There were a lot of interesting decks at US Nationals outside of the Top 8, and today I want to look at two of those. Now that Karen has almost certainly been confirmed to not be in Steam Siege, it’s likely that the metagame for Worlds will be similar to that from US Nationals, and so it’s a good idea to explore some new decks and ideas that people used!
All deck lists can be found on Pokemon.com.
Christopher Schemanske’s Fighting/Vileplume
I’m not sure how many of you will be familiar with this deck, which is pretty intriguing. Usually we only see Vileplume paired with Vespiquen, which tries to lock the opponent out of Items on the first turn while prioritising aggression, hoping to quickly win the game before running out of resources.
This take on Vileplume is very different, as you’ll be able to see in the list below.
3 Carbink #50
3 Carbink BREAK
2 Zygarde EX
1 Zygarde #53
1 Lucario EX
2 Shaymin EX
4 Professor Sycamore
4 Ultra Ball
3 Trainers Mail
2 Fighting Fury Belt
1 Heavy Ball
1 Level Ball
4 Forest of Giant Plants
As you can see from the list, Christopher ran no cards like Acro Bike or Unown, only two Shaymin EX, no Battle Compressor, a 2-2-2 Vileplume line, ten energy, and fifteen Supporter cards. This isn’t simply a version of Vespiquen/Vileplume that has removed one attacking line for another, but a different deck altogether.
Here, the idea is to slowly wear down the opponent, until you’re in a position to take over the game state and win. Carbink’s ability means EX Pokemon are blocked from damaging it, and the BREAK can begin to accelerate energy to your other Pokemon like Zygarde EX and Lucario EX. Once you have Vileplume out, it’s much harder for the opponent to access Hex Maniac or Lysandre (either with Battle Compressor or VS Seeker) to play around the Carbink, meaning it should have frequent immunity.
Zygarde EX and Lucario EX both pack a punch, and between the four AZ and Carbink BREAK, you can easily pick up a damaged EX and discard the energy attached to it, send out a Carbink BREAK, bench that EX Pokemon, and reaccelerate those energy back to it. Under Item lock the opponent is going to have issues streaming attackers, and healing and reusing the same Pokemon over and over makes it even harder on them.
You also have the single copy of Jirachi, which can help to keep decks like Vespiquen or Night March in check, that would otherwise have no problems with Carbink due to being non EX Pokemon. Don’t forget that under Item lock the opponent won’t be able to use Puzzle of Time to retrieve their DCE, so each one you discard is even more painful.
Something nice about this deck is that it’s very much designed to play under it’s own Item lock. Not only should you have the opportunity to play some of them like Fighting Fury Belt before Vileplume comes into play, but the deck is largely based around heavy Supporter counts, meaning that your turns shouldn’t be restricted much by the lack of Items. You don’t run VS Seeker, Acro Bike, or a fourth Trainers Mail for example, and so you’re used to playing without those regardless of Vileplume.
Of course, the downside of not playing cards like these is that it does decrease your chances of a fast Vileplume. When this happens, you can try to hide behind a Carbink or Jirachi and drag out the game, to buy time for you to get a Vileplume into play. A good play can also be to use an N just after playing down Vileplume, so that you can shuffle away the opponent’s hand that they’ve probably built in anticipation of an incoming Vileplume, with cards like Professor Sycamore and Hex Maniac.
Jack Bowen’s Greninja
Greninja is a deck that had a lot of great results in the months leading up to US Nationals… then didn’t really make any impact at all at the main event itself. Only two decks in the Top 64 were Greninja, which is pretty crazy when a lot of people had considered Greninja one of the best decks leading into it, especially with the addition of N from Fates Collide which seemed a perfect reprint for the deck.
I think it’s still a strong deck choice that perhaps suffered with the way the metagame shifted against it. Waterbox was already a tough matchup, and with some Darkrai/Giratina players including Garbodor and some Night March players running a Vespiquen line, it’s a lot tougher for Greninja to do as well.
3 Greninja BREAK
4 Professor Sycamore
4 Dive Ball
4 Ultra Ball
1 VS Seeker
3 Super Rod
1 Town Map
2 Muscle Band
1 Bent Spoon
1 Float Stone
1 Rough Seas
As you can see, this isn’t your typical Greninja deck!
A lot of people dropped Octillery completely from their lists, but this version runs a 2-2 line alongside three Wally, which allows you to often set one up on the first turn. This is great because while you can also Wally a Froakie, that’s only primarily useful going second (since you can then attack with Frogadier on the same turn). Between the four N and 2-2 Octillery line, this deck gets a HUGE consistency boost, which is something Greninja usually struggles with.
Some of the room for these cards comes at the expense of VS Seeker, which is cut to just a single copy. While this isn’t a big issue for the draw Supporters since the deck is now able to run four Sycamore and four N, it means you have to be a lot more conservative about using the single Fisherman and Lysandre. To prevent running out of energy, instead of including more VS Seeker or Fisherman, it runs three copies of Super Rod which can recycle Water Energy without taking up the Supporter slot for that turn.
A couple of players made the Top 8 in the Italian Nationals using Hard Charm in Greninja, but this list sticks with Muscle Band. However, it also runs a single Bent Spoon, which prevents all effects of attacks (aside from damage) done to the Pokemon it’s attached to. While this will sometimes have niche uses, it’s main one is to give a Greninja BREAK with it attached immunity from an opposing Shadow Stitching ability lock in the mirror. This puts the opponent in a situation where if they can’t discard the Bent Spoon, they’re dealing 10 damage a turn after Rough Seas, while you’re able to Shadow Stitching back while dropping additional damage with use of that particular Greninja BREAK’s abilities. I’m not sure if it turned out to be worth the space considering the lack of Greninja presence at US Nationals, but it is a very clever tech for the mirror.
It’s also interesting to see the single copy of Rough Seas. Along with VS Seeker this was the other major cut to find room for the 2-2 Octillery line and three Wally. While it’s obviously a hinderance against other decks which would play different counter stadiums, you have to weigh up whether the added consistency from Octillery or hitting a turn one Frogadier is better in the long run. If you’re playing against say Night March, will they be able to replace your Rough Seas with a Dimension Valley, or attack with Joltik most of the time with ease? Probably. But does the added draw from Octillery allow you to set up more Greninja and hit more energy, meaning you can make better comebacks from a prize deficit? Definitely.
Lastly, this deck also plays a single Splash energy, which isn’t something we’ve seen a lot in Greninja decks. While it can’t be discarded to deal damage with any of your abilities, it’s quite easy to conserve the single copy in your deck which is cool. For example, you can attach it to Greninja, play a Sycamore and discard your hand, then use Moonlight Slash to put it back in your new one. If you anticipate that your opponent has access to Enhanced Hammer, you can keep it off the board permanently by continually returning it to the hand with Moonlight Slash, and prevent them from discarding it. When the opportunity arises, you can put it on a Pokemon which is about to be KO’d, and get all of those Pokemon (sometimes Froakie, Frogadier, Greninja, and Greninja BREAK) back into your hand.