“Beauty and the Bees:” a Look at Volcanion, Rainbow Road, and Vespiquen

Hey kiddies, it’s Phinny again. Over the last week I played a lot of Pokemon – probably too much. But you know what that means, don’t you? I made a bunch of lists!

My last piece covered some more fringe decks that may have been too abstract, in hindsight. So this piece will cover three of the more commonly-played meta decks. With the Break membership coming out soon, I have been developing lists for decks that I normally would not use. For example, I would almost never use Volcanion normally, but I found out that I actually really like the deck. I made a pretty unique list that I found to be consistent, with a great late-game.

I developed a Rainbow Road list through some coaching and testing. For some unique metas that might be more common in Seniors or Juniors, Rainbow Road can actually be a great play. I initially had an issue with the deck’s set up and overall consistency, but with a couple tweaks and a change in the Pokemon line, that problem was quickly solved.

My last list is what came out of about 16 hours of testing on Friday and Saturday. I realized that Vespiquen could beat Darkrai pretty handily, and ran with it. I took a look at Dylan Bryan’s second-place list, and decided I would go in a completely different direction with mine. His was great, however I think a different approach should be taken for this new meta.

Vespiquen is no doubt my favorite deck in Standard now, and I consider it to be the new “Best Deck in the Format.” Through testing, I also realized that the deck is not easy to play from any angle. Maybe it’s just the way I built my list, but I actually can’t remember the last time I had to play so well to make a deck function. With around 100 micro-decisions per game that could each potentially lead to a loss, these bees do not let you make mistakes.

This is definitely my suggestion for any League Cups this weekend. Last time I said something was BDIF, it was the Darkrai list I posted, so hopefully I have gained a little bit of credibility!

(Before I get into the decks, I want to mention that the Break page will be released a little later than expected. Moving into my apartment took more time than anticipated; I should only need another week or so, though. February 1st would be a nice, even date to release it. Anyway, back to the article.)

Volcanion

Pokémon Р16 Trainers Р33 Energy Р11
4 Volcanion EX 4 Professor Sycamore 4 VS Seeker 11 Fire
3 Volcanion 2 N 4 Ultra Ball
3 Shaymin EX ROS 2 Lysandre 3 Trainers’ Mail
1 Salamence EX 1 Olympia 3 Fighting Fury Belt
1 Hoopa EX 2 Escape Rope
2 Staryu PRC 2 Max Elixir
2 Starmie EVO 1 Dive Ball
1 Float Stone
1 Switch
3 Sky Field

Volcanion wasn’t doing it for me initially. I hated how the damage output and energy acceleration were based on hitting energy and Energy Retrieval the right time. I decided that Starmie was going to be the best solution. The time when it is easiest to hit energy is early game, meaning the late game help from Starmie is exactly what I need. With Yveltal/Garbodor plummeting in play (as it should), and Mewtwo/Garbodor seeing a little less, Starmie gets a whole lot better.

I don’t see this deck as necessarily being an amazing play, but more as a consistent deck that can beat anything other than Greninja.

You probably have a couple questions about the list. The Max Elixir count is very uncommon, but I think it fits this deck. People have this weird fear of playing a count of a card that they think is not normal for a deck. I said it when I played five Water in Toad Bats, and I’ll say it again: there is no reason to be afraid of a weird count, if it is correct in the deck.

I find that Max Elixir really isn’t the best card in Volcanion. In a deck like Yveltal, or Darkrai, where you need energy ASAP, four is great. But in a deck that accelerates twice as much energy for each attack, and wants to have energy in hand for Steam Up, I think two is fine. In certain cases, you will need to get an extra energy in play to keep tempo, and that’s why I like two. But really, if a card came up that benefited the deck more, it would be my first cut. The whole reason why I like this deck is because of Steam Up. Elixir takes the energy straight from your deck to a Pokemon without giving you that chance. Most of the time, I would rather get the energy on a Pokemon by first using Steam Up, and then using Power Heater. The meta isn’t too fast at the moment, so you have time to go the Steam Up/Power Heater route for some extra turns, rather than using Power Heater once and then attacking aggressively with Volcanion EX.

People tend to overlook the non-EX Volcanion, just as they did with baby Yveltal in Darkrai. Volcanion is a great attacker, just as Yveltal is. You can easily do 190 with Steam Artillery by your third turn. I’m not a huge fan of quickly attacking with Volcanion EX, simply because once one goes down, that is one less Steam Up that you can use for the rest of the game. There is also the downside of not being able to attack on the next turn, which means you will need Rope, Switch, or Olympia. There is no need to go incredibly aggressive with this deck – just slow down, and use Power Heater for a couple turns.

Salamence is another reason why I like the deck now. You gain a control element by limiting how many Shaymin your opponent can play. This is the same reason why I liked Dedenne a year or so ago: even when the Yveltal player knows you play it, you force them to play differently. With Salamence, you create a situation where they either play differently, causing their deck to lack consistency, or allow you to hit for heavy damage with an attacker that doesn’t have some of the downsides that Volcanion has. It’s also important to have another attack if you don’t play Super Rod.

You may already know this from previous pieces, but I do not like Super Rod in most decks. The first change I made to my recent Darkrai list was dropping Super Rod. None of my Mega decks play any Super Rod, and in some other lists I replace Rod with Buddy-Buddy.

Olympia is a great card in general. I’m not sure why people like Ranger over Olympia, other than because it is a counter to Jolteon. At a League Cup last weekend, I saw two players using Glaceon/Jolteon decks… and they both had zero wins by Round 2. This is because Jolteon is easy to get around, and not a good counter to basic Pokemon. My list plays two Escape Rope, two Lysandre, and four VS Seeker. Any player that knows how to use their resources properly will be able to evade Flash Ray. In the rare situation where you cannot find an out to get away from Jolteon lock, go for a tie. Seriously! They do 70 damage each turn indefinitely, and easy to stall around.

Dive Ball is a cute little addition that benefits Starmie consistency. I find that this deck gets Starmie out by Turn 2 pretty consistently. Even when Dive Ball doesn’t search out one of the starfish, it gives you another out to Volcanion. A card that searches out eight Pokemon in the deck for free seems very worth it to me.

Recently, many of my lists have started dropping the 3rd N in favor of another Shaymin. I like this change in any deck that wants to use Set Up more than once per game. If you need to use Set Up twice in the early game pretty often, prizing one will mess with your strategy frequently. The other great thing about a third Shaymin is having one more out to draw you your win condition late game. If you allow yourself one extra Shaymin in the late game, those N’s to two cards will turn Ultra Ball into the card you need to win. In fact, because of Space Beacon, getting N’d to one card can turn your Ultra Ball to Shaymin. Just another reason why I love Starmie!

I actually don’t think I would consider this deck without Starmie. The card provides so much more than initially meets the eye. For example, later in the game if you are running low on cards in your deck, and you need to get your deck count up, you can continue to use Space Beacon, making your hand count one card higher each turn. Over three turns, that becomes three more cards that you can shuffle back into your deck.

Starmie also helps to conserve resources. People don’t tend to think about this benefit as much, but if you have the ability to bring cards back from the discard at any point, you can conserve that VS Seeker that you don’t want to discard off of Ultra Ball. I can think of an occasion almost every game where I have to give up a card that I want to keep because of Ultra Ball, and Starmie gives you a bigger cushion. You can’t have this cushion on the first turn, but with this list, you can get it quickly enough to get the benefit before you have too many occasions where you have to discard stuff that you need.

Overall, I like that this deck has so little that it absolutely needs. I remember in 2014 when Virizion/Genesect was a top-tier deck all season because of that fact alone, and then it won Worlds.

I hope you guys give this list a shot. If you have read everything I wrote so far, I think you will find that this kind of list does work when you play it correctly.

Rainbow Road

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