a large card pool and so many new cards since the last major. Last week I talked about the strongest cards in the format and some of my front runners, but now I have some concrete thoughts to share and also a link to my spreadsheet of seventeen expanded lists. The lists in my spreadsheet aren’t perfect, but their purpose is to give you a good starting point if you’d like to work with any of the given archetypes. 

Best Deck in the Format?


Zoroark Control and Sablegarb are being referred to as the best decks in the format. I respect both archetypes and have been practicing with both, but I cannot confidently say that one is outright better than the other. They are both control decks that have similar end-game strategies and they both require close-to-perfect piloting. 


Zoroark Control and Sablegarb both plan to use the Reset Stamp, Lt. Surge, Mars, Mars, Chip Chip Ice Axe strategy to effectively lock your opponent out of playing the game once they have taken enough prize cards. Zoroark Control uses Oranguru UPR’s Resource Management to keep the loop of disruptive cards going, while Sablegarb uses Junk Hunt from Sableye DEX. While Zoroark Control has the added draw power of Zoroark-GX to help dig through the deck consistently, Sablegarb has Garbodor Garbotoxin which shuts off abilities. I think Sablegarb is a bit harder to play, but as long as you can play with minimal error, either of these archetypes seem like great choices depending on your preference. 

My biggest questions about the control decks include:

  • Can they live up to their expectations if so much is already known about them? Control decks frequently perform well when they’re not expected and the element of surprise causes more games to go in control’s favor due to misplays and deck unpreparedness.
  • How popular will control decks be? Will players be afraid of such high numbers that mirror matches are a genuine concern?
  • What beats a perfectly piloted control deck? In testing, the only things that resulted in losses for control decks have been 1. very low-odds prizing, draws, and situations, 2. misplays, 3. turn 1 hand disruption, and 4. early burst power from Mewtwo & Mew Tag Team. 

Hand Disruption

I am not a fan of the “exodia” type hand control, which refers to something like turn 1 let loose or red card + chip chip ice axe followed by Unfair GX from Honchkrow GX. Instead, I have become more receptive to lighter hand disruption to set your opponent back even just a turn or two. This strategy is less all-in, since you aren’t building your deck around it. 


Two good examples for this hand disruption are Red Card(s) in Zoro Garb, and Let Loose + Power Plant in miscellaneous decks. I’ve been working with Let Loose/Red Card + Power Plant in Buzzwole/Garbodor Shrine which has turned into Buzz Garb Plant. The Power Plant + Marshadow combo isn’t expected to make your opponent dead draw for the entire game, but if it could just slow your opponent down every time then that would be acceptable. 

Trying Trev

I convinced myself that Trevenant seemed like a good call since it “should beat everything on paper” to quote what my testing groups had to hear from me. The Trevenant list in my list video / spreadsheet is where I started, and I also tried a Power Plant version instead of including Alolan Muk. The ability lock is important so you can trap something active and apply damage spread versus Turbo Dark, and it’s important versus Zoroark Control since their game depends on using Trade. 

Trevenant has been fragile and underwhelming so far, and not beating either of the 2 main decks I went in wanting to beat - Turbo Dark and Zoroark Control. Part of the thought process behind Trev was that decks are so item heavy in Expanded, so locking items must be a strong strategy. While it is very strong to lock items, i had games in testing where my opponent got 1 turn of items mid game and was able to thrive off of that single turn exempt from the item lock. 


With Night March and Buzzwole FLI/Garbodor GRI performing well this past weekend at League Cups, Trevenant gains some appeal from concrete facts. If these single prizer decks gain actual hype across the general population of the community, Trevenant has some autowins floating around. 

A Safe Pick, Or Going For the Win

Turbo Dark has been widespread as a consistent aggro deck and has reached such high levels of hype that cards in the deck are skyrocketing in price - like $20 Dark Patches for example. When there is a deck that the community believes is obviously strong and will be heavily played, we can expect certain trends to happen. I think looking at results from last year’s Toronto Regionals can show us some possibilities of what might happen this weekend in Richmond. 

Above is the Day 1 meta share from Toronto Regionals 2019. I’ll layout the way I am comparing these archetypes and these results to our current archetypes and how I think our results will look. 

Pikarom was the most hyped up deck going into Toronto. It was not incredibly hard to play, fairly consistent, and was really strong compared to existing Expanded archetypes. I compare Pikarom circa Toronto 2019 to our current Turbo Dark. Pikarom was the popular deck that the meta became centered around, and I believe Turbo Dark can have a similar effect. 

Archie’s was a fairly popular pick for Toronto and also fairly expected, but not to the same degree as Pikarom. Players also tend to prepare for/respect Archie’s less due to its volatility. Archie’s circa Toronto 2019 is closest compared to… Archie’s in our current meta in my opinion. I expect it to be somewhere around 2nd, 3rd, or 4th most popular at Richmond. I don’t think there are direct counters to Archie’s in the form of other archetypes, but heavier Power Plant inclusions in decks or Wobbuffet (Bide Barricade) might be popular. 

In response to Pikarom being hyped and an obvious play, Lucario-GX/Buzzwole-GX and HitmonWobb were played due to their favored Pikarom matchups. These were expected archetypes to counter the meta. I compare Lucario-GX/Buzzwole-GX and Hitmonwobb circa Toronto 2019 to Buzz Garb and Night March in our current Expanded meta. Buzz Garb and Night March are both being played to capitalize on all of the Turbo Dark that is expected to show up. 

Next was the deck that was brought to counter both the meta and the counter meta. Night March was the 6th most popular archetype in Day 1 of Toronto, and was not widely expected to show up in the week prior. As it got closer to Toronto, there were murmurings of Night March potentially being viable, but nobody came out and said that Night March was the play. Night March was good because it took favorable matchups to both the expected popular decks which were Pikarom and Archie’s, and one of the expected counter meta decks which was Lucario Buzzwole. I don’t think we have something on the radar that perfectly compares to Night March circa Toronto 2019, but one of the closest would probably be Trevenant in our current meta since it is favored vs the current counter meta. 

Next and possibly most interesting/important is what would we compare to the success that Trevenant saw in Toronto? Trevenant was not very much on the radar, but 16 players played it and 10 of those 16 players made it into day 2 which was a remarkable conversion rate. I think Zoro Garb will be one of the most popular decks, but this is usually the case in Expanded. Zoro Garb could be a great call, but it is not exactly a secret like Trev was last year.

Above is a flow chart depicting how I am looking at the current expanded meta

Above is my comparison of Toronto 2019 and Richmond 2020. 


Currently, I really don’t know what I will end up playing. What I can say is that Zoro Garb is a comfort pick for me. I think that Buzz Garb Plant and Night March are solid plays for points, Trevenant might be a solid play for points if enough people play Night March and Buzz Garb, and regardless of how many people counter it I expect Turbo Dark to do some well in some capacity. You can check out my Youtube video with base lists for 17 different Expanded archetypes, and a spreadsheet with PTCGO exports of all of the list. I will update the lists as often as I can leading up to the event to reflect what I am testing and I will change the deck’s title in the spreadsheet to represent when it was last updated. Thank you for reading and good luck!