Hello everyone! This is Grant Manley once again. Today I have another story for you all. Last month I went over a successful rogue deck I built in 2017. The past is filled with a handful of decks like that one. Every so often, I’ll come up with something unique that ends up working. I try to do this for every format I play in, but it’s easier said than done.
By playing new and unexpected decks, there are massive potential benefits. The surprise factor hits harder now than ever before, though it’s also more elusive. Due to the wealth of information readily available online, new decks are instantly known about the minute they’re discovered. Something new showing up at a tournament is a rare occurrence. When it does happen, it’s usually by a group of players who worked together. After all, the key is making sure the deck is good. The deck must work, and it must work against the other current decks.
Today I’ll be discussing not one but two more powerful rogue decks in my past, both of which were built during 2015 States. Of course, both examples feature tactics of deckbuilding and metagaming that I frequently use to this day.
Back in the day, State Championships were a level of tournament in between Cities (modern-day League Cups) and Regionals. On average, they usually had about 50 to 100 players, which depended entirely on the location. States took place across four consecutive weekends in the spring. Therefore, if one lived in a convenient location (or was willing to travel), one could play in four State Championships in back-to-back weekends.
Back in 2015, I wasn’t taking the season too seriously since I had an automatic Worlds invite from the previous year’s Worlds. I went to only one Regional and two States during the entire season before Nationals, as well as some smaller tournaments. This was my first year as a Masters Division player, so I was still a kid and didn’t have much ability to travel. Because I was hardly attending any large events, I was determined to make the ones I had count.
The first tournament I’ll be going over is North Carolina States, a second week event. The format back then had all kinds of Energy disruption cards, many of which are familiar faces today: Team Flare Grunt, Crushing Hammer, Enhanced Hammer, and one more obscure card that nobody was paying attention to – Crawdaunt – from the latest set, Primal Clash.
My friend Arjun brought up the idea of using a full-blown Energy denial deck using the new Crawdaunt, combined with AZ to reuse them. After that, I went to work on building the deck. The format lacked Energy acceleration from the discard, and there weren’t any unlimited Energy accelerators in the format either (like Blastoise). This meant that the format was susceptible to Energy denial, much like the current Standard format (besides Welder).
This aspect of a format is why Crushing Hammer is so widespread nowadays, or at least was before Vivid Voltage came out. Although there weren’t any dedicated Energy denial decks in the Darkness Ablaze format, various decks could still include Crushing Hammer to capitalize on this common weakness. In the previous format, I built an Energy denial deck using Lycanroc-GX and Centiskorch V, among other things. I never got the chance to put time into refining it. If I had, you all would have heard about it here.
Energy control is always a potential strategy, no matter what format we’re talking about. The Expanded format often features these types of decks. I even have a Quad Wobbuffet deck built right now that manhandles most of the format through Energy disruption. However, this strategy was much less common back in 2015, which made it more of a surprise.
##Pokémon - 13 4 Seismitoad-EX FFI 20 4 Corphish PRC 42 4 Crawdaunt PRC 92 1 Jirachi-EX PLB 60 ##Trainer Cards - 43 4 Professor Juniper PLB 84 4 N FCO 105 4 AZ PHF 91 2 Lysandre FLF 104 1 Xerosic PHF 110 1 Lysandre's Trump Card PHF 99 4 VS Seeker PHF 109 4 Super Scoop Up CES 146 4 Enhanced Hammer DEX 94 3 Ultra Ball DEX 102 3 Muscle Band XY 121 3 Head Ringer Team Flare Hyper Gear PHF 97 3 Crushing Hammer EPO 92 1 Hypnotoxic Laser PLS 123 1 Dive Ball PRC 125 1 Computer Search BCR 137 ##Energy - 4 4 Double Colorless Energy SUM 136
Naturally, the attacker chosen for this type of deck was none other than Seismitoad-EX. Seismitoad with Energy disruption is a strategy that has been around for a while, especially in Expanded, though it hasn’t seen as much play recently. Item lock is absurdly strong and always has been, even in 2015’s format where most decks played four Juniper and four N.
You may notice that this deck plays one copy of the infamous Lysandre’s Trump Card, which might seem counterintuitive as it recovers Energy for the opponent. Trump Card wasn’t always used, but it was a failsafe in case a bad start forced me onto the losing end of a resource war, or if I needed to recover Double Colorless Energy. It also let me recover Hypnotoxic Laser to deal with Suicune and Sigilyph, two Safeguard users that would otherwise completely wall the deck.
An opposing Lysandre’s Trump Card was the biggest threat to a deck out strategy, which is why an attacker was needed. Not only could opponents force long games if they weren’t pressured by damage from attacks, but they could also use VS Seeker to reuse Lysandre’s Trump Card over and over. Seismitoad fixed these issues by limiting opponents to just one Trump Card per game (no decks played two copies) while also applying pressure by dealing damage.
It might look weird for an Energy denial deck to forego Team Flare Grunt, one of the most powerful Energy disruption cards to ever exist. However, AZ filled this role because it allowed me to reuse Crawdaunt, which was basically the same thing as using Team Flare Grunt. AZ was better because it also provided a healing effect and a switching effect when a situation called for it.
Muscle Band was included so that Seismitoad could deal meaningful damage against opponents with Rough Seas or Water Resistance, both of which were relevant in the format. Damage modifiers like this are normally meaningless in control decks, but Muscle Band was necessary for this format.
As far as matchups, this deck crushed everything. The core strategy of Energy denial was too much for any deck to handle. There was an Exeggutor deck that absolutely destroyed this deck, but it didn’t gain any traction until the later weeks of States. For an early State Championship, before Exeggutor became popular, this deck was the play.
Nobody saw it coming. The Seismitoad deck at the time was Seismitoad / Slurpuff, and a few people played Seismitoad / Garbodor. Not only was Seismitoad / Crawdaunt better than those, but it also destroyed them due to its heavier emphasis on Energy disruption, and this Energy disruption could be used under opposing Item lock (unlike their Crushing Hammers and Head Ringers).
I started out the tournament with a loss, though this was partially due to an incorrect judge ruling that I had no control over. I was against Donphan / Groudon, which should be an easy matchup. I took four Prizes while my opponent built up Primal Groudon-EX on the Bench. This was Donphan’s usual strategy against Seismitoad, since the other Seismitoad decks had no way to remove Energy from Groudon due to its Omega Barrier. However, this deck had Crawdaunt to deal with Groudon. My opponent then N’d me to two, and I proceeded to dead draw for the rest of the game. I didn’t need much to take back control of the game, but I kept drawing useless Hammers.
I attempted to use all my Hammers on Groudon earlier in the game, even though I knew that the effect would be blocked by Omega Barrier. I was aware of the N + Groudon strategy, and I wanted to thin my deck of useless cards. The judge ruled that I could not play the Hammers because being blocked by Omega Barrier. However, this is incorrect. The usual rule is that you cannot play a Trainer for no effect, which conventional wisdom says would be happening here. However, you play the Hammer, sending out an effect, which then is blocked by Omega Barrier once the card is already played. Therefore, the Hammer is discarded after not accomplishing anything. This is a little strange, and Primal Groudon was a brand-new card at the time, so I don’t really blame the judge for that.
It’s just unfortunate that the mistaken judge led to me dead drawing and starting the tournament out at 0W-1L. My next round was a tie against a modified theme deck with Grass-type attackers like Trevenant-EX and dozens of Basic Energy. It proved to be a difficult matchup, as my deck was built to handle the entire meta, not random piles of cards with tons of Basic Energy. This was compounded by the fact that they had attackers that could OHKO Seismitoad and that they could attach Basic Energy every turn.
From there, I won five matches in a row, because the deck is just broken. I won Top 8 against Donphan, Top 4 against Primal Kyogre-EX, and then went into the finals against Virizion / Genesect. VirGen is a Grass-type deck that can accelerate Energy with Virizion-EX and OHKO Seismitoad-EX with Genesect-EX. This recipe looks like a disaster for Toad, but the matchup is in Seismitoad’s favor.
Head Ringer, Crushing Hammer, and Crawdaunt can stop Virizion from attacking. Even if they do start attacking, multiple Crawdaunt can take more than one Energy away in a turn. Overall, it’s difficult for VirGen to find enough Energy to stabilize, especially if they spread their Energy to multiple different attackers.
My opponent, however, played it better than most. He ignored Genesect-EX, realizing that spreading Energy around was not worth the ability to OHKO Seismitoad. Virizion taking a 2HKO works fine. Virizion is also immune to Laser, resistant to Water, and can attack for just two Energy (or three with Head Ringer). I got unlucky by flipping 15 tails out of 16 attempts during the series, be it with Super Scoop Up or Crushing Hammer. A few more heads would have swung things in my favor. My opponent’s smart play gave him an out to win, even if it required me to get unlucky on flips. I lost the match, ending with a second-place finish. Virizion / Genesect was the deck to bring down my broken rogue concoction.
Virizion / Genesect isn’t the villain of this story though. It’s the hero.
It’s common for opponents to play incorrectly and misappropriate their resources against Energy disruption decks. You absolutely do not want to try and use multiple different attackers unless your opponent forces you to with something like a Safeguard user. Pick the most efficient attacker for the situation and commit your entire strategy and resource supply to that one Pokemon. If possible, avoid playing down other Pokemon in the first place. I saw this come up many, many times last season, especially when I was playing Pidgeotto Control. Against disruption decks, you must adapt your strategy. Nine VirGen players out of ten would mindlessly do their usual strategy of using Emerald Slash to accelerate Energy to Genesect, especially seeing that they’re facing down Seismitoad. Against the new Crawdaunt deck, it wasn’t obvious to see just how horrible that strategy was.
The next State Championship I attended was on week four, at the height of Exeggutor’s power. Because Seismitoad / Crawdaunt was so strong, I considered playing it again, taking the loss to Exeggutor in exchange for solid matchups across the board. But it was time for something new. Crawdaunt already had its fun in the sun, and I was trying to win this tournament without taking a bold risk with my matchups.
I thought back to the deck that ended my previous run: Virizion / Genesect. It was a linear, consistent, and powerful deck. However, it had polarizing matchups to say the least. It was very weak against Fighting and Night March, two extremely popular archetypes at the time. “Fighting” includes Landorus / Crobat and Donphan. The mirror match was also quite boring and completely luck-based. On the plus side, it crushed decks like Kyogre and Seismitoad. It was also one of the few, if not the only deck that boasted a favorable matchup against Exeggutor.
If there was some way to shore up the matchups against Fighting and Night March, Virizion / Genesect would surely be the best deck in the format. The answer came in the form of a revolutionary concept.
##Pokémon - 18 4 Zubat PHF 31 4 Golbat PHF 32 3 Crobat PHF 33 3 Virizion-EX PLB 9 3 Genesect-EX PLB 11 1 Jirachi-EX PLB 60 ##Trainer Cards - 29 4 Professor Juniper BLW 101 4 N NVI 92 3 Skyla BCR 134 1 Shadow Triad PLF 102 1 Lysandre FLF 90 1 Colress PLS 118 4 Ultra Ball SUM 135 3 VS Seeker PHF 109 3 Muscle Band XY 121 2 Switch EVO 88 1 Professor's Letter BKT 146 1 G Booster PLB 92 1 Colress Machine PLS 119 ##Energy - 13 9 Grass Energy 1 4 Plasma Energy PLB 91
This was a normal V / G deck, but with a heavy Crobat line crammed into it. Crobat fixed everything for this deck, but some sacrifices had to be made. Utility cards like Energy Switch, normally considered a staple for the deck, are nowhere to be found. This deck also played a dangerously low amount of switching cards. The bats have free Retreat, and could be used as a pivot, though that wouldn’t help with getting the turn two Emerald Slash in the event of a Genesect start. The fourth copies of consistency cards like Virizion, Genesect, Skyla, and VS Seeker had to be trimmed. Everything that wasn’t deemed necessary was cut for bats. One tech I should have kept in, over the Colress Machine or something, was Mr. Mime.
You could view this deck in one of two ways. First, it might be a combination of two archetypes, where the strengths of each cover the other’s weaknesses. In this case, it would be a combination of Virizion / Genesect and Landorus / Crobat. We’ve seen this recently with cases like Lightning Mewtwo and ADP / Decidueye. It happens from time to time.
You could also look at it like teching a full Evolution line into an already established meta deck, which is what I feel is more accurate. This strategy isn’t seen too often. Rarely will you find an Evolution line that fixes all your problems, while also coincidentally being type compatible. If such a line exists, it’s probably already in the deck in the first place.
Crobat was amazing in this deck because it improved all VirGen’s bad matchups. First was Night March, a powerful single-prizer attacking deck that could OHKO Virizion and Genesect with ease. This one was an auto-loss before Crobat came along. All of Night March’s attackers had very low HP, which made them easy pickings for Crobat.
Both Golbat and Crobat have an Ability and an attack that flood the opponent’s field with damage counters. Pokemon with low HP stand absolutely no chance whatsoever. Night March’s bulkiest attacker, Mew-EX, is weak to Psychic and still only has 120 HP. On top of that, they use Dimension Valley, which allows Golbat and Crobat to attack for free. The Crobat line turned the Night March matchup from an auto-loss to a solid 60-40 at the very least.
Next is Fighting. The Fighting-types of the format get completely foiled by Crobat and its Resistance. Hawlucha is powerless. Donphan hardly deals any damage. Lucario-EX is weak to Psychic. Landorus-EX also gets resisted and gives up two Prizes when KOed. Crobat itself doesn’t deal all that much damage, but it significantly improved this deck’s overall chances against Fighting.
Finally, Crobat breaks the mirror. A Muscle Band-boosted Megalo Cannon deals 120 damage, which means only one Golbat and one Crobat are needed to reach 170. The leftover snipe damage from Megalo Cannon makes follow-up KOs even easier. This means that the deck doesn’t have to rely on the sole copy of G Booster, nor deal with its recoil effect of discarding Energy.
The only deck I didn’t really have an answer for was Flareon. Flareon used single-Prize attackers that could easily take out Virizion and Genesect. Its 100 HP meant that Crobat wasn’t a reliable counter to it. Flareon saw a little bit of hype before States began, but it flopped in the early weeks and was relegated to tier two at best. It was not seeing much play or success, so I wasn’t worried about it. Taking a loss to Flareon was much better than taking a loss to something like Exeggutor, which would be the risk if I decided to play Crawdaunt again.
The tournament started off well with two wins. Things then started going downhill, as I tied Exeggutor and lost to Landorus / Crobat (due to a Jirachi start and bad draws). Fortunately, I won the last three, preying on two Kyogre decks, to advance to Top 8.
Top 8 had me against the Exeggutor I tied against earlier, which was a favorable matchup. I lost game one but won the next two. In Top 4, I played against the same Landorus / Crobat that I lost to before. I defeated it this time. Without Crobat, my run would have ended there, if I even made it that far. Finals pitted me against Night March, where the Bats put in more work than they probably ever had before or since. It was a close three-game series, and I took the win in the end.
I hope you all enjoyed the read! Thanks in part to these two decks, 15-year-old me had a smooth entry into the Masters Division, making me think it would be just as easy as Seniors. This notion was promptly shattered by an abysmal 2016 season, which I suppose is fair after a hot run in 2015. Many of my broken rogue creations were made when I was in the Seniors division, which I don’t feel are worth writing about. I have a few more from my time in Masters though, so I hope you like these kinds of articles!