Hello everyone, this is Grant Manley back again. Player’s Cup Qualifiers have just wrapped up, and the next set, Vivid Voltage, is on the horizon, though it’s still a couple of weeks out. The Expanded ban list has just received an interesting and impactful update, crushing many of my favorite decks there, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about today.
In this short lull in action in the Pokemon TCG world, I wanted to talk about the greatest deck I ever made: an anti-meta deck in 2017 that I simply refer to as Quad Wobb. My experience with this deck helped me improve my deck-building and testing processes, and it yielded a great result for the one tournament it was around for. In this article, I’m going to walk through the process that can lead to making such an anti-meta deck, as well as talk about the deck itself.
The format itself wasn’t a particularly memorable one. It was completely dominated by Decidueye-GX / Vileplume and Turbo Darkrai-EX. The former was an Item-lock deck that slowed opponents down and took its time finishing them off, while the latter was the polar opposite: a lightning-fast powerhouse that racked up damage to quickly overwhelm opponents. A few tier two decks also saw a decent amount of play: Volcanion-EX, M Mewtwo-EX, and M Rayquaza-EX. The Brazil Internationals had just concluded, with Decidueye / Vileplume coming out on top – I was not in attendance.
Afterwards, the Virginia Regional Championships loomed ahead as the final tournament to use the Primal Clash–Sun & Moon format, a format that had completely stagnated at that point. Most players were simply resigned to using the tried and true frontrunners of the meta, which is an understandable approach. However, there were talks of a new control deck emerging in the weeks leading up to Virginia Regionals: Quad Lapras-GX. This deck was approached by a few players, and ultimately was not considered a legitimate threat. Lapras-GX’s Grass Weakness was a huge source of skepticism in a format dominated by Decidueye-GX. It could also struggle with the fast pressure applied by Turbo Dark. For these reasons, most players wrote off the deck while still being aware of its existence.
Lapras isn’t the hero of this story though. It’s the villain.
Meanwhile, over in my room, I was mulling over the results of the Brazil Internationals while considering what I should do for Virginia Regionals. What jumped out at me is how set in stone the meta was.
Established metas always pique my interest. They’re breakable.
There were two clear-cut tier one decks, and only three tier two decks. Everything else was a non-factor. If I could counter those five decks, I should be able to easily sweep the tournament. Even countering three or four of them should be sufficient, so long as the two top decks were among that number. This kind of set up for a meta isn’t uncommon by any means, so always keep an eye out.
The end of a format is always the best opportunity for something new to swoop in and take everyone by surprise. Most people are used to the format, and consider it to be already solved. Formats are rarely ever solved. There just isn’t enough time for a format to be truly defined, as new sets come out and shake things up every three months.
I started out by considering how I might beat Deciplume and Turbo Dark. Countering Turbo Dark was actually quite simple. A single Jolteon-EX beat the deck uncontested. They had no way to hit through Flash Ray’s invincibility. The only thing to watch out for was the Escape Rope + Lysandre combo, which most of them did play. However, it should eventually come to the point where only Jolteon-EX was in play, so long as you played carefully.
Deciplume used Decidueye-GX as its main attacker, so I figured I could simply pair Jolteon-EX with Glaceon-EX and have a winning strategy. This could work against the rest of the format too, with Jolteon-EX soloing Volcanion decks and Glaceon-EX offering invincibility against M Pokemon-EX. This combo was way too obvious.
- Scrap the deck
- Find another Deciplume counter
- Keep Glaceon, build the deck around Deciplume’s options, and find a winning strategy
I chose to go with the last option. Rough Seas and Pokemon Center Lady were healing cards that could keep Glaceon alive amidst constant Feather Arrows. Jolteon could deal with their Basic attackers while also hitting Lugia for weakness. I also chose to play some Energy disruption cards like Enhanced Hammer and Team Flare Grunt to limit their options, and these cards also helped against the Megas in other decks.
The deck was now entirely built around beating Deciplume, but there was still a piece missing. I would lose to the combination of Item lock and Feather Arrows. They had powerful attackers in both Evolved and Basic Pokemon, and they played four Forest of Giant Plants to constantly remove Rough Seas from play.
I considered Wobbuffet. Wobbuffet’s Ability-lock completely shuts down their entire deck. It isn’t much of an attacker, but it can slow them down, buying time to set up Glaceon and Jolteon. I could also use Wobbuffet as a pivot to hide behind, and take that time to heal my attackers whenever needed. Surely this combination of dual-invincibility attackers, Energy disruption, and support from Wobbuffet would be enough. So, I began testing.
It didn’t work. After a couple of games, I was about ready to hang up the towel. I really wanted this idea to work, so I played another. I was actually grinding matchups against myself, which is a tedious but effective way to gain raw matchup data.
Then, something wonderful happened. The Jolteon / Glaceon deck accidentally won a game against Deciplume. I say “accidentally” because I was still trying my attacking strategy, trying to match up favorable attackers against their deck while slowing them down with support cards. However, the way it ended up winning was by deck out. Deciplume actually ran out of resources and decked out. That deck was powerless when Wobbuffet was Active.
But Wobbuffet does next to no damage. If I ever want to attack and win the game, Wobbuffet can’t be Active all the time. Even if I tried attacking with Wobbuffet, a Shaymin-EX Sky Return loop would completely nullify it.
I shifted my strategy to a purely defensive one. I would have Wobbuffet in the Active at all times, and I would aim to discard all of their Energy cards one by one. They would eventually deck out. The Sky Return issue was easily solved by including two copies of Team Skull Grunt, a Supporter that doubled as a devastating option after they use Hollow Hunt GX to recover Energy. Wobbuffet not being Active was actually so bad for this matchup that I added Ninja Boy as an option in case I was forced to start with something that wasn’t Wobbuffet.
Energy disruption has worked every so often as either a primary or backup strategy in a few matchups since then, and is still relevant today. When a player runs out of Energy, they lose.
It turned out that stalling with Wobbuffet while removing Energy was a winning strategy. Deciplume had no answer, no counterplay, no options. Through hours of brainstorming, tweaking, and testing, I had conquered Deciplume. This came at the cost of investing tons of deck space for just this one matchup. I was packing three copies of Team Flare Grunt and Enhanced Hammer, two team Skull Grunt, two Pokemon Center Lady, two Ninja Boy, and of course the four Wobbuffet. I’ll get to the final list shortly.
I now had a deck that thoroughly countered the two beasts in the format, but I wanted more. I wanted to counter tier two as well. While Glaceon-EX turned out to be useless against Decidueye as originally intended, it was a lifesaver against the Mega Pokemon of the format: Mewtwo and Rayquaza. Their Basic forms were too weak to deal with Glaceon with supporting cards behind it. As fate would have it, the healing and disruption cards that worked against Decidueye also did enough to support Glaceon against weaker Basic attackers. Regular Mewtwo-EX and Rayquaza-EX weren’t strong enough to beat a Glaceon that was constantly healing with Trainer cards, especially combined with the likes of Team Flare Grunt and Enhanced Hammer.
The final piece of the puzzle was Volcanion, a deck with only Basic Pokemon. Jolteon-EX would be able to handle it, were it not for a common tech in Volcanion decks: Pokemon Ranger. I was so close to having the perfect anti-meta deck. Jolteon-EX was almost the perfect counter to Volcanion, but I needed something better.
An obscure card from the newest set turned out to be exactly what I needed. Araquanid from Sun & Moon has an Ability that makes it invincible to Fire-type Pokemon in particular. Volcanion decks only play Fire-type Pokemon. Araquanid was made specifically for this moment! It was the perfect answer at the perfect time. A single Araquanid would automatically beat Volcanion.
With that, my deck was complete.
- For Deciplume, Wobbuffet and disruptive Trainers
- For Turbo Dark, Jolteon-EX
- For Mega Pokemon, Glaceon-EX, disruptive Trainers, and healing Trainers
- For Volcanion, Araquanid
In a vacuum, this deck would be horrible. But in the context of the meta at the time, it was perfect. It had the perfect strategy and the perfect answers to every relevant deck in the game. I was ready to win this tournament. Here is my final list:
##Pokémon - 10 4 Wobbuffet GEN 111 2 Jolteon-EX GEN 28 1 Shaymin-EX ROS 77 1 Glaceon-EX FCO 20 1 Dewpider SUM 45 1 Araquanid SUM 46 ##Trainer Cards - 40 4 Professor Sycamore BKP 107 4 N FCO 105 3 Team Flare Grunt GEN 73 2 Team Skull Grunt SUM 133 2 Pokémon Center Lady SSH 176 2 Ninja Boy STS 103 2 Lysandre AOR 78 4 VS Seeker PHF 109 4 Ultra Ball SLG 68 3 Trainers' Mail ROS 92 3 Enhanced Hammer GRI 124 2 Float Stone BKT 137 2 Fighting Fury Belt BKP 99 1 Buddy-Buddy Rescue BKT 135 2 Rough Seas PRC 137 ##Energy - 10 4 Rainbow Energy CES 151 4 Double Colorless Energy SLG 69 2 Lightning Energy Energy 4
Each card was given careful consideration and was proven during testing. Every card that wasn’t matchup-specific was dedicated to consistency. I needed to be able to consistently execute my strategy for a given matchup. This was especially important with how many dead cards I would have in my deck for each game. Each matchup presented me with a specific game mode, rendering some cards useless and making others amazing.
If I had to be succinct about the process this deck went through, as well as how to approach formats like this, it would be as follows:
- Find counters to tier one
- Test and tweak
- Develop strategies to deal with their options
- Test and tweak some more
- Find counters to tier two
- Test and tweak
- Develop strategies
- Test and tweak some more
So, are you ready to hear about how easily I swept this Regional?
Well, there’s one deck that Quad Wobb doesn’t counter. In fact, this deck is an auto-loss for my deck. I had no way to beat the Quad Lapras deck that had garnered a little bit of attention. This wasn’t an oversight though. I was fully aware of this fact. There was no way, no tech, no strategy I could possibly incorporate to beat Lapras. I was simply taking the L. The Lapras deck turned the Energy denial strategy against me. I could not hope to win by attacking. My only option was to deck them out and prevent them from attacking, which just doesn’t work against a deck with ten Basic Energy, Puzzle of Time, and Energy Recycler.
This wasn’t a problem. Lapras was a tier three deck at best, and very few people actually believed in it at the time. I also did my due diligence. There was no point in testing Wobbuffet against Lapras, so I tested Deciplume against Lapras instead. Deciplume was clearly favored in the matchup. As long as Deciplume, the most popular deck in the meta, gatekept Lapras from doing much, I would not have to worry about it. My plan was to start 3W-0L by playing against meta decks, and then from there I would never have to worry about bad luck pairing me into my worst matchup.
I could see my effort paying off as early as round one. I was against Deciplume. An easy win. Round two – Volcanion. I prized my Araquanid in the first game and lost, but best-of-three came to my rescue and I was easily able to win the next two. Two more Deciplume followed. Two more easy wins. I was now 4W-0L. My confidence in the deck was not unfounded.
Round five gave me a bit of an issue. I was against Mega Rayquaza, but it was the Metal variant that packed Magearna-EX. My normal strategy in this matchup was to use Glaceon, but Magearna was capable of OHKOing it. I lost the first game due to this unpleasant surprise. I switched to an Energy denial strategy on the fly and won game two. This disruption strategy takes up a lot of time, so the round ended in a tie.
Next, I played against Mewtwo, which is a favorable matchup. I easily took it 2W-0L. I played against an interesting Vileplume deck after that, one that featured Lurantis-GX and Trevenant-EX. My original strategy for Deciplume, attacking with Glaceon and Jolteon with Wobbuffet as support, ended up working perfectly for a clean 2W-0L victory.
This was followed by another easy win against Deciplume. Round nine was when I finally ran into Turbo Dark. The matchup was as easy as it was in testing, and I ended day one at 8W-0L-1T. I faced four Deciplume decks and only one Turbo Dark, effortlessly destroying all of them.
Day two started as cleanly as possible, with two wins against Turbo Dark by simply announcing Jolteon’s Flash Ray. I was then 10W-0L-1T, so I chose to ID three rounds in a row to bring myself up to 10W-0L-4T, a safe record for making Top 8 at that event. In the rounds that I chose to draw, I was paired against two Mewtwo and a Deciplume. I could have crushed them, but when you’re already in position to make Top 8, you want to focus on allowing favorable matchups into the final bracket.
As expected, I cleanly made it into the Top 8. Quad Wobb was the perfect deck for this tournament. I was untouchable. Among the other decks in Top 8 were Volcanion, Turbo Dark, two Deciplume, and two Mewtwo. A fair representation of the meta, all of which were easy wins for me.
However, there was something that came not only as a shock to me, but a shock to nearly everyone else as well. A Lapras deck had made it into the Top 8. How it overcame supposed bad matchups against the top two decks in the format was beyond me, but here it was, and it was my problem now.
I nervously scanned the standings to see what the matchups would look like. I was elated to find the Lapras player seeded in the opposite bracket to me. This meant two things. First, I would get two easy wins in the top cut bracket, meaning I would get second place at this tournament in the worst-case scenario. Second, there were two chances for Lapras to fall. It had to fight through Mewtwo and Turbo Dark. If I were to face Lapras in the finals, it was a foregone conclusion that I would lose. My path to finals was all but assured, and it was up to Lapras to fight its own way there.
I easily took out Volcanion in Top 8 and Deciplume in Top 4. The meta decks simply could not touch me for this entire tournament. I nervously awaited the outcome of the other Top 4 match.
Lapras defeated Turbo Dark. My hopes were dashed. In an uneventful and extremely one-sided finals match, I was handed a taste of my own medicine, and suffered a bitter defeat at the very end.
I had avoided Lapras until the last possible moment. That deck was somehow able to make it to the finals, and there was nothing I could do about it. The best deck I ever made was only able to achieve a second-place finish. I remember it like it was yesterday.