“Tri-, Tri-Again:” Three Picks for Facing Standard’s Big Three

I know we’re all excited to use the new cards from Guardians Rising, but we still have a couple events before the set is legal. May 19th is when we have sanctioned tournament access to the new set, which means both Toronto and Virginia Regionals will be in the current format, along with several League Cups. Hold off on Tapu Lele; we have to work with the current meta for one more month.

I have found this format to be far more interesting than it seems most other people do. Contrary to popular opinion, this rock-paper-scissors format idea is not what we have. Volcanion does have a favorable Decidueye matchup, but certainly can lose to it. Darkrai may lose to Decidueye more than beat it, but with the correct techs, it can actually have a favorable matchup. In the Darkrai/Volcanion matchup neither side is too favored. To me, there is little reason to believe the format is entirely matchup-based, as many players like to suggest.

The Big Three

The big three options that have seen the most play and overall success in this format deserve the most attention at this point. If you are trying to envision a format where any of these are not present, you either are not in your right mind, or you are in Japan. Decidueye recently saw a big influx in play at Brazil’s Intercontinentals, and initially picked up play at the previous Intercontinentals. Darkrai is consistently making Top Cut at almost any event. Volcanion seems to be taking the most wins, but not necessarily the most Top Cuts. From a pure numbers perspective, these are the three decks that have been most commonly seen in standard. Currently I consider them to be the established three best decks in Standard.

Although I have been seen using Darkrai for most of the events, I have been testing all three of these options for a while now. I am quite passionate about Decidueye/Vileplume, and I actually enjoy it far more than Darkrai. Now that Volcanion has proven to be very popular and has been winning consistently, the variant of Darkrai that I’ve favored before may not be the best way to play the deck any longer. For these upcoming events, a list that is a little more similar to the version that Chris Siakala popularized is going to be a better option.

I was going to post my Decidueye list in this article, however the list that won Intercontinentals is only two cards different from mine, so I figured it was a bit of a waste. The changes I have in my list are cutting the Regice, and the fourth Rainbow for a Beedrill and a 3rd Lysandre. But now that I look at the deck, I am unsure of the adjustments I had. I do cover this deck in a video I posted last week profiling the deck, if you are curious.

I will not waste time pretending I think more highly of any deck other. Darkrai is the best option in this format by far, and I have a hard time understanding why anybody plays anything else. With the list that you will see later on, I am very confident in my matchups against the other two big decks – my testing and tournament results agree. I have made some significant changes with Daniel Altavilla after Utah, and I feel extremely confident about the deck.

With that being said, I cannot write four articles about Darkrai every month. I do enjoy other decks, in fact I like other decks far more. I just feel that Darkrai will give me the best chance of winning. Over the last month, I have been working with a couple decks that have seen play but are essentially extinct from Standard, and to complete the trifecta, there is Rayquaza. These are the other Big Three…

Groudon, Kyogre, and Mega Rayquaza.

Cute how the decks I have taken interest in are the main legendary Pokemon from Hoenn, right?

Groudon is seen a little bit, or at least thought about at times. Kyogre, on the other hand, is not even a card in most peoples’ eyes. This gives the deck a great surprise factor and tons of new cards to experiment with. The last event that I can remember seeing Kyogre at was Nationals in 2015, and even then it was not considered top tier in Master.

So why is it good now? Two of the three “big decks” are dropped dead by me big ol’ whale. Volcanion, somewhat obviously, stands no chance against a tanky water type attacker. Darkrai takes a hard L as well, simply because of the number of EXs in the deck, and the number of EXs that are benched. Kyogre has always thrived against EX-based decks. For some reason, people are still unaware of its strength against them. In fact, you might not even know what it does….

Image result for primal kyogre

240 HP, 150 damage plus 30 to each EX, attach two energy at once? Busted. Why nobody has explored the potential of this guy more, I do not know. Anyway, I’ll get to him (her? What is it?…) later on. The only issue with Kyogre is the Grass Weakness, although if you are scared of Decidueye (and rightfully so), boy do I have the deck for you.

Groudon drops down Decidueye decks like you would expect a giant lizard monster sun demon would. The Grass Weakness is still present but makes little difference when Wobbuffet shuts down the entire deck until Groudon comes up to one-shot anything. As you may expect, Groudon also does not struggle too much with Darkrai. This matchup is a little closer, but still positive.

Then of course, there is Rayquaza. The deck sees steady play at events but usually does not make it too far. This is mostly due to the fact that most good players are not using Ray. In most cases, players do not want to take the risk of playing a deck that may not be as established. If a player invests 300 to 800 bucks on an event, they probably are not willing to take any risks with their placements. In this format, players are looking for consistent placements to increase their chances of making money back. This has also been the case for me. I favor consistency over all, and Ray just does not quite hit the level of consistency that I look for.

The Hoenn Big Three

Groudon is the first deck I will cover because I want the non-subs to have something pretty to look at.

Pokémon – 9 Trainers – 40 Energy – 11
3 Groudon EX 4 Professor Sycamore 4 Puzzle of Time 7 Fighting
2 Primal Groudon EX 3 N 4 Trainers’ Mail 4 Strong
4 Wobbuffet GEN 2 Skyla 3 Heavy Ball
2 Lysandre 3 VS Seeker
1 Hex Maniac 2 Assault Vest
1 Pokemon Center Lady 2 Float Stone
1 Olympia 2 Mega Turbo
1 Enhanced Hammer
1 Professor’s Letter
4 Scorched Earth

For this route of building the deck, there is little that can be adjusted. If you decide to cut the Assault Vests and concede the Mega Mewtwo and Rayquaza matchups, a good amount can change. Though that is a pretty bad idea, in my opinion.


Darkrai: 60/40

Fighting Weakness is cool, but usually does not make a huge difference. I notice that most games where I lose when I am piloting Groudon is due to the Darkrai player hitting hard consistently from the beginning. If the Darkrai player can hit the Ropes at the perfect time, or maybe a good early Lysandre, things get a little tough. Otherwise, setting up two Groudon and taking three EX knockouts will the best way to go about winning. The deck-out strategy that Groudon can take in Expanded is not the case in Standard. This deck has one goal and it is to take six prizes. No resource disruption other than one Enhanced – no mill card, just consistency.

Volcanion: 55/45

The one Hex was added because Volcanion actually can do 250 damage in one turn by using Steam Up four times with a Volcanic Heat. If that happens, well, you are probably losing. If it does not, you are probably winning. I do not mean to dumb down the matchup, but it’s hard not to. Groudon is straightforward for the most part. Play that Hex, then Gaia Volcano and you should be set.

Decidueye: 70/30

This matchup is very fun. Sitting there attaching turn after turn while you watch your opponent do basically nothing is more satisfying than you might think. They can set up three Decidueye, one Vileplume and another attacker, but ultimately none of that matters because Groudon will one-shot any of the above. Without the use of Feather Arrow, Decidueye is a really bad card. In some cases it can be important to play Hex before attacking to avoid a triple Feather Arrow Razor Leaf situation. However, Decidueye cannot one-shot even with four Feather Arrows if Groudon has an Assault Vest.

Mega Mewtwo: 50/50

Again, this is where your Assault Vests are doing tons of good stuff. I like to use Enhanced Hammer and then Puzzle for it once or twice in this matchup. The big issue you are going to run into is the same as in any other matchup. If Mewtwo can one-shot the first Groudon, things go south a good amount of the time. This is a little harder to prevent because Hex Maniac and Assault Vest will not be enough to prevent a one-shot as it would against Rayquaza, Volcanion, and Decidueye. This is why the Enhanced is so nice. It is the card that actually can prevent the Mewtwo player from taking the a one-shot.

Rayquaza: 75/25

Good luck getting anywhere with Ray while your opponent stops you from using the four Shaymin that your deck runs on. In a best-case scenario Rayquaza can only hit for 200 against a Groudon with an Assault Vest. Even with Kukui, Ray will come short. Finally, Groudon’s Gaia Volcanion removes Sky Field. Hard to lose this matchup.

Vespiquen: oh god there is no way I am ever going to win

Non-EX based, hits for weakness and is not hurt too much by Wobbuffet. Vespiquen will roll through Groudon 90% of the time. The other 10%, the Bees player either dead drew or had a deck list error.


I really do like Groudon. The deck is straightforward and boasts some very strong matchups, only taking a legitimate autoloss to Vespiquen.I think this option is great heading into Virginia. I may even convince myself to finally make the move and use it. While Darkrai does seem to undoubtedly to be the best play, sometimes I still doubt it. When that happens I pick Groudon back up and have a good night. The deck just feels right when I wear my Gucci Mane sock, and if there is one convincing reason for me to play a deck, it is that reason alone.

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