As testing for Dallas continues, I update all of my lists while exploring new concepts within the game and analyze different ways to build archetypes. This article is centered mainly around Giratina Seismitoad, as it is the deck I have been able to find the most creative room to work with. I also have an explanation of how Expanded is different from standard, in the way that it involves ‘Forced Optimism’. This article also has matchup descriptions and overall strategy explanations for Vespiquen Zoroark with updated an updated list. Lastly, I have an updated lists for Buzz/Lando/Roc, Night March, and Tapu Koko Zoroark Dusknoir, although I do not go into much detail about these last three decks. To start things off, I have a different way for you to think about your play in Expanded.
In Expanded I find the speed at which you need to progress your board state makes it hard to make safe plays. There are often instances where I have to play a draw card and hope for the best off of it, even in instances where I know my chances are less than 50 percent. This is the case because of how tempo swings so heavily in Expanded. A single Hex can land you with a dead hand, giving your opponent the one turn opportunity they need to come back into a game. The tempo swings far into your opponent’s favor forcing you to get lucky in order to give yourself a shot at winning. In Expanded, examples of this come up almost every game for me, especially with Zoroark decks. The guaranteed safe plays actually end up being the most dangerous ones because if I allow my opponent to continue the path they are on, they will win. Thus, we are forced to make optimistic plays in order to stand a chance.
This dynamic ends up doing a couple of interesting things to our play. Primarily, you are forced to be better at taking calculated risks. Knowing, at least approximately, your chances of hitting a combination of cards off of Set Up, or Colress, or N, ends up being crucial. For this reason, I do like the dynamic, as it forces players to make better plays. Secondarily, it forces us to predict the future. ‘If I Sycamore away this one Puzzle and a VS Seeker, am I still going to be able to have enough resources to win the game?’ Unless one can accurately predict the chances of their longevity, they cannot make proper plays. This skill is a little tougher in my experience because I find myself having to predict three or even four turns ahead in order to make the correct choice.
The downside to all of this is the cards surrounding this swingy tempo. Hex and Ghetsis are two big players in this dynamic, which frequently makes the game less skill-based. We all know what it’s like to have all your outs Ghetsis’d away before you can take your first turn. As much as I would like these cards to not exist, in order to restore a higher level of dependence on skill, they actually are one of the roots of the higher skill cap in Expanded. In the words of Slavoj Zizek, “Something can be a sign of imperfection, but if you take it away, you lose everything”. The quote is a little superfluous but shows the necessity of these supposedly luck-based cards.
Ghetsis is more of a problem because it actually draws cards while taking them from the opponent, meaning you not only drop your opponent’s hand, but gain more from doing so. Simultaneously, it introduces a new level of skill and deck building. Good players are close to unanimous in their praise of Ghetsis. The card can win a game if played at the right time (sometimes even when played at the wrong time!). But this does not come without it’s risks. Ghetsis can actually help your opponent at times, and draw you few to no cards at all. What needs to be acknowledged about Ghetsis is that it is extremely risky by nature.
I have seen players come to the conclusion that Ghetsis is not very good because in their experience it rarely ends up being useful. This is due to too low a sample size. It is easy to play Ghetsis five times and come up with subpar results 4 out of 5 uses. Remember that this is the case, and do not cut Ghetsis from your list simply because of a few bad experiences with the card. I actually had this issue in the beginning of my testing for San Jose. There are specific matchups in which to use Hex instead of Ghetsis on the first turn as well; using Ghetsis T1 in the wrong matchup can lead you to think the card is not strong.
The conclusion I repeatedly arrive at, is that these cards make the game more skill intensive but not as skill based. In other words, the game requires more skill to be played well or perfectly but rewards players less for playing perfectly. This is fundamental for a fun format but horrible for a format that is intended to reward good play. Going into Dallas, you should be prepared for this and know to adjust your play and lists accordingly.
It’s somewhat improper to put Seismitoad first because this deck is not only primarily a Giratina EX deck, but almost exclusively centered around Giratina. I have even considered dropping Seismitoad entirely.
This deck is an obvious strong meta-call for Dallas because of the straightforward meta we are approaching. We know that more than half the meta will be relying heavily on Double Colorless Energy, many of which only playing DCE, and the few others will probably be pushed out of the meta rapidly. The issue with this deck being the obvious meta-counter is that players are preparing for it by including Pokemon Ranger. My goal with this list was to make the deck able to deal with decks playing Ranger. Seismitoad cannot do this very well, but Giratina can.
There are two viable ways to build this deck. The primary difference is the presence of Puzzle of Time. I do not find this card necessary to the deck’s strategy, but it can be very powerful if backed by the correct cards. I have built two versions of the deck, both of which you can see below. This is my Puzzle list
Giratina Seismitoad W/ Puzzles