“Deck-Outs For Harambe:” Exploring Houndoom and other Standard Mill Decks

Well met, Cut or Tap community! I’m back out of the woodwork of editing for the site, offering a look at a rather under-the-radar niche within our current Standard format.

If you’ve followed CoT throughout this season, you may recall my coverage about the infamous Wailord EX deck and its misadventures as my choice for Phoenix Regionals. Since Phoenix, I’ve had moderate success in League Challenges and I currently sit at 64 Championship Points, all of which came from mill decks (58 Wailord, 6 Houndoom). True, it’s a fairly low count at this point, but fortunately, the season is still young, with many more League Cups, Regionals, and an Internationals to be had!

I’ve discovered, amusingly, that playing mill decks is a quick way to become “that guy.” One of my friends just started playing this season, and asked me for deck suggestions. I got him hooked on my Houndoom list (the first one you’ll see today, in fact) and not only has he done remarkably well at his local events (especially for a beginner), but I’ve faced people whom I’d never played before, and they recognized my deck from having already played against it! (“Oh, you played Steve? Cool! Yeah, his list was my fault…. sorry.”)  In addition, a few of my Poke-friends – some of whom have played longer than I – have come up to ask about my take on building good mills. Still being fairly new to the competitive scene, it feels quite surreal!

Today, I’ll give a quick report of my San Jose experience, provide an in-depth look at the Houndoom Mill strategy (including a veritable bonanza for you list junkies!), and even showcase a couple of alternative, even more off-beat milling decks.

San Jose Regionals

I gave in to the perpetual temptation and ran Wailord once again for this year’s San Jose Regionals, using a very similar list from Phoenix. The big change in this list was the inclusion of Team Aqua’s Secret Base, as a tech against Greninja and as a general slower-down against anything else.

Regrettably, this one did not go nearly as well. Here’s the abridged version:

  • Round 1 vs Greninja: Aqua Bases FTW! We played a very long Game 1 that ended with a solid Rocket’s Handiwork hit while my opponent had one prize left. W, 1-0
  • Round 2 vs Mega Gardevoir: Single Flare Grunts were nowhere near enough to slow down Gardy’s Despair Ray. Between that problem, the perpetual (smart) removal of Lysandre-targets using D-Ray, and his use of Karen (ugh!), this one was no contest. L, 1-1
  • Round 3 vs Yveltal/Maxie’sThis was an interesting build that used Keldeo and Lasers, both of which seem unusual in Dark these days. With Keldeo nullifying any Lysandres, a surprisingly heavy Virbank City count, and very slow draws at the start, I suffered my first-ever loss to an Yveltal/Maxie’s without Sableye. Ouch. L, 1-2
  • Round 4 vs Vespiquen: Only in the bottom tables would you find Vespiquen at an Expanded event…. sigh. Vespiquen’s Grass-typing allowed for a perfect whaling slaughter. L, 1-3
  • Round 5 vs Sableye/Garbodor: Back-to-back auto-losses – one to knock me out of Top 32 contention; the other, Top 64 and any CP’s. L, 1-4
  • Round 6 vs Yveltal/Maxie’s: At this point, I’m playing for naught but the feel-good vibes of a winning record. This was an easy win, especially after he discarded his Sableye in both of our games. D’oh! W, 2-4
  • Round 7 vs Garchomp/Octillery: Garchomp has free retreat, low-energy cost, and an energy-acceleration attack, none of which make life pleasant for the Whales (or any mill, really). Lysandres on Octillery were nullified by my opponent’s multiple switching cards. With three auto-losses within four rounds, and no chance of a positive record, I called it a day. L, 2-5
  • DROP

I’m not superstitious by any means, so I wouldn’t call all the auto-losses a “sign” in itself to stop playing Wailord in Expanded (however much those auto-losses stung – and they did). Rather, my take-away’s from this one were:

  1. For those who insist on milling in Expanded Best-of-3, Alex Koch demonstrated that Sableye/Garbodor is the best option, due to its consistency and superior resource management ability. It also has far fewer bad matchups, whereas Wailord has more bad matchups in exchange for amazing matchups against a relative few. (Where were all the Trev and Vileplume hiding in San Jose? Seriously!!)
  2. Speaking of the volume of bad matchups, this Regionals showed me the importance of finding a consistent deck that has reasonable matchups across the field. Expanded has become a surprisingly diverse format, and you need a solid deck to break through the first couple rounds into the more conventional meta, OR to go against any possible fringe decks in the lower tables after a poor start.

Houndoom/Bunnelby

For those who are new to the Collectible Card Game realm, “milling” (named for the Magic: the Gathering card “Millstone”) is the strategy of seeking the “deck out” win condition – that is, running the opponent out of cards until s/he cannot draw at the start of turn. Historically, most mill decks in Pokemon never take Prize Cards *[see footnote] – some do, as we’ll see, but even then it’s not their primary win strategy.

Not content with trolling my opponents’ decks in the Expanded format alone, I started working heavily with the Houndoom/Bunnelby strategy in Standard. For a couple months after Phoenix, this was my go-to list (give or take a couple cards) for most of my Standard events:

Pokémon – 7 Trainers – 46 Energy – 7
4 Houndoom EX 4 Professor Sycamore 4 VS Seeker 7 Fire
2 Bunnelby 4 N 4 Ultra Ball
1 Shaymin EX ROS 4 Team Flare Grunt 4 Crushing Hammer
3 Lysandre 4 Max Potion
2 Team Rocket’s Handiwork 4 Trainers’ Mail
1 Delinquent 2 Enhanced Hammer
2 Fighting Fury Belt
1 Super Rod
2 Parallel City
1 Team Aqua’s Secret Base

…so you can imagine my unadulterated awe when I got word, during a local League Challenge, that there was a Houndoom deck among the top tables in London. (No joke! My Pokemon friends saw to it that I knew!)

Here’s that list:

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4 thoughts on ““Deck-Outs For Harambe:” Exploring Houndoom and other Standard Mill Decks

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  2. Hi Andy, thanks for the article! Have you tested with 2-2 Garb? With so much Volc. going around, seems like you need Garb or take the auto loss… thoughts?

    1. Hey there – thanks for reading! I have not tested a Garb variant, because I figure I’d need to drop the Rat line (which has beyond-proven its worth for staying) and I’d have to find cuts for two Float Stones as well (and right now I’m more willing to cut in favor of Stadiums).
      It might surprise you how manageable the Volcanion matchup is already. You have multiple angles for trashing their energy, plus the Lystandre/Rattata play that will trash their Float Stones and stall the game for your Houndoom attacks.
      That said, if you’re that inclined to test Houndoom/Garbodor, go for it. 🙂
      Thanks again!

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