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Here Be Dragons – A Guide to Expanded ADP Dragonite

Welcome back to Stéphane’s Expanded Hour! Stéphane’s Expanded Hour isn’t a real thing, but I have been writing (and making videos) about Expanded more than usual lately. I think that there aren’t many new innovations in Standard right now, so while I could talk about some very rogue Standard decks, I think it’s more important to talk about some key parts of the Expanded metagame. Case in point: Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX / Dragonite V, aka ADP Dragonite. This deck has been excellent since Dragonite V’s release in Evolving Skies, and is a contender for best deck in the format. ADP being good? What a surprise!

If you’re still having nightmares from its time in Standard, I have both good and bad news. Bad news first: ADP is even better than it was in Standard, mostly due to Double Dragon Energy letting it use Altered Creation GX on turn one. Good news: it also has many more counters. Pokémon Ranger can fit in almost any deck and can be played to completely cancel Altered Creation GX’s effect, meaning the ADP player just lost a turn and their GX attack.

Single-Prize decks like Mad Party are no longer food for ADP. In fact, Mad Party has a a favorable matchup against ADP Dragonite! Other decks can include Clefairy EVO, which will OHKO ADP with Metronome by copying Ultimate Ray, and attach Energy at the same time. In other words, while ADP is very strong, and will sometimes just run away with the game if the opponent doesn’t draw well enough, it’s overall in a much healthier place than it was in Standard last season.

Dragonite V (SWSH154)Tapu Koko (51/181) (Prism Star)

The card that has really put ADP in a great spot in the metagame is Dragonite V. This card, unplayable in Standard, is one of Expanded’s best attackers, thanks once again to Double Dragon Energy. With it, Dragonite V just needs an additional Lightning Energy (this is where Tapu Koko Prism Star comes in) to use Dragon Gale and KO any Basic two-Prize Pokémon. With Altered Creation GX’s damage bonus, it can OHKO every good Tag Team Pokémon as well. This is the core of ADP Dragonite’s strength; it trades very well with many good attackers.

Before Dragonite V came out, ADP was paired with Zacian V, like in Standard (but with Double Dragon Energy and Max Elixir). This combination was very strong, but it struggled with high HP Pokémon. Dragonite V solves that issue: it can deal up to 320 damage under the right conditions, allowing it to KO Pokémon such as Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX and Togekiss VMAX.

ADP Dragonite isn’t only ADP Zacian’s successor, though: it also replaced Garchomp & Giratina-GX, which had been around (under various forms) since the Cosmic Eclipse metagame, usually with Roxie and Koffing (or Weezing). Dragonite V’s damage output is higher, has no restriction, and more importantly, Dragonite V only gives up two Prizes, not three, which makes its Prize exchanges with other aggressive decks much more favorable.

Strangely enough, ADP Dragonite is also the heir of yet another ex-BDIF: Pikachu & Zekrom-GX. The connection is not as obvious, and some players are still playing PikaRom itself since it has some strengths that are still its own (mostly Electropower). However, since it plays Lightning Energy, ADP Dragonite can use some of the tools that have made PikaRom into a strong deck in Expanded, such as Vikavolt V.

In short, ADP Dragonite is a fantastic deck, that can in theory beat any deck in the format, although no single deck list will be favored against every opponent. It is accessible to newer players and, even if you don’t want to play it, you should be prepared to play against it. Here’s my in-depth guide to that powerhouse!

 

 

There’s no single, perfect deck list for ADP Dragonite. The deck can be adapted to whatever you want to beat. However, here’s a strong deck list to get you started.

PTCGO Code

****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ******
##Pokémon - 12
* 1 Crobat V DAA 104
* 1 Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX CEC 221
* 2 Dragonite V PR-SW 154
* 1 Naganadel & Guzzlord-GX CEC 158
* 2 Dedenne-GX UNB 57
* 1 Tapu Koko {*} TEU 51
* 1 Vikavolt V DAA 60
* 1 Zeraora-GX LOT 86
* 1 Eelektross UNM 66
* 1 Tapu Lele-GX GRI 60
##Trainer Cards - 36
* 1 Computer Search BCR 137
* 3 Trainers' Mail ROS 92
* 1 Mallow & Lana CEC 198
* 1 Leon VIV 154
* 1 N DEX 96
* 2 Heavy Ball BKT 140
* 4 Quick Ball SSH 179
* 1 Raihan EVS 152
* 2 Stormy Mountains EVS 161
* 1 Field Blower GRI 125
* 1 Guzma BUS 115
* 3 Professor Juniper DEX 98
* 2 Max Elixir BKP 102
* 2 Float Stone PLF 99
* 2 Guzma & Hala CEC 193
* 4 Tag Call CEC 206
* 2 Muscle Band XY 121
* 3 VS Seeker PHF 109
##Energy - 12
* 4 Double Dragon Energy ROS 97
* 8 Lightning Energy SWSHEnergy 4
Total Cards - 60

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Tag Call (206/236)Guzma & Hala (193/236)Stormy Mountains (161/203)

The core of the deck is the Tag Call engine. A turn one Guzma & Hala gets you Double Dragon Energy, Float Stone and Stormy Mountains. You can get ADP out of Stormy Mountains, which means that Guzma & Hala, by itself, guarantees you a turn one Altered Creation GX. Tag Call makes this easier: you can get ADP and Guzma & Hala, and then use Stormy Mountains to get some other Pokémon such as Tapu Koko Prism Star or Dragonite V instead. Between Tag Call, Guzma & Hala, Trainers’ Mail and Tapu Lele-GX (and Quick Ball, which gets Tapu Lele-GX), you should pretty much always be able to get Altered Creation GX on turn 1 if you want it.

Arceus & Dialga & Palkia GX (221/236)

You’ll notice that the deck only plays one Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX. Why do we only run one copy of this key card? The issue with ADP is that sometimes, you don’t want to end your first turn dealing damage. Thanks to Tapu Koko Prism Star, it’s absolutely possible to use Dragonite V’s Dragon Gale on turn one, in order to KO a Pokémon V such as Shadow Rider Calyrex V, Zacian V, Volcarona V or even a 270-HP Tag Team Pokémon such as Mewtwo & Mew-GX, thanks to Muscle Band. Knocking Out such a Pokémon may set your opponent back and be a better option than using Altered Creation GX. Against decks that play Pokemon Ranger, you should also be wary of using Altered Creation GX since it can be easily undone.

Naganadel & Guzzlord GX (158/236)

This is where Naganadel & Guzzlord-GX comes in. In games where you’re taking Prizes from the first turn on, you can aim to take four Prize cards, and then close out the game with Chaotic Order GX instead. I helped popularize this 1-1 split of ADP and NagaGuzz, but I can’t take credit for the idea: it was something that Shintaro Ito used multiple times in Expanded ADP Zacian last season.

In most matchups, it’s not any slower to use Chaotic Order GX than Altered Creation GX: in both cases, you’ll need three turns to win the game – either Altered Creation GX followed by two KOs (for three Prizes each) or two KOs (for two Prizes each) followed by Chaotic Order GX. Of course, the exact length of the game depends on the opponent’s deck, what kind of Pokémon they’re using, etc., but that’s the basic idea. The main reasons to use Altered Creation GX instead of Chaotic Order GX are if you need the extra damage, or if you can’t get that additional Lightning Energy on turn 1. Sometimes, you can’t use Dragon Gale, but you can use Altered Creation GX.

Raihan (152/203)Mallow & Lana (198/236)Leon (154)

The engine is pretty classic for an Expanded deck: Quick Ball, Trainers’ Mail, VS Seeker with some one-of Supporter cards. This list actually has a high amount of tech Supporters (N and Guzma are one-ofs, but not really techs, as they’re universally useful). Let me explain their uses:

  • Raihan is a great way to get Energy on an attacker, and makes sure you can keep trading KOs in matchups which are entirely fast Prize trades, against Volcarona V for example. Raihan’s best use is to get Energy on Naganadel & Guzzlord-GX for Chaotic Order GX. You can’t play Guzma on the turn you use Raihan, so sometimes, you can’t use it and KO a Pokémon on the opponent’s Bench. Instead, you can power up NagaGuzz and take two Prizes anyway. If you want to play a second ADP instead of NagaGuzz, I think that Raihan can be replaced by another card.
  • Mallow & Lana can be decent as a healing card. However, healing 120 damage isn’t that relevant in Expanded. Its main use is being a Supporter that can be used to switch your Active Pokémon, something that’s fantastic against Snorlax Stall decks. AZ usually plays this role, but Mallow & Lana can be searched via Tag Call, which makes it much better in this deck. Even in matchups where you don’t need it, it’s always good to have one more Tag Call target, since you sometimes need discard fodder for Computer Search or Guzma & Hala.
  • Leon’s main use is to bring Dragonite V’s potential damage output to 320 (Dragon’s Gale 250 + 30 from Altered Creation GX, 30 from Leon, and 20 from Muscle Band), letting it OHKO Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX. As you might remember from my recent Expanded guide, Shadow Rider is perhaps the best deck in the format right now, so it’s worth teching for it.
Max Elixir (102/122)

Max Elixir is only a two-of, which is a bit strange, but not unprecedented. Basically, we don’t rely on Max Elixir; unlike Turbo Dark or Speed Zacian, we don’t need as many Energy as possible in play, we just need a couple over the course of the game to complement Double Dragon Energy.

On average, playing a Max Elixir with eight Basic Energy in the deck, it will find an Energy about 60 percent of the time. I calculated this by calculating the probability of finding at least one of these eight Energy off a 58-card deck. A deck will never have 58 cards left in it, but if you don’t know your Prize cards, for the purposes of calculating a probability, it’s like they were in the deck. Similarly, I assumed that there were no cards anywhere else than in the deck, except for two: a Basic Pokémon, and the Max Elixir we’re playing. Of course, in a real game, there would be other cards in hand, and most likely in play or in the discard, but to calculate the average, it makes sense to simply work as if everything was unknown.

These odds can often be made better by thinning your deck before playing Max Elixir, for example by playing Tag Call, Trainers’ Mail, etc. All in all, it’s reasonable to assume that we’ll hit at least one Energy off our two Max Elixir, and that’s enough. The deck can absolutely win even if both whiff, and I’ve won a tournament with a list with no Max Elixir in the past, but having the option is a bit better, I think.

Vikavolt V (60/189)

As for the Pokémon, they also give the deck more options. Vikavolt V is a secondary attacker which fits multiple purposes. Paralyzing Bolt is a great attack against Mad Party, Stall and any Pokémon that it can OHKO (such as Mew FCO). It’s also a Pokémon you can throw Energy on when you’re using Ultimate Ray. Even though Super Zap Cannon isn’t the best attack of all time, its enough to KO the usual support Pokémon (Dedenne-GX, Tapu Lele-GX, etc.), and even many attackers (Tsareena V, etc.) with the damage boost from Altered Creation GX or Muscle Band. It’s great to take a KO with Ultimate Ray and be able to power up another attacker entirely, knowing that if you get hit by N, all you need is a Guzma or VS Seeker to finish the game with a Super Zap Cannon on a weak Pokémon.

Zeraora GX (86/214)

Zeraora-GX is just a nice card to have, giving free retreat to your attackers. It can help going from ADP to Dragonite V. Generally speaking, it’s a great card to get from Stormy Mountains on turn two, when you likely don’t need anything else anyway.

Eelektross (66/236)

Eelektross is a tech I borrowed from PikaRom builds to counter some annoying Pokémon: Vileplume BUS, Decidueye, Pyroar and Altaria. In most matchups, it’s a dead card. However, without it, you probably lose to Eggrow, and likely Stall (or at least you need some other tech). It’s absolutely worth including a tech for that purpose! Since Eelektross can’t be searched with Quick Ball, I like to play Heavy Ball, which can also draw ADP, NagaGuzz, Dragonite and Vikavolt. You could replace Heavy Ball with Ultra Ball, but this deck can be heavy on discard cards already: playing Ultra Ball, Quick Ball, and Guzma & Hala on turn 1, for example, requires discarding five cards, which is often impossible (and likely undesirable). On the other hand, playing Heavy Ball, Quick Ball and Guzma & Hala is doable.

Computer Search (137/149)

Finally, I should probably mention the Ace Spec card. Computer Search is by far the best choice for this deck, since it’s an aggressive deck that wants consistency above anything else. If you don’t have it, Dowsing Machine is acceptable; you could also just add Master Ball, and cut one Heavy Ball for another card (second Guzma, 4th VS Seeker, or an additional Lightning Energy seems best). If you have neither of these Ace Specs, I would just play without one and simply replace the Ace Spec slot with one of the other cards I just mentioned.

Header - Adaptations

What makes ADP Dragonite great is its versatility. The deck already has a great core concept, but you can tailor the list to beat other decks as needed. Instead of talking about various cards you can include, I’d like to mention its various matchups and use that to discuss the changes you can make to the deck.

Shadow Rider

Since it’s the main deck I’m afraid of, I’ve already tried to build the deck to prepare for it, by including multiple Muscle Band and Leon. However, the other path to victory for ADP Dragonite is to go for easy KOs, on Gengar & Mimikyu-GX and Shadow Rider Calyrex V. Shadow Rider usually doesn’t play Pokémon Ranger, so you can use Altered Creation GX then KO two of these Pokémon to win the game.

The issue is that it’s likely that your opponent won’t give you these easy targets. One possible solution is to borrow from ADP Zacian’s book and play Echo Horn in order to bring back easy targets from the discard, then KO them. Great Catcher goes well with it: even though it’s not that effective against Shadow Rider (although it does work on Gengar & Mimikyu-GX and Tapu Lele-GX), that combination can be good in general. Generally speaking, Echo Horn is a good card against decks which try to deny easy Prizes.

Coalossal

This is a tough matchup. You can’t OHKO Coalossal VMAX, it can heal and there’s no easy targets that give multiple Prize cards. What’s more, they can slow you down with Path to the Peak, and they have Pokémon Ranger to remove Altered Creation GX. You can win this matchup by taking four Prizes against non-VMAX Pokémon (Coalossal V is a great Pokémon to KO if you can), then using Chaotic Order GX. Playing more Max Elixir can be good to improve your odds of using Dragon Gale as soon as turn 1. Escape Rope can also be used to play around the big Coalossal VMAX.

Eggrow

With Eelektross, this matchup should be favored. Get rid of Rowlet & Alolan Exeggutor-GX as soon as possible, then Vileplume AOR if you can, so you can play VS Seeker and get Guzma back. If there are only walls (Decidueye and Vileplume BUS) left, Eelektross can come in and deal with them. You can use Altered Creation GX in this matchup since Eggrow usually doesn’t play Pokémon Ranger. I don’t think you need more help in this matchup, but a second Guzma would be nice. Marnie could also be useful to get rid of the opponent’s hand whenever they get back a Supporter you don’t want them to play with Cynthia & Caitlin or Lusamine.

Tsareena

I don’t have enough experience with this matchup. It should be fine, given that ADP Dragonite trades favorably with Tsareena, but they can win the Prize trade due to their high damage output. Sudowoodo is a great tech for this matchup, since with a limited Bench, Tsareena is unable to OHKO your big Pokémon. You can even heal it if they start putting damage counters on it with Giratina or Absol. Generally speaking, I think Sudowoodo is an underrated tech right now given the popularity of Sky Field decks (Tsareena and Fusion Strike), as well as possible Dark decks (Turbo Dark and Eternatus) which could make a comeback given Shadow Rider’s strength.

Stall

Stall always plays Pokémon Ranger and they can search for it with Steven’s Resolve, so don’t bother with Altered Creation GX and take four Prizes by KOs and Chaotic Order GX. Vikavolt V is a great attacker in this matchup. Item lock is strong against Stall as it prevents many Item cards such as VS Seeker, but also Lillie’s Poké Doll so they can’t play down “fake” Pokémon. Also, Vikavolt V doesn’t need a Double Dragon Energy, so they can’t win by just removing all your Special Energy with Faba, you’ll be able to keep attacking. Eelektross also helps against variants playing Pyroar and Altaria.

A second copy of Vikavolt V could be useful for this matchup and for Mad Party. I also recommend playing one copy of Speed Energy. This way, you can search for it with Guzma & Hala, and that makes it much easier to use Paralyzing Bolt on turn one.

Fusion Strike

Just like Tsareena, I don’t have a lot of experience with this matchup yet, but stats suggest it’s unfavorable at the moment. Again, Sudowoodo should help a lot with this, weakening Fusion Strike’s draw engine. Leon is also important for this matchup so you can OHKO Mew VMAX with Dragonite V, although Fusion Strike often plays Pokémon Ranger (it should, anyway).

Mirror Match

The mirror match usually comes down to who wins the coin flip, and can choose to go second. There’s a very strange tech you can play to improve your odds if you go first: just play Pokémon Ranger! This way, you can cancel your opponent’s Altered Creation GX and then use your own Altered Creation GX. Of course, never play Ranger after using Altered Creation GX, or you’ll just cancel your own effect.

You can also replace one or both Muscle Bands with Choice Bands. It’s worse against VMAX decks, but it lets Dragon Gale deal 280 damage to an opposing ADP without Altered Creation GX. You can therefore KO their ADP on turn two, and then hopefully win the game from there. The issue is that they should still win the Prize race if they can keep attacking, since they need two attacks to win, and you too, but they’re hitting first. As I said, the mirror match comes down to who wins the coin flip. That’s not very exciting, and it’s one of the main reasons why I’ve shied away from playing ADP Dragonite in tournaments lately.

Header - Conclusion

I hope this guide gave you a good overview of what ADP Dragonite is and what it can do in Expanded! Don’t think that I’ve covered everything – there are many more cards you can include! For example, I’ve played Magearna-EX in the past to protect my Double Dragon Energy Pokémon from Umbreon & Darkrai-GX’s Dark Moon GX. You can try out lists with four Max Elixir, or none. Some people tried Garbodor in this deck. You could try Zygarde from Evolving Skies, or Ultra Necrozma, for alternate attackers. Maybe Mawile-GX or Captivating Poké Puff could be used to force the opponent to play more easy targets, like ADP Zacian did!

Basically, I don’t think ADP Dragonite has been solved the way most Standard decks are solved. I think that there’s still room for experimentation, for both old and new cards to maybe find a place in this deck, whether it’s in general or to counter specific matchups. Expanded is not a new frontier, but it’s also not explored enough, so there are always new ideas to find. Maybe you’ll be the one to find the card or combo that will bring this deck back to its former glory?

Or maybe you just read this article to know what people are playing so you can counter it? I won’t blame you, I like beating ADP too!

In any case, thanks for reading and see you again soon!

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