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It’s a Mad Party and You’re Invited

Back in 2014, among the plethora of good cards introduced in the fourth set of the XY Series, Phantom Forces, was a new archetype that was acclaimed as a fun deck: Night March, a deck in which you use Pokemon with the Night March attack, which deals more damage based on the number of Night March Pokemon in the discard. The Night March Pokemon (Joltik, Lampent, and Pumpkaboo) were far from the kind of Pokemon you’d expect to face huge EX threats. And yet, once Lysandre’s Trump Card, the natural counter to discard-based strategies, was banned (the first ban in Standard in more than a decade), Night March became a monster of a deck, dominating tournaments from the end of the 2015 season until Phantom Forces rotated, in September of 2016. If you didn’t play at the time, it cannot be overstated how impactful Night March was: it got to the point where the metagame was only Night March and anti-Night March decks, and Night March still performed in this environment.

Night March’s reign didn’t even stop there, as the deck was also played in Expanded. It was nowhere near as dominant, but it was still good enough to win several Regional Championships.

You can imagine, then, the feelings, whether of dread or excitement, that the initial reveal of Mad Party caused. As an attack, Mad Party does exactly the same as Night March, except there are four, not three, Pokemon with this attack. This means that you can play up to sixteen Pokemon with Mad Party, so if all of them are in the discard except one, the damage cap is 300 (compared to Night March’s 220). This lets the deck handle the recent power creep.

In addition, while one of the Mad Party attackers (Polteageist) is a Stage 1, it also has a draw Ability that can also discard Mad Party Pokemon. Being an Evolution also means it can use Triple Acceleration Energy in addition to the obvious Twin Energy.

BunnelbyDedenneGalarian Mr. RimePolteageist

Despite all this, Mad Party hasn’t been too successful, at least in the current Standard format. It did get a couple of Top 16 placements in the latest Champions League in Japan, but this is in a slightly different format. It is also moderately successful in Expanded, where it is simply a better Night March (unless you expect to face Lightning-weak Pokemon!), but there hasn’t been any huge tournament to put it to the test.

So, what went wrong? Why is it that Mad Party is a tier three archetype that seems doomed to mediocrity, when Night March was a huge success? This article is my attempt to answer this question, and to see what can or should change in order to make the deck better.

I was never a Night March specialist, but I did take the deck to some important tournaments, including Nationals in 2016, and I got top 32 at the Pokemon Online Global Championships (the unofficial “Worlds 2020”) with Mad Party back in August, so I have some experience with this kind of deck!

A Quick Explanation of the Deck

First of all, before I can explain where the deck fails, I need to explain what it tries to achieve. Mad Party has a pretty simple game plan: put Mad Party Pokemon in the discard as fast as possible and use the Mad Party attack with Bunnelby or Polteageist to deal huge damage. Ideally, you want to OHKO every one-Prize or two-Prize Pokemon, and 2HKO three-Prize Pokemon. This way, the Prize exchange is always in your favor, which is what Mad Party is all about as a deck.

The difficulty in playing the deck, beyond having the correct sequencing, is that you need to be careful about your resources. Can you afford to discard a Boss’s Orders, or will you need it to get all your Prizes? Should you use Dedechange now to try to turn a 2HKO into an OHKO, or is discarding two Energy cards too costly? These are the kinds of decisions you’ll need to make. Just like Night March (and despite what some critics say), Mad Party is an easy deck to learn, but a hard one to master.

The same goes for deckbuilding. For the most part, a Mad Party deck builds itself: you start with the sixteen Mad Party cards and add the obvious additional ones (Sinistea to evolve into Polteageist, Energy cards, Quick Ball, etc.). Here is a 54-card skeleton list for the deck:

PTCGO Code

##Pokémon - 23
4 Sinistea SSH 89
4 Polteageist DAA 83
4 Galarian Mr. Rime DAA 36
4 Dedenne DAA 78
4 Bunnelby DAA 150
2 Dedenne-GX UNB 57
1 Oranguru SSH 148
##Trainer Cards - 23
4 Roxie CEC 205
4 Professor's Research SSH 178
2 Boss's Orders RCL 154
4 Quick Ball SSH 179
4 Great Ball SSH 164
4 Evolution Incense SSH 163
1 Air Balloon SSH 156
##Energy - 8
4 Twin Energy RCL 174
4 Triple Acceleration Energy UNB 190
Total Cards - 54

While you can argue that some of these four-ofs could be three-ofs instead, this is what a Mad Party deck looks like in general. Pretty much every list will play at least 51 cards out of this 54-card skeleton. I don’t think much explanation is needed, either, but just in case, here’s a quick rundown. The deck plays many Pokemon-searching Items because there are a lot of Pokemon to search in order to discard them. Even a simple Evolution Incense turns into a Galarian Mr. Rime which can be traded for two cards and an extra 20 damage thanks to Polteageist‘s Ability. Roxie is another way to turn useless Pokemon into draw power.

I wish Dedenne-GX wasn’t necessary, since it’s often a liability, but being able to both discard and draw cards is very important to the deck, not to mention it can save you from dead hands.

Air Balloon is necessary as well, otherwise your opponent can stall by bringing up any non-attacker Active with Boss’s Orders. This is especially true since you often don’t have any Energy in play after attacking due to Triple Acceleration Energy discarding itself, so even retreating your Dedenne-GX with a Twin Energy wouldn’t be enough.

Finally, Oranguru is great at conserving resources. If you want to use Professor’s Research but don’t want to discard a Boss’s Orders, you can simply put Boss’s Orders on top of your deck to avoid discarding it. Oranguru is also good against Reset Stamp.

RoxieAir BalloonEvolution Incense

The Issues

Now that we’ve established what Mad Party tries to achieve, and how, here is where it falls short, and what makes it different than Night March during its heyday. This is what the deck needs to overcome.

Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX: There’s no avoiding it – ADP’s existence is a huge problem for Mad Party. Altered Creation GX changes the dynamic of any Prize race. It’s difficult for Mad Party to take a KO before Ultimate Ray is used, and if it can’t do it, it simply loses, as the ADP player can simply take four Prizes on two turns. It’s no surprise that Mad Party performs much better in tournaments where ADP is banned. Azul Garcia Griego actually won one such tournament with this deck! Unfortunately, in the official Standard format, ADP Zacian is one of the most popular decks, and it’s very hard to beat.

Before rotation, Mad Party could actually beat ADP / Zacian thanks to the Oranguru + Mr. Mime + Jirachi Prism Star combo. This combo won a turn, because you could 2HKO ADP, hitting once after Altered Creation GX and once after Ultimate Ray. Then, thanks to the combo, you could take three Prizes on a two-Prize Pokemon such as Zacian V and win the game before the opponent can take their last KO. Since the Japanese format didn’t rotate, this combo is also used there, which is partly why Mad Party was able to reach Top 16 in the Champions League in Yokohama.

Jirachi Prism StarMr. MimeOranguru

Lack of Stadiums: As you can see, there is no Stadium in the above skeleton list, because nothing helps Mad Party that much. You can occasionally use an opponent’s Stadium such as Giant Hearth or Viridian Forest to discard your own Pokemon, but that’s really not a good enough reason to play these cards yourself. Rose Tower is probably the most useful Stadium for Mad Party, but it’s not actually that good. It can help against Reset Stamp, but usually, an opponent can discard it on the same turn they play the Reset Stamp.

The issue with the lack of Stadiums is of course that you can’t remove an opponent’s. As long as it’s, say, Giant Hearth, that’s not too bad: it makes the opponent’s life much easier, but that’s all. However, some Stadiums are really dangerous to have in play, namely Wondrous Labyrinth Prism Star, which forces you to use Polteageist with Triple Acceleration Energy to attack, and the rarer, but more dangerous, Black Market Prism Star.

Sniping Attacks: Night March’s gimmick was having attackers with very low HP, but very high damage. This idea was inherited by Lost March and then Mad Party. Mad Party is the one that suffers most from it, though. Inteleon VMAX, for example, can take two Prizes in one attack with Max Bullet. Since it can’t be OHKOed by Mad Party, it means it will take four Prizes overall, a devastating trade.

Of course, there’s an easy solution to this: Mew, which is ubiquitous enough that I could have included it in the skeleton list. However, Mew is not always enough. To take Inteleon VMAX’s example again, it can Boss’s Orders up the Mew to KO it, then use Max Bullet to get rid of two attackers, or a Dedenne-GX and an attacker with another Boss’s Orders.

Other dangerous sniping attacks include Tag Bolt GX (although Mad Party’s low HP doesn’t really matter there) and Decidueye‘s Splitting Arrow.

DecidueyeInteleon VMAXPikachu & Zekrom GX

Damage Counter Placement: The other issue with Mew is that it doesn’t prevent effects that simply place damage counters, of which there are more than ever. Dragapult VMAX is the biggest offender here, with both its attacks and its use of Horror Energy. Dragapult VMAX is an unwinnable matchup, but fortunately, it’s a very rare deck.

The far more common threat is Galarian Zigzagoon, combined with Scoop Up Net. This combination is at its most dangerous in Eternatus VMAX decks, which have Bench space for four Zigzagoon, but other decks such as Centiskorch VMAX and Decidueye / Obstagoon can also use it. It’s very likely that a Sinistea will get KOed by three Zigzagoon pings at some point against Eternatus, which makes the Prize race that much harder, though not unwinnable. The other issue is that you need to Bench multiple Sinistea at the same time to be sure that one can evolve on the next turn.

Power Creep: Due to the higher amount of HP, Mad Party can’t OHKO VMAX Pokemon. Even OHKOing something like Zacian V is not that easy! You need 11 Mad Party Pokemon in the discard to achieve that (assuming no Metal Goggles or Full Metal Wall GX). Since a quarter of your deck is Mad Party Pokemon, you can expect one or two to be prized. In addition, you need to keep a couple Polteageist and Bunnelby as attackers – you’ll usually have two or three in play, anyway. This means that almost every other Pokemon in your deck needs to be in the discard. That will be the case by the end of the game, but before that, you’ll have to settle for a 2HKO. This is very different from what Night March could do, thanks mostly to Battle Compressor.

Lucario & Melmetal GXZacian VMetal Goggles

Taken by itself, the HP power creep is not an issue. Mad Party can still win the Prize trade if it trades two-for-two with Zacian V, since in the endgame, it will be able to take advantageous trades. However, combined with the other issues I pointed out, you reach a point where theoretically good matchups become mediocre or outright bad.

Let’s take the example of the Centiskorch VMAX matchup. The naive expectation is that, since Centiskorch VMAX gives three Prizes and is 2HKOed by Mad Party, you win the Prize race. Of course, the Centiskorch player will actually use Volcanion as an attacker as much as possible in order to trade one for one. Even then, it seems reasonable to eventually win the race by KOing a Dedenne-GX or something similar on the opponent’s Bench.

However, there are many other factors to consider. First, Giant Hearth will stay in play the whole game, meaning that the opponent can easily play Welder whenever they want, so they probably won’t miss an attack. If they don’t need their Scoop Up Nets, they can keep them for a Galarian Zigzagoon play, so after a while, playing a Sinistea can result in an additional KO for them. You should play as many Sinistea as you can, and evolve them, in the early game when it’s less likely that the Centiskorch player has the right combination of cards to punish you.

You can also expect that around the end of the game, the Centiskorch player will hit you with a Reset Stamp for one or two cards, maybe combined with Wondrous Labyrinth Prism Star if they play it. At this point they will bring Centiskorch VMAX in the Active since you can’t OHKO it. Of course, you can prepare for this as well. This means keeping your Polteageist and Triple Acceleration Energy for the late game. This means that before the late game, you should use Bunnelby as an attacker if possible. Do you see the problem, though? You need to have several Polteageist in play early on so that Sinistea doesn’t get KOed by Zigzagoon (and of course also so that you can use its Ability), but you need to attack with Bunnelby. That requires Bench space, and it makes it harder to discard Pokemon since you can’t discard every Bunnelby you draw into.

And there could still be additional problems. Centiskorch VMAX could heal with Mallow & Lana, and/or have more HP than usual due to Heat Energy and Big Charm, and therefore get out of 2HKO range. Your Dedenne-GX on the Bench can be targeted by Centiskorch VMAX or Cramorant V in the late game, etc.

Mallow & LanaBig CharmHeat F Energy

To put it simply, Mad Party doesn’t apply enough pressure. Playing against Mad Party is usually pretty easy because, since they usually don’t play Marnie or Reset Stamp, your hand is safe. You can plan your turns in advance and prepare for something like a late game Reset Stamp power turn. Most of the time before the late game, Mad Party will also have to hit the Active Pokemon since it needs to draw and discard cards and can’t afford to Boss’s Orders. Your Benched Pokemon aren’t perfectly safe, but the Mad Party player can’t really try to win by attacking only weak links like Dedenne-GX on your Bench, they’ll have to hit the Active Pokemon at some point.

There have been decks, in the past, that perform well despite not disrupting the opponent’s plans. Last season’s Blacephalon, for example, didn’t play any hand disruption, but it compensated by being able to OHKO any Pokemon even very early in the game, so the opponent was always under pressure to respond. Blacephalon also had enough HP that you needed to commit strong attackers to KO it and couldn’t trade with it with Volcanion, for example.

Night March put even more pressure. It could reach OHKO potential even on the biggest Pokemon in the metagame (which were Pokemon-EX at the time) on turn one or two, so as long as it could chain attackers and Energy, it didn’t even need to draw every turn. This also meant it could use Lysandre every turn to attack Benched Pokemon like Shaymin-EX. It also had N, so it had some hand disruption potential itself. Also, all of its attackers were Basic Pokemon, and it had Buddy-Buddy Rescue for instant Pokemon retrieval, so it could afford to discard a lot of Pokemon and get them back later on. Mad Party can’t do the same and needs to set up several Pokemon on its Bench, which means its damage output isn’t as high as it could be. As for recovery, it has to settle for Ordinary Rod.

Can We Fix It?

Unfortunately, I don’t have a miracle formula to fix Mad Party. What I have is a list of suggestions to patch some of its weaknesses. You can improve some matchups this way, but not every matchup, as usual.

Heracross: Heracross can be used to answer ADP. In theory, if you can use Turn the Tables on the turn after ADP uses Altered Creation GX, you set the ADP Zacian player back, and should be able to win the Prize race afterwards. The issue is its unreliability: you need Heracross and a Twin Energy by turn two, and you only have four Twin Energy, so you won’t always get it.

Heracross

Ordinary Rod: While the card doesn’t fit that well in this deck, Ordinary Rod is a way to get back attackers, which means you can be less cautious with them. You can also get important cards back like Mew and Dedenne-GX.

Weezing: Weezing can be searched with Evolution Incense and lets you add some damage to the board with Roxie. It can be useful to fix some math, although I’m not entirely convinced it’s worth the space it takes in the deck.

Dewgong: Dewgong is a nice attacker against Fire decks, since it one-shots Blacephalon and Volcanion, and can add damage to another Pokemon as well. It’s best used in combination with Weezing, since you can use Dual Blizzard to KO two 70-HP Pokemon, such as Galarian Zigzagoon and Jirachi.

Great Catcher: I strongly recommend adding Great Catcher to the deck, since it’s one more gust effect and it’s compatible with Professor’s Research and Roxie. It can even be used to discard more Pokemon. More gust effects means more pressure on the opponent since you can target their weaker Pokemon.

Giovanni’s Exile: Since Mad Party can sometimes lose the Prize race because the opponent gets a KO on Dedenne-GX in the late game, it’s not unreasonable to play Giovanni’s Exile to get rid of Dedenne-GX. Sometimes, in the late game, there’s a turn where you don’t need to play any Supporter, and Giovanni’s Exile would be perfect at that point. Of course, there’s no guarantee that Giovanni’s Exile is in your hand, rather than your discard, at that point.

Giovanni's Exile

Scoop Up Net: This is the big one. I’m convinced that Mad Party “wants” to play Scoop Up Net. Here is why that card would fit so well:

  • It’s a switching card, so you get more mobility than the one or two Air Balloons that would usually be in the deck. (Note that you still need a way to switch Dedenne-GX.) This is great to start attacking on turn 1 with Bunnelby, and it also makes it harder for the opponent to stall you. (You can attach Air Balloon to Dedenne-GX and still have a way to get Oranguru out of the Active Spot.)
  • If you start with Dedenne, you can get it back to discard it, instead of having it stick on the board if the opponent doesn’t take a KO.
  • If the opponent starts putting damage on a Pokemon with Galarian Zigzagoon but whiffs on a Scoop Up Net and misses the KO, you can get that Pokemon back to heal it.
  • You can play a Jirachi in the deck, which is a way to turn a Scoop Up Net into another Trainer card. This makes the deck less vulnerable to Reset Stamp.
  • You can reuse Abilities. In the current list, this is only Oranguru’s Primate Wisdom, but with Scoop Up Net in the deck, you can start adding other Ability Pokemon. For example, Mewtwo can be used to get back Supporters, which is another solution to the “lack of Boss’s Orders” issue.

Scoop Up Net is obviously used in Japanese lists that have Mr. Mime and Jirachi Prism Star but, with that combo unavailable to us, Scoop Up Net doesn’t seem worth playing right now. That said, it’s definitely a card to keep in mind for the future.

Looking Forward

More generally, keeping things in mind for the future is the best approach for Mad Party, I think. Right now, the deck isn’t great. It has favorable matchups, like LMZ, but they’re not numerous enough, and not favorable enough, to give it a good spot in the metagame.

However, that doesn’t mean it should be forgotten. While I don’t think the power creep issue will solve itself anytime soon, it’s absolutely possible that future sets will shift the metagame in a way that benefits Mad Party. More VMAX Pokemon could mean that ADPZ gets less powerful overall, which would be amazing for Mad Party. Coalossal VMAX’s release in Vivid Voltage will make Eternatus VMAX weaker, so Mad Party won’t have to worry as much about Galarian Zigzagoon.

Mad Party dreams of cards like Battle Compressor and VS Seeker which would make its discard-based strategy much stronger. (Other decks would get stronger as well, of course, but Mad Party would use these cards better than them.) It would also appreciate good Scoop Up Net targets, since it needs a strong reason to play the card, but it would absolutely make the deck run smoother.

If you look much further ahead, most of the Mad Party engine will stay legal in next season’s inevitable Sword & Shield-on format, while ADP won’t. If nothing else, there is hope that Mad Party becomes a strong contender at this point. Of course, such speculation is useless right now, but my point is that, while the deck doesn’t fit in the metagame right now, there are reasons to keep coming back to it in future formats.

In my opinion, Mad Party is a cool concept. It has clearly defined strengths and weaknesses and, as a one-Prize deck with 60 and 40 HP attackers in a sea of Tag Team and VMAX Pokemon, it’s an outlier, and that only makes it more interesting. Plus, the Pokemon in the deck are a reference to Alice in Wonderland, and that’s unique enough to mention!

I think the game would be better with more unique concepts like this one (although I don’t wish for it to be as dominant as Night March was), so I’ll be hoping for some improvements!

Stéphane

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