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Diving Into Expanded With Battle Styles

Much has been written about Battle Styles since its release (and even before), but as usual, most players have focused on the Standard format, since it’s been a welcome change of pace from the previous TEUVIV format (although, in my opinion, not as big a change as hoped). This means that, once again, Expanded is left hanging, and as the auto proclaimed resident Expanded expert, it falls to me to look at the format, at the new set, and to ask: so, how are these going to work together in some Expanded Battle Styles Decks?

You may remember that I did something similar back when Vivid Voltage came out.

I’ll admit that some of my ideas didn’t end up working. Amazing Rare Pokemon, for example, didn’t have the success I hoped for, and while Pikachu VMAX did see some play, it was only after the promo Pikachu V was released, and that promo was the star of the deck; the VMAX was usually only a one-of.

On the other hand, Coalossal VMAX and Togekiss VMAX, two ideas I mentioned before having ever played them, did end up being powerful decks that took down major tournaments. Both decks were solidly in the top 10 by the end of the Expanded format, which makes Vivid Voltage arguably more influential on Expanded than on Standard, a rare occurrence.

So, let’s try this again! I don’t think Battle Styles has as much to offer to Expanded as Vivid Voltage did, but there are still some new cards that I expect to see play. I haven’t tested all the ideas in this article yet, so you’ll have to trust my track record for some of them!

Rapid Strike cards tend to work better with other cards than Single Strike cards, due to their very nature. In Standard, for example, your only way to play Single Strike Urshifu VMAX is with Houndoom, which also requires you to play Single Strike Energy and Urn of Vitality. You can’t really play a different engine and you don’t have a lot of space left on the Bench, or in the deck, to fit anything else. On the other hand, Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX has been played with Jirachi, Cinccino, Dragapult VMAX, Gengar & Mimikyu-GX, and more. The hit-and-run nature of Rapid Strike cards favors mixing them with other Pokemon, which don’t necessarily have to be Rapid Strike attackers themselves.

It’s no surprise, then, that in Expanded, Rapid Strike will gain much more than Single Strike. Single Strike Urshifu VMAX still must be played with Houndoom, so it doesn’t gain as much from moving to a wider format. On the other hand, there are plenty of cards in the Expanded pool that synergize well with Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX.

First, there’s the Fighting support. Strong Energy and Diancie Prism Star were fantastic additions to make Coalossal VMAX’s damage output more threatening in Expanded, and the same goes for Urshifu VMAX. With either one of these, Gale Thrust deals 170 damage, enough to KO a Tapu Lele-GX, or an Eternatus VMAX, with Weakness.

Diancie (Prism Star)Strong Energy (115)

Guzma and Acerola also work fantastically with Gale Thrust. The former lets you target a Benched Pokemon while activating Gale Thrust’s condition (even if Urshifu VMAX is already Active, it’s easy to bring it back to the Bench and back Active with Guzma and a Float Stone), and the latter allow you to heal a damaged Urshifu VMAX and attack with another one. Given Urshifu’s high HP, it’s unlikely (but to be fair, not impossible; this is Expanded, after all) that it will be OHKOed unless the opponent is hitting for Weakness.

Gale Thrust is not Urshifu VMAX’s only strength, though, and G-Max Rapid Flow must be respected for the game-winning attack it is. In Standard, its existence has led to an increase in the amount of Mew played. Mew and other Bench Barrier Pokemon are also present in Expanded, and yet G-Max Rapid Flow is more threatening in Expanded, for two reasons.

The first one is that, even if Bench Barrier Pokemon started seeing more play in the format, they can easily be teched against. Alolan Muk, Silent Lab and Garbodor are three ways to shut down Bench Barrier to let Urshifu VMAX target the Bench. They’re not only useful against Mew, though. In addition to cutting access to the usual Abilities (Dedenne-GX’s Dedechange, Crobat V’s Dark Asset, Tapu Lele-GX’s Wonder Tag, etc.), these cards also protect Urshifu VMAX against two of its most notable enemies: Mewtwo & Mew-GX and Mew, both of which hit it for Weakness, and the latter of which could easily be teched in many decks (Turbo Dark, Pikarom, etc.) to deal with Urshifu VMAX.

The second reason is that in Expanded, Urshifu VMAX can use Wide Lens to hit the Bench for Weakness. This means that it can OHKO Dedenne-GX and Crobat V on the Bench for a four-Prize turn!

Speaking of Weakness, it should be mentioned that Fighting is a powerful type in Expanded since, in addition to Crobat V and Dedenne-GX, some of the best decks in the format are weak to it: again, Turbo Dark and Pikarom come to mind. Against these decks, G-Max Rapid Flow with Wide Lens can even OHKO valuable targets on the Bench, such as Pikachu & Zekrom-GX, Darkrai-EX, Vikavolt V and Weavile-GX. This gives Urshifu an incredible advantage over these popular and powerful decks.

So, if Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX is so good, what would a decklist look like? This is where it gets complicated. There are many ways to build the deck, and no consensus yet has been reached. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. The simplest build would be to focus entirely on Rapid Strike Urshifu, maybe similarly to its Standard build. Jirachi is not bad but probably not good enough to focus on in Expanded. Instead, it could be interesting to play the deck with the duo of Rapid Strike Octillery and Octillery BREAKthrough. Brooklet Hill helps the early game consistency, although you’d probably play a Stadium split of Brooklet Hill and Silent Lab. I would imagine the build to be somewhat like Expanded Coalossal VMAX lists, with Octillery instead of Magcargo: Acerola and Max Potion would provide some tankiness, although the deck would play more Guzma to target Benched Pokemon more easily. The Energy line would be a combination of Rapid Strike Energy, Strong Energy, and Fighting Energy.
    • While this variant would probably be the easiest to approach for players coming from Standard, and very hard to deal with for Fighting-weak decks, I’m not sure it would be optimal. The issue with relying on Silent Lab is that every deck that is bothered by it has counter-Stadiums. Mewtwo & Mew-GX, for example, runs four Dimension Valley and at least one Field Blower, so it could KO Urshifu VMAX reasonably easily. On the other hand, you could run Jirachi-GX so that even if Silent Lab is removed, Urshifu isn’t weak to Mew or Mewtwo & Mew-GX.
  2. There has been some enthusiasm around Rapid Strike Style Mustard, to get Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX out of the discard easily. I’ll be honest: I think this is bad. It’s true that in Expanded, it’s much easier than in Standard to get your hand size down to zero and play a Rapid Strike Style Mustard, with cards such as Battle Compressor, Ultra Ball, Trainers’ Mail, VS Seeker, and so on. On the other hand, the main deck using this kind of strategy, Archie’s Blastoise, has been almost non-existent since the first turn rule change that prevents players from using a Supporter on turn one. If you go first, you won’t be able to play Mustard on your first turn, so you’ll have to use your second turn to play it (which means no Guzma or N, for example), and some decks will make it very hard. If you get Item-locked by Vikavolt V or Vileplume, it might be very difficult to play your hand down to zero cards. And after all of that, the payoff isn’t even that great. Getting a turn one Blastoise out (or, going further in the format’s past, a turn one Archeops) was worth the trouble it took because of the consequences. On the other hand, I don’t see the point of using Mustard to get out a Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX: you can get it out reliably by turn two anyway!
  3. Both previous variants make the mistake of focusing too much on their own plan and not enough on what their opponents might do. As mentioned, countering Psychic-type attackers, especially Mew FCO, might be necessary for Urshifu VMAX to succeed in Expanded. you might then turn to the traditional solution to all kinds of Abilities: Garbotoxin!
    • Urshifu VMAX is Golisopod-GX with a stronger First Impression, a better typing, and a more threatening second attack. In this sense, Urshifu VMAX / Garbodor is a better Golisopod-GX / Garbodor, a deck that won Regionals and took second place at Worlds. Garbotoxin provides an answer to all the usual suspects (including non-Basic Abilities, like Vileplume’s), while Garbodor GRI would be a powerful secondary attacker with Trashalanche, able to deal with Mewtwo & Mew-GX and other Pokemon, especially. I can imagine such a deck playing Rainbow Energy in addition to Rapid Strike Energy, which would make the Acerola synergy even stronger. In my opinion, Urshifu VMAX / Garbodor has the potential to be a powerful deck.
  4. Urshifu VMAX / Zoroark-GX is yet another option. I got this idea from Jake Gearhart and I think it has a ton of potential. Not only is Zoroark-GX a generally great card, but it fits very well with Urshifu VMAX. While Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX hits Fighting-weak decks very hard, it’s also weak to some popular decks. Among the best Expanded decks, it has two matchups that are especially bad. First, Trashapult. Both Dragapult VMAX and Garbodor GRI hit Urshifu VMAX for Weakness, the deck easily shuts down a potential Jirachi-GX tech, and Dragapult VMAX even resists Fighting. Second, Togekiss VMAX is even more obnoxious. It resists Fighting, has a lot of healing, and doesn’t play any easy targets for G-Max Rapid Flow to take Prizes off. Togekiss seems to have risen in popularity since Battle Styles came out (although there have only been a few tournaments), and I think its incredible dominance over Urshifu is a strong reason why. It helps that Pikarom, Togekiss’s worst enemy, is scared off by Urshifu and is likely to see less play, at least early in the format.
    • Zoroark-GX provides answers to both issues. It hits Dragapult VMAX for Weakness and OHKOs it with seven Pokemon on the Bench (which is possible thanks to Sky Field). As for Togekiss VMAX, it can also be hit for Weakness, and therefore OHKOed, thanks to Jolteon! This doesn’t make Togekiss an auto-win, but it does improve the matchup.
    • In addition to that, Alolan Muk is as always, a good partner to Zoroark-GX and will safely shut down Mew, Mewtwo & Mew-GX, and other threats, including the annoying Snorlax in Stall decks.
    • The main issue with this variant of the deck is that there are a million cards that one wants to fit in, and you still need to keep some consistency. Here’s one possible list, inspired both by Jake’s ideas and UndauntedHound’s similar list. It can’t be stressed enough that this deck will undergo many changes, since it’s very techable even for an Expanded deck, so don’t think of it as a definitive list, but as a starting point.

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