It sure seems like a long time since we’ve had to think about Expanded. We’ve had a run of major Standard tournaments recently with Nationals and Worlds taking place, but the North American Regional circuit kicks off this weekend in Arizona, in what is an Expanded event.
Even though it’s been about five months since Spring Regionals (which were the last major Expanded tournaments), I don’t think it’s changed too much since then. Unlike Standard, Expanded didn’t rotate out any older sets over the summer, meaning the card pool is pretty much the same, just with the addition of Steam Siege.
However, there are a few things to keep in mind, so let’s have a look at them…
Karen came out on the 21st of September as a promo in the Battle Arena Decks: Rayquaza vs Keldeo, meaning it’ll be legal for play in every Expanded Regional in North America this season.. except for Arizona. This means that with the exception of League Challenges, Arizona will be the only major Expanded tournament to use this particular card pool. I know Karen is only a one card difference, but I think it’s inclusion in the format is notable enough to consider them as two different formats.
Night March is one of the best decks at the moment (we’re not completely free of it yet!) and Vespiquen/Flareon is always a contender, and it makes sense that both will take up a sizeable metagame portion in Arizona now that Karen can’t be played.
The addition of Steam Siege
Since Spring Regionals back in April, we’ve had the release of Steam Siege, which asks the question: are any of these cards going to impact Expanded in a notable way?
Pokemon Ranger will probably see play as a one off inclusion in Night March, which has a weakness to both Quaking Punch and Jolteon EX. However, I don’t really see a need for the majority of decks to give up a spot to play a copy of Pokemon Ranger.
Most of the best decks in Expanded (Yveltal, Night March, Seismitoad, M Rayquaza, Vespiquen/Flareon etc) rely on Special Energy to attack, and so a single Special Charge in any of those decks wouldn’t be the worst idea. However I’m not convinced it’s needed if you already play four Puzzle of Time, and by itself it’s a flukey way to rely on recovering Special Energy since you’ll often have to discard it early on, but it’s really nice when you can use it to it’s full capability.
Any deck which relies on a variety of bulky Pokemon can make the most use of Ninja Boy. Most of the best decks in Expanded right now either rely on a single attacker, or Pokemon which are evolutions, so Ninja Boy’s usability in Expanded is pretty limited. However, it’s worth keeping in mind for the right deck, like if you wanted to play a range of EX Pokemon such as Jolteon and Glaceon alongside Vileplume.
Lastly, as Fire gets a lot more support in Expanded with the use of cards like Blacksmith, it might be possible to build a viable Fire deck in it with cards like Volcanion EX, Volcanion, and even Pyroar and it’s BREAK. I lost to a Japanese player at the World Championships who finished 5-1-2 with that exact deck, which heavily utilised both Pyroar (one blocks Basics from attacking it, and the other’s ability allows you to drag out a Pokemon from the opponent’s bench by discarding a Fire energy, which is amazing against Trevenant in particular). He even played multiple copies of the BREAK as his main attacking outlet, which hits for a lot of damage while only giving up one prize.
The decks to beat
Ultimately I don’t think Steam Siege will change too much in Expanded, so it makes sense to revisit the results from Spring Regionals in April, to see what you’re most likely to play against.
Rather than looking at fifteen or twenty decks, I’ll just list the most popular ones that you should concentrate your efforts on beating.
Extremely likely to play over the course of the tournament:
Likely to play over the course of the tournament:
Any of those decks are good enough to win Arizona Regionals, and in particular I think Vespiquen/Flareon is really underrated.
Yveltal, Night March, and Trevenant are ultimately the three decks you most want to try and concentrate your efforts on beating, and if possible try to chose a deck that has favourable matchups against at least two of them. I think there is a small “rock, paper, scissors” game between those three decks, where Yveltal beats Trevenant, Trevenant beats Night March, and Night March beats Yveltal. I’m not sure I’d classify any of those matchups as completely one sided, but just advantageous for each of those decks.
Keep in mind that if people want to play it safe with their deck choice, they’ll probably gravitate to one of those three. If this is the case, and you’re worried about being metagamed against for playing one yourself, you might find the most success with a more niche deck that can be teched to help against those three decks.
Seismitoad/Crobat should already beat Night March, so if you can make changes to the deck to help against Trevenant (heavy counts of Hex Maniac or Lysandre, and four Rough Seas), or to help against Yveltal (heavy counts of energy denial like Crushing Hammer, Team Flare Grunt or Enhanced Hammer), then you have a solid option on your hands.
You can apply this sort of thinking to any of the decks listed, so try to think outside the box if you can and keep a step ahead of everyone else, in what will probably be a very predictable and safe metagame.