The World Championships are right behind us and as much as I’d love to discuss what the results mean for tournaments coming up, we have a more urgent matter on our hands: Fort Wayne Regionals are right around the corner on September 2nd and 3rd.
That means we have a limited amount of time and article space to help you prepare, so I’m going to leave Standard be for a tad. The first Standard Regional in the USA is September 30th and October 1st, leaving us more than enough time to talk about the effects of the rotation in the articles to come.
So the last Expanded Regional was a while ago and a lot of things have shaken that format up since then. Not one but two recent sets haven’t been legal for an Expanded Regionals yet: Burning Shadows and Guardians Rising. Considering what Guardians Rising in particular did for the format, I think it’s fair to declare that the results so far are almost null and void as far as their value for predicting what’s good is concerned.
Just like in Standard, the existence of Trashalanche Garbodor throws too big of a wrench in the plans of decks that used to be able to spam Items all day. Tapu Lele GX was also a big format changer in Standard, but I don’t think its existence changes Expanded a whole lot considering Jirachi EX has always been an option there.
Something else that shakes Expanded up completely is the ban of two formerly popular cards: Archeops NVI and Forest of Giant Plants. Both of them were (in my opinion rightfully) banned by organized play for being too constraining to the format. Paraphrasing Pokémon, they felt that while there were options for evolution decks to play around Ancient Power such as Wobbuffet, Evosoda and Hex Maniac, decks should not be forced to play these cards. The fact that Archeops can come around as early as turn 1, before any evolution could hit the field, was just too powerful.
While Archeops only really got broken with the release of Maxie’s Hidden Ball Trick and Battle Compressor (since it was otherwise impossible to get out quickly and consistently), Forest of Giant Plants has always been a pretty unhealthy card. The basically unlimited acceleration of Grass evolution gave it the nickname “Broken Vine Space”, after its predecessor Broken Time-Space. Between Decidueye, Vileplume, Forretress, Shiftry and possibly Trevenant (with the Grass Phantump), Forest of Giant Plants has been the enabler of too many broken or cheesy strategies that lead to either a turn 1 win or a turn 1 lock. I’m very glad that they decided to get rid of this enabler rather than banning individual pieces like Shiftry.
(Also, Shiftry is now unbanned, but this should affect exactly zero games in competitive play).
The effect of the Forest ban is fairly obvious: the ability to get out a turn 1 Vileplume is now out of the window, and with that the whole concept of a Vileplume deck probably is. Without that possibility of locking your opponent down turn 1 going first, while getting our own board set up, there is very little point in investing space into a Stage 2 line like Vileplume. Without Forest of Giant Plants we will probably not be seeing much of Decidueye either, as I expect the tempo of Expanded to be too high for it.
The Archeops ban will obviously affect the obvious dominator of the Expanded format: Yveltal/Maxies. For a long time this deck was the “test” for any other deck trying to make it: if your deck can’t you at least get a 50/50 against Yveltal/Maxies, it probably is not worth playing. Without Archeops, the Maxies part of this deck is going to be a bit harder to justify as it would only get you Gallade. Still, I think this deck or at least Yveltal is by no means done for, as it boasts a typing advantage over Trevenant that I think will be highly valuable.
What I know for sure is that the Archeops ban will lift a huge weight of the shoulders of evolution decks like Greninja, Raikou/Eelektrik and Flareon/Vespiquen. They used to be forced to run cards like Evosoda, Wally and Wobbuffet get around Ancient Power, which was very painful since evolution on its own takes up a lot of space. Now, players of these decks can instead devote that space for consistency.
So these two bans alone would be responsible for quite a bit of a shift in the metagame even if we didn’t have two new sets since the last tournament. All Vileplume and Decidueye variants are a goner, the best deck has one less tool to work with and evolution decks have one less thing to worry about.
Now let’s take a look at some of the other developments that may change the surface of the Expanded format.
The biggest game changers for Standard were, as mentioned before, Tapu Lele and Garbodor. I think they will have less of an effect on Expanded than they had on Standard. Several decks in Expanded have reason to play Jirachi EX over Tapu Lele: decks with Level Ball (such as Trevenant and Eelektrik) as well as decks with Hoopa EX (Turbo Dark and Mega Rayquaza). Whether some of these decks will survive the format shift to begin with is up in the air, of course.
Garbodor I think is a card that people will have to keep in mind, but I don’t think we’ll see the top tables flooded with them like we see in Standard. Although Expanded has been almost every bit as Item reliant as Standard was before Guardians Rising, Expanded has traditionally also seen a lot more Item lock with Seismitoad EX and Trevenant XY. So even though there was already a pretty big disincentive to play Items, people were still fine with running them.
In addition, the decks that do not Item lock in Expanded are often ones with single prize attackers that can afford to go all out with Items and still come out on top in a prize exchange with Garbodor. Think Night March and Flareon/Vespiquen.
That said there’s still one really strong combination with Garbodor that I think will be pretty powerful, but I’ll elaborate on that below.
The Burning Shadows card that affected Standard the most by far is Guzma. Like the gamechangers from Guardians Rising, I think having Guzma compared to Lysandre will not be as significant in Expanded because mobility is generally higher: there’s Keldeo EX with its Rush In/retreat shenanigans, for instance, as well as Darkrai EX’s Dark Cloak. Most decks should shift to playing 1-2 Guzma and 0 Lysandre, but there will be exceptions.
Speaking of replacing one supporter with another, I expect Acerola to take on the role of AZ in most decks where AZ was played in. It’s very powerful with a card like Seismitoad EX, where you can guarantee picking up a damaged Seismitoad and still conserve all the energy and tools invested into it, and I think this is worth the trade-off of not being able to pick up undamaged support Pokémon like Tapu Lele, Shaymin and Jirachi.
A card that hasn’t seen too much play in Standard that has more potentia in Expanded is Plumeria. Two high-finishing Worlds players, Frank Diaz and Sam Chen, played Plumeria in their Drampa/Garbodor list in Standard, but they didn’t get to play it very often on stream because the cost of playing Plumeria is enormous: your supporter for the turn as well as two precious cards from your hand.
In Expanded, this cost can be alleviated quite a bit with the inclusion of one or two Propagation Exeggcute. The card basically becomes a free-range Team Flare Grunt with those in your discard. This combination has scary consequences if pulled off successfully, but at least it’s held back a bit by the fact that Exeggcute is shut off by Garbotoxin Garbodor. The most powerful energy denial decks have traditionally been the ones that could also shut off abilities (such as Sableye/Garbodor), and since Exeggcute and Garbodor can’t exactly be in the same deck it’s possible that this combination might not get off the ground.
The rest of this article is available to Premium Membership subscribers only.
If you’d like to learn more about the Premium Membership program and sign up for just $6 a month, please click on the banner below!