A couple of weeks ago, San Jose hosted an Expanded Regional Championship, with just under 400 Masters playing the TCG in it.
It feels like Standard receives the most attention online, and Expanded sits in it’s shadow a lot of the time. I think that’s because it feels like Expanded as a format is solved, whether Standard is new and exciting, where there’s still room to innovate. In that format, we’ve seen the most successful deck change from Mega Mewtwo, to Darkrai/Giratina, to Mega Gardevoir, to Yveltal in the space of a few months. Whether in Expanded, the same decks doing well now (Yveltal, Trevenant, Seismitoad etc) were also at the top last year.
Is this fair? Are there strong but undiscovered decks in Expanded out there waiting for someone to pick them up? With such a large card pool you’d think so, but it’s still tough to break through the most dominant decks and have good matchups against them.
A Carbink/Landorus/Zygarde deck was piloted at San Jose by a small group of players to good success, and shows that while it’s not easy, there are card combinations out there that can give the top decks trouble. When you can be confident going into a tournament of what the most popular three or four decks are going to be, that makes it a lot safer to play an anti metagame pick that purposely targets and picks on those decks in particular.
Let’s have a look at the most successful decks from San Jose with thanks to The Charizard Lounge for collecting the data:
Number of Top 32 placements
Yveltal – 6
Carbink BREAK/Zygarde/Landorus – 3
Trevenant – 3
Greninja – 3
Darkrai EX with Dragons- 3
Mega Manectric – 2
Mega Gardevoir – 2
Blastoise – 2
Sableye/Garbodor – 1
Darkrai EX (turbo) – 1
Rainbow Road – 1
Accelgor/Wobbuffet – 1
Vespiquen/Flareon – 1
Seismitoad/Crobat – 1
Wailord – 1
Primal Groudon – 1
Number of Top 8 placements
Yveltal EX – 4
Greninja – 1
Carbink BREAK/Zygarde/Landorus – 1
Darkrai EX (turbo) – 1
Sableye/Garbodor – 1
Yveltal was the best performer here, paired with the Maxies combination of Gallade and Archeops, that help to balance out the deck and give it answers to pretty much anything out there. I think if it wasn’t for Yveltal, that Trevenant would be the best deck in Expanded, so having a strong matchup there is also a solid reason for picking up Yveltal. While it had six placements in the Top 32, four of those progressed to the Top 8, and one of those ended up winning the event. Getting to the Top 32 from 393 Masters isn’t easy, but these results seem to indicate that even as the event went past that point, Yveltal was clearly superior to the other decks in the field and had no trouble coming out on top.
The metagame is actually pretty diverse for Expanded at the moment. Sixteen different decks were featured in the Top 32, which means that on average, each deck had slightly over two placements. It’s not like any of those decks fluked their way in there – Accelgor/Wobbuffet, Vespiquen/Flareon, and Sableye/Garbodor all had just the one placement for example, but it’s not that unreasonable to think that any of them were capable of winning the entire event with the right factors in place.
What has happened to Night March? Not a single Night March deck made the Top 32, which is pretty incredible when you think that sixteen other decks did. I don’t think it’s suddenly become bad or anything, and it arguably has a positive Yveltal matchup as well. Maybe it was scared off by the potential threat of Karen – after all Vespiquen/Flareon only had one placement in the Top 32 as well. However, not many people are going to want to give up a spot in their deck for Karen at the next Expanded tournament looking at these results, which could open the opportunity for Night March to make an impact again.
While the Expanded format for a while has mostly consisted of the best rotated decks from Standard, it seems to be changing up a bit here. Greninja was tied for the second most successful deck, and others popular in Standard right now such as Mega Gardevoir and Rainbow Road did well. What’s interesting is that with Yveltal or Trevenant, we know what rotated cards they should be paired with, since they were once playable with them in Standard. However, what cards from Expanded might you want to add to a deck you’re already used to playing with in a more restricted format at the moment?
Alex spoke about Sableye/Garbodor in his last article, and while it only had one placement here, I think it’s by far the most underrated deck in Expanded. It feels like people shy away from playing it because it’s so different and has a reputation for being hard to play, as well as the constant pressure of time, but at the same time it’s so strong and a lot of players are very uncomfortable playing against it. It’s not like Sableye/Garbodor is a closely guarded secret that might suddenly rise in popularity, I just feel like most people play Expanded as an after thought and don’t want to dedicate a lot of time to learning a deck like Sableye/Garbodor for it. With day two swiss and no top cut matches until the Top 8, the downside of playing in timed top cut rules isn’t as big a deal as it used to be either.