For everyone who isn’t travelling to Hawaii in a few weeks, we all have a brand new Black and White-on format to look forward to. Pre Releases for the upcoming set start in a few weeks time, and it really looks like it will add some more viable decks to our format. There are going to be some immediate changes to get used to, such as the lack of Junk Arm meaning resource management is a whole lot more important, but overall I think that Play! Pokemon made the right decision with this rotation.
Today, I’m going to start analysing all the decks that we can expect to be heavily played at Battle Roads, a prediction that is becoming a lot more easier for everyone with the information that we get from Japan. Although a lot of playable decks now will transfer over and continue to stay popular, such as Zekrom/Eelektrik and Darkrai, you guys really don’t want to hear me describing the same decks that you already know pretty well. Instead, I’m going to cover a deck made up of Pokemon which are all from the next set – Garchomp/Altaria.
Before we get started, here’s my deck list as a starting point:
4 Professor Juniper
4 Rare Candy
4 Pokemon Catcher
2 Super Rod
3 Level Ball
2 Ultra Ball
2 Max Potion
7 Fighting Energy
4 Blend Energy
Thoughts on the Deck
First of all, I’m going to assume within reason that you guys know what the main cards in this deck do, although I may explain them briefly. If you’re unsure, go to Pokebeach and check out the scans there – it’s a great resource if you’re not already aware.
There isn’t a great deal of complexity to Garchomp – it’s just a Pokemon that hits for a lot of damage, while needing relatively little energy. For just one Fighting energy, you can hit for 60 damage with ‘Sonic Cutter’, or for a Fighting energy and Water energy, 100 damage although you have to discard the top two cards of your deck with ‘Dragon Blade’. Having 140HP and only giving up one prize card is actually pretty good in an EX heavy metagame. It’s pretty unlikely that a Tornadus, Mewtwo or Darkrai EX will be able to knock out a Garchomp in one hit, and although that situation is also the same for Garchomp, you’re only giving up one prize card as opposed to taking two. In addition, since it only needs one energy to attack, Max Potion is a great inclusion to help heal off any damage, since you can just attach another energy and continue attacking.
Altaria makes a great partner for Garchomp, and it’s pretty easy to see why. It’s Ability means that all your Dragon type Pokemon hit for 20 more damage, and best of all, you’re not just limited to one Altaria’s ability at a time. If you can set up just two Altaria at once for example, Garchomp is hitting for a very solid 100 damage for just one energy. Even though Altaria will be sitting on the bench for hopefully the whole game, I included four Swablu and three Altaria in this list. With just 80HP, it’s an easy target for the opponent to Catcher into the active position and knock out when they can’t take a prize otherwise, so you can expect to set up several in one game. The other issue is that Swablu only has a lacklustre 40HP, making it vulnerable to being donked, so playing more Basic Pokemon should increase the odds of drawing into two or more in the opening hand.
Emolga is the final Pokemon included in the deck, and just helps to get everything started at the beginning of the game. With the rotation of Smeargle, Dual Ball and Pokemon Collector, decks in general will be a lot slower to set up, and search out Basic Pokemon. Since you can’t set up a Garchomp on the first turn, it makes sense to use Emolga to help set up the field, and it’s ‘Call for Family’ attack searches out two Basic Pokemon and puts them onto the bench, for just a Colourless energy. It’s free retreat makes it useful to keep on the bench during a game, and the addition of two Switch should increase the chances of being able to use it on the first turn.
The Supporter lines haven’t changed a lot from what we’re normally used to, aside from the inclusion of Bianca. I feel that with the rotation of Professor Oak’s New Theory, Bianca and Cheren are both suitable replacements, it just depends on the deck you’re playing, and the average size of it’s hands. Since I added Ultra Ball over Pokemon Communication, and took into account the fact that most cards in hand can be played onto the field, it made more sense to go with Bianca.
I also noticed that some other lists run three Pokemon Catcher or Rare Candy, but I’m not a big fan of this idea. With four Professor Juniper and two Ultra Ball in the list, it’s easy to discard important resources even if you don’t want to, and there’s no Junk Arm to get them back. Pokemon Catcher and Rare Candy are both essential to winning particular matchups, and using perhaps only one or two per game just doesn’t cut it.
Another funny addition might be the fact that I play not one, but two Super Rod. It’s really important to always have Altaria set up on the bench, and since the deck only runs three copies, it’s easy to run out of them quickly. Super Rod means that you can constantly cycle them back into play, and running two copies makes it much easier to draw into. It’s also important to note that in the mirror match, it pretty much comes down to who runs out of Garchomp more quickly. Since Garchomp is weak to Dragon, the opponent only needs to hit for 60 damage with one Altaria in play to knock it out, and even hesitating to respond to that knock out for a couple of turns can lose you the game. Running two Super Rod means you can put them straight into the deck and improve your chances of drawing back into them, and the four copies of Rare Candy and three Gabite mean you have several ways to evolve those Gibles back into Garchomp again.
The final card worth talking about is Blend energy, another new card to come out from Dragons Exalted, and one that is definitely worth stocking up on. It’s a bit like Prism Energy, but only provides a Water, Fire, Lightning, or Metal energy at one time, but isn’t limited to Basic Pokemon. It makes perfect sense here as it gives the option of a Water Energy for ‘Dragon Blade’, but still let’s you use ‘Sonic Cutter’ if you can’t draw into any Fighting Energy. Even though opposing Garchomps can discard any Special energy attached to your own with ‘Sonic Cutter’, your Garchomp is most likely going to be knocked out anyway, so it doesn’t matter.
This is a deck that you can definitely expect to see play at Battle Roads, especially thanks to it’s cheap price tag, due to it not needing any expensive EX Pokemon. I think that provided your deck list is consistent enough to continually set up Garchomps when needed, it has very solid matchups against a lot of the other decks out there, and can give EX Pokemon big problems in the prize exchange. We know that it’s definitely a part of Japan’s metagame, although it doesn’t appear to be one of the most successful decks, and it will be great to reintroduce Stage Two Pokemon to the format again!