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The Standard Player’s Guide to Expanded Shadow Rider

The Standard Player’s Guide to Expanded Shadow Rider

This CFB Pro article has been published publicly to celebrate the season; happy holidays everyone!

Greetings! Last week, I acted as a math teacher to discuss luck, probability and what it means:

Today, I’m slipping into a more familiar role: one of an Expanded evangelist. That’s right, I’m writing once again about how Expanded is a cool and a good format, but my goal is not to preach to people already convinced. My goal is to help you, Standard players, understand what’s interesting and unique in the Expanded format compared to Standard and what you need to know if you want to try out playing in this format. If you’re afraid that you need tons of old cards or knowledge of obscure combos, don’t worry! It’s much easier to get into Expanded than you might think.

There are plenty of strong decks you can build around Pokemon VMAX, just like in Standard, although there are also other options. However, the Pokemon that are best in Standard are often not dominant in Expanded and, strangely enough, there are also plenty of VMAX Pokemon who are legal in Standard, but who are not played much (or at all) and work much better in Expanded. These include Coalossal VMAX, Togekiss VMAX and, most importantly, Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX.

I wanted to structure this article around a specific deck, so that it doubles as a deck guide. In other words: I’m not just explaining theoretical concepts, I’m also explaining how to build and play a particular deck. This way, if you feel like playing an Expanded tournament, you have a real, practical starting point. Long-time readers may notice that I did the same thing back in February, with the Standard Player’s Guide to Expanded Pikarom:

I consider that guide a success since Brazilian player Vina used the knowledge (and the decklist) from the article to win the very next Expanded event in the Limitless Online Series (LOS Weekly #22)!

Pikachu & Zekrom GX (33/181)Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX (075/198)

This time, instead of Pikarom, I chose Shadow Rider, for two reasons:

First, Shadow Rider is a great deck to showcase some concepts that feature prominently in the format, such as the importance of disruption cards (in this case, using a form of Ability lock). You’ll need these concepts to get better with the deck, but you’ll also learn about them by playing the deck.

Second, and more importantly, do you remember how Shadow Rider used to be a huge threat, back when Chilling Reign came out, but then fell off dramatically after rotation? If you’re like me, you might miss attaching three extra Energy and drawing six extra cards per turn, and/or you might regret having invested in a playset that’s hard to justify playing in Standard nowadays. Good news: Shadow Rider is good in Expanded. Really good. In fact, it’s probably the best deck in the format right now! At the very least, it was the most successful deck in December (check out my power rankings video to know more:

While I think the meta will adapt to it (it’s hard for a deck to stay ahead of others for too long in Expanded, given the high number of counter-strategies available), it’s been a powerful deck for a long time, so even if its bad matchups rise again, Shadow Rider will most likely stay a part of the metagame for a while.

Basics

Let’s start with a typical decklist. I don’t necessarily recommend playing these exact 60 cards, as I think the deck works better with some techs in it, which I’ll discuss later in the article, but I think this makes a great starting point, both to build the deck and to discuss the archetype and its place in Expanded.

PTCGO Code

##Pokémon - 12
4 Shadow Rider Calyrex V CRE 74
4 Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX CRE 75
1 Tapu Lele-GX GRI 60
1 Gengar & Mimikyu-GX TEU 53
1 Alolan Grimer SUM 57
1 Alolan Muk SUM 58
##Trainer Cards - 35
4 Professor Juniper DEX 98
2 N DEX 96
1 Marnie SSH 169
1 Mallow GRI 127
1 Guzma BUS 115
1 Acerola BUS 112
4 Mysterious Treasure FLI 113
4 Fog Crystal CRE 140
3 VS Seeker PHF 109
3 Trainers' Mail ROS 92
3 Float Stone PLF 99
2 Quick Ball SSH 179
1 Super Rod NVI 95
1 Field Blower GRI 125
1 Computer Search BCR 137
3 Silent Lab PRC 140
##Energy - 13
13 Psychic Energy 5

The basic idea of a Shadow Rider is simple: attach as many Psychic Energy as you can every turn with Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX’s Underworld Door, drawing cards and boosting the damage of Max Geist to impressive levels. Ideally, you want three Shadow Rider in play every turn, which can draw you six additional cards per turn and allow you to attach four Energy per turn (including the manual attachment).

To achieve this, you have a mix of consistency cards that you’d expect in Standard and others that are specific to Expanded.

Item-wise, the two main cards in the deck are Fog Crystal and Mysterious Treasure, which are amazing since this deck only plays Psychic Pokemon. Mysterious Treasure is basically Ultra Ball in this deck, but you only need to discard one card. you also play a couple of Quick Ball for additional outs to your Basic Pokemon, but it’s more a complement than a core piece of the draw engine.

Tapu Lele-GX is a key card, which can be searched by any of the three cards mentioned above and lets you draw a Supporter to get you out of a bad hand.

Tapu Lele GX (60/145)Tapu Lele GX - 60a/145Tapu Lele GX (137/145)Tapu Lele GX (SV94/SV94)

Speaking of Supporters, this deck features some of the most usual Supporters in Expanded. Professor Juniper (or Professor’s Research) needs no introduction, although it’s worth mentioning that many decks, even aggressive decks, don’t play four of them. In this deck, though, you really want to get a lot of consistency in your Trainer base, so you don’t have to use Pokemon-based draw like Dedenne-GX or Crobat V which would not work with your strategy, as we’ll see later.

Shadow Rider plays both Marnie and N. N is the main disruption Supporter in Expanded and can be used to lower your opponent’s hand size to one or two cards in the late game. This is particularly good in this deck, because Shadow Rider itself is hard to KO and your opponent will often want to target an easier target on your Bench, something that N can prevent. Marnie is not as good, but it has value against other types of decks, especially decks that don’t take Prizes and on which N would never be as good.

Shock Lock, for example, is a deck that, once set up, can Paralyze your Active Pokemon every turn with Raichu’s Evoshock, while preventing you from playing Supporters with Stoutland’s Sentinel and getting back Scoop Up Net every turn by using Lillipup’s Pickup thanks to Memory Energy to repeat that process on the next turn, over and over. However, it needs time to set up and Marnie is a very effective card to make them lose the cards they drew with Tropical Beach.

Guzma is the classic gust Supporter of Expanded, played over Boss’s Orders because you get a free switch in addition to getting the opponent’s Pokemon you want in the Active Spot.

Guzma (115/147)Guzma (115a/147) (Regional Championship Promo)Guzma (143/147)Guzma (SV84/SV94)

Mallow is a bit unusual, but I’ve tried it and found it pretty good. Since you draw two cards with Underworld Door, by playing Mallow beforehand, you can choose which two cards you draw. If you’re using multiple Underworld Door, I recommend waiting until before the last one to play Mallow, so you can choose your cards depending on what you drew. Mallow can grab situational cards like Field Blower, but I’ve also used it multiple times just to get a couple of Energy on top of my deck to guarantee that I would be able to use all my Underworld Door on a turn, to not miss a key KO. (On the other hand, if you have Energy in hand but not the Shadow Riders to use it, you can also Mallow to get a couple of VMAX to set up.) Given how much this deck can draw, there will be times when you have a dozen cards in hand, so you don’t want to play Juniper and you also don’t need to disrupt your opponent with N or Marnie. Mallow is perfect for these situations.

Finally, Acerola brings something to this deck that is missing in Standard: healing. I mean, you could technically play Cheryl, but you don’t want to discard all your Energy. With Acerola, you can get back a damaged Pokemon (and given Shadow Rider’s HP, many decks will need to settle for a 2HKO), along with its Energy and then use Underworld Door to attach these Energy again. Don’t forget to use a damaged Shadow Rider’s Underworld Door first, before playing Acerola. (By the way, there’s another way to heal damage in this deck: Tapu Lele-GX’s Tapu Cure GX. It’s not common at all to use it, but it’s good to keep in mind that it’s an option.)

As you may notice, many of these Supporters are one-of. As experienced Expanded players know, VS Seeker is a fantastic card which gives decks a lot of versatility, both during a game and when deckbuilding. With VS Seeker, discarding your one-of Acerola in the early game, for example, is a good thing, because it means you have multiple outs to get it back later in the game when you need to play it. Most Expanded decks play VS Seeker because of the flexibility it offers, and aggressive decks tend to play more of it, which is why they often don’t play four copies of Professor Juniper. In a more balanced deck like Shadow Rider, three copies are enough. VS Seeker, as good as it is, is a dead card in your opening hand and this deck really needs to set up to work, so you want more cards that help you in the early game.

VS Seeker (100/112)VS Seeker (140/147)VS Seeker (109/119)VS Seeker (110/108)

Trainers’ Mail is one such card: it helps you find cards such as Fog Crystal and Quick Ball early on, but also VS Seeker later in the game. It’s a very nice card that seems to find a spot in more and more decks as players realize the impact that a slightly boosted consistency engine can have on their win rate.

I wrote earlier that you should attach all the Energy you can every turn, but that’s a slight oversimplification. In the mid- to late-game, when your damage is enough to OHKO whatever the opponent is using, it’s sometimes better to keep Energy in hand than to attach them (especially your manual attachment for the turn, which doesn’t draw cards). This allows you to draw more easily off a N to a low number of cards. Here, you have two lessons to keep in mind:

  1. N is a very common card in Expanded and you should expect pretty much every deck to play it. Hand disruption exists in Standard too, but Marnie is not at all as hindering as a N to one or two can be. There are situations in which the opponent might try to come back from a bad situation by playing N, trying to prevent you to play a winning card like Guzma, to buy one turn (which is sometimes all they need to win the game). In this situation, you’ll want to thin your deck as much as possible to keep the highest possible density of “good” cards, cards that make you draw, in your deck and hand. These “good” cards include VS Seeker and Trainers’ Mail, for example, but also Psychic Energy and Fog Crystal, thanks to Underworld Door. (On the other hand, such as Mysterious Treasure and Quick Ball are bad to topdeck off a N to one in this deck and you should play or discard them.)
  2. Shadow Rider’s damage output is better suited to Expanded than to Standard, because Pokemon VMAX are not as dominant in Expanded. Many decks, such as Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX / Dragonite V, another contender for the title of best deck in the format, rely more on TAG TEAM and/or two-Prize Pokemon, who have slightly lower HP. The difference between 280 and 320 HP might not seem that significant, but you only need nine Energy in play to OHKO ADP with Max Geist, whereas you need 11 to OHKO a Shadow Rider VMAX and the former is much easier to achieve.

If you’ve heard terrible tales about Expanded decks needing expensive cards such as Tropical Beach to work, you’ll notice that the decklist above is not that expensive overall. In terms of TCGO value, Shadow Rider has dropped considerably compared to new Pokemon that are more relevant in Standard, notably Mew VMAX. Pokemon that are good in Expanded are inexpensive compared to those who see play in Standard: compare Dragonite V or Tsareena V to something like Suicune V, for example.

As for Trainer cards, they’re not always easy to find, especially those who were printed years ago, but by posting trades, you should be able to get staples such as VS Seeker and Trainers’ Mail for low value. They’re a bit more expensive IRL especially compared to Standard-legal Items, but keep in mind that cards don’t rotate out of Expanded. I don’t foresee a time when a playset of VS Seeker will be useless in Expanded, so it’s a very solid investment on the long run.

There’s one exception to this: Computer Search. I can’t deny that, even though Computer Search is cheaper on TCGO than it used to be, it’s still a very expensive card, especially IRL. (You can find it for cheap in European languages, but for those of you in the US, that’s not going to be of any use.) I understand if you’re not willing to pay that price! Thankfully, while Computer Search is a very good consistency card, you can play Shadow Rider without it.

Computer Search (137/149)Scoop Up Cyclone (95/101)Dowsing Machine (128/135)Master Ball (94/101)

Scoop Up Cyclone was the more common ACE SPEC in the deck for a long time and it’s still a very good choice: it’s a non-Supporter Acerola that also doubles as a switch. Computer Search is always useful but Scoop Up Cyclone is actually better in some matchups. (For example, against Shock Lock, Scoop Up Cyclone lets you get a Paralyzed Pokemon out of the Active Spot and KO Stoutland.) You could also play Dowsing Machine or even, say, Master Ball (or just play one more Quick Ball or Trainers’ Mail!). Computer Search and Scoop Up Cyclone are the optimal choices, but the deck doesn’t become bad without them, far from it.

Starting Off

Once in a game, the first thing you, as a Standard player, will need to adjust to, is that going first is usually bad in Expanded and most decks are better off going second. Including Shadow Rider.

In Standard, most decks are VMAX decks and while Pokemon V may have a usable attack on turn one, going first is much better because you can evolve your VMAX before the opponent and start using an attack that matters on turn two, before them. In Expanded, though, there’s much more to do on turn one. Plenty of aggressive decks, like Mad Party and Ultra Necrozma, can start attacking on turn one. ADP decks can use Altered Creation GX thanks to Double Dragon Energy. EggRow decks use Rowlet & Alolan Exeggutor-GX’s Super Growth to set up Vileplume on turn one. If you’re going first, by the time you can evolve and play a Supporter, you can’t play Items anymore!

Rowlet & Alolan Exeggutor GX (1/236)Rowlet & Alolan Exeggutor GX (214/236)Rowlet & Alolan Exeggutor GX (215/236)Rowlet & Alolan Exeggutor GX (237/236)

For this reason, when going blind, pretty much every deck wants to go second and that includes Shadow Rider. If I’m playing against EggRow, I’ll only have one turn to play Items, so I want that turn to be as complete as possible. If I’m going first, I won’t be able to play a Supporter, whereas if I’m going second, I can play my Items, play Professor Juniper, and get a new hand. By seeing more cards, I can set up more Shadow Riders and hopefully get at least one VMAX in hand for turn two. (If you’re playing against a deck that you know will Item lock you, like EggRow or a deck based on Vikavolt V, don’t forget to play Item cards preemptively! That means using VS Seeker to get your Supporters back and using Mysterious Treasure to get a VMAX, even if you can’t play it yet because it’s only the first turn.)

Shadow Rider has its own fantastic attack to use on turn one: Gengar & Mimikyu-GX’s Horror House GX. This attack allows you to basically skip your opponent’s next turn, giving you an additional turn of set up and “take back” the advantage of going first, so to speak, by being the first to evolve into a VMAX. I’m convinced that Gengar & Mimikyu-GX is the most important card that’s missing from Standard Shadow Rider, the main reason why the deck dropped so hard after rotation.

Even against other VMAX decks, like Coalossal VMAX, Shadow Rider is fine going second and there’s a strong case to be made that it’s better, because getting a fuller turn one is important.

That’s not to say that you should always use Horror House on turn one. Sometimes, with a dead hand, you’ll want to wait until you have two Energy on Gengar & Mimikyu-GX to use Horror House GX’s bonus effect and draw cards. Or you might just not need Horror House because your opponent is not putting any pressure and getting an additional Shadow Rider is better. When going first, you can use Horror House GX on turn two (with the bonus effect), but you can also keep it for later not use it at all. It really depends a lot on the matchup and the board state.

The Shadow Mist Conundrum

Shadow Mist is Calyrex V’s first attack and the other attack you can use on turn one. Despite its innocuous aspect, Shadow Mist is sometimes even better a turn one play than Horror House GX.

In Expanded, there are multiple decks that rely on Special Energy. ADP / Dragonite, for example, loves Double Dragon Energy to use Altered Creation GX, Ultimate Ray and Dragonite V’s Dragon Gale, but it also plays attackers that only require Basic Energy (usually Zeraora-GX and Vikavolt V). Coalossal VMAX has a couple of Basic Energy, but most of its Energy are Special. (It can attach Special Energy with Eruption Shot’s effect, though.)

There are other decks, though, that only play Special Energy, such as Mad Party, Ultra Necrozma, Fusion Strike and Togekiss VMAX.

Against all these decks, Shadow Mist is a good turn one play. That said, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you can win just by using Shadow Mist. Even against decks that only play Special Energy and even if they don’t get an Energy attachment on turn one, you won’t beat these decks this way. This is because of Pokemon Ranger, which is played in all these decks and will remove Shadow Mist’s effect. Obviously, your opponent statistically won’t have Pokemon Ranger in hand when you use Shadow Mist. It might take them a couple of turns of drawing to find it.

However, they eventually will and since Shadow Mist’s 10 damage is not exactly game breaking, you won’t have made a lot of progress on the game at that point. When they finally do, they can punish you for relying too much on Shadow Mist. For example, Mad Party can play Pokemon Ranger, bump your Silent Lab, draw cards with Dedenne-GX and Crobat V, discard a whole bunch of Pokemon, attach a Double Colorless Energy and end the turn by Knocking Out your Shadow Rider V.

Shadow Rider Calyrex V (074/198)Shadow Rider Calyrex V (171/198)Shadow Rider Calyrex V (172/198)

Think of Shadow Mist more like a tempo tool. You can buy a turn or two by using it, which is fantastic if it allows you to set up your Pokemon VMAX and get Energy on the field, but at some point, you need to switch to a more aggressive game plan.

A more general lesson to learn here is that, in Expanded, there are plenty of very powerful strategies, but they often have counterstrategies. Pokemon Ranger is a great counter to a lot of powerful attacks (including Altered Creation GX). Disruptive Stadiums are strong, but most decks play Field Blower. A lock strategy like Shock Lock seems unbeatable until you realize that there are plenty of small ways to beat it, from Scoop Up Cyclone to Marnie. And often, these counterstrategies aren’t absolute counters either. Having Marnie and Scoop Up Cyclone in your deck doesn’t mean you can’t lose to Shock Lock; it means that you have better odds to beat them, but you need to be careful, plan, keep your relevant cards for the right time, manage your resources and so on. Expanded sometimes gets a reputation for being full of mindless decks, but I’ve found that this is not the case and matchups between top tier decks are very intricate.

The Disruption Spectrum

Expanded is a format with a lot of variation among decks. If some people joke that Standard is all about choosing a color and then picking a Pokemon VMAX of that color to 2HKO other Pokemon VMAX, you can’t say this at all about Expanded. There are decks of all kinds there, including decks with only one-Prize Pokemon, decks full of Basic Pokemon and decks with multiple Stage 2 lines. This is because of something I like to call the disruption spectrum and it explains why matchups between the best decks can be so much more complex than in Standard.

Here, I say a card is a disruption card if it is played not to advance your game plan, but to prevent your opponent from advancing theirs. This is a very wide definition: it includes hand disruption cards like N and Trevenant & Dusknoir-GX, Item locking cards like Vikavolt V and Vileplume AOR, Ability locking cards like Wobbuffet, Path to the Peak and Garbodor BKP, as well as other cards like Parallel City (which can reduce the opponent’s options by limiting their Bench), Energy removal cards and more.

Wobbuffet (36/119)Wobbuffet (RC11/RC32)

Note that not every card directly advancing your game plan is a disruption card: for example, I wouldn’t consider Field Blower a disruption card, since it doesn’t really prevent the opponent from doing things. Other cards can be considered disruption cards or not depending on the situation: Chaotic Swell, for example, is disruptive against decks that rely on a Stadium (like Sky Field decks or Mewtwo & Mew-GX decks), but it’s often used as an anti-disruption card, to defend against Silent Lab and Path to the Peak. Additionally, not all disruption is equally effective against every deck. Silent Lab, for example, is annoying for Coalossal VMAX, but not game-breaking; on the other hand, it is immensely disruptive all game long against Fusion Strike.

With that said, Expanded decks can be ranked by how disruptive they are. On one hand on the spectrum, you’ll find decks that have a singular game plan, with absolutely no disruption: Speed Zacian, a deck that aims to flood the board with Metal Energy (thanks to Metal Saucer and Max Elixir) and move them around with Bronzong BST, is the purest example. Most lists play absolutely no disruption cards, not even N; they aim to win by being faster than the opponent, which they often are it’s possible to get five Energy in play by turn one and use Dialga-GX’s Timeless GX (maybe copied by Marshadow-GX to hit a Dedenne-GX for Weakness), followed by Brave Blade (remember, Bronzong is moving the Energy around) and thus take four Prizes before the opponent has even taken started their second turn.

On the other hand of the spectrum, you’d find decks like Stall, which are basically pure disruption. Other decks would be found somewhere between the two: ADP / Dragonite is a low disruption deck, but it does play Vikavolt V, so it has the option of using Item lock. EggRow would be close to Stall, being very reliant on Item lock to win games.

As for Shadow Rider, it sits somewhere close to the middle. The decklist above plays Silent Lab and Alolan Muk, which are very good against some decks. It might seem redundant to play both, but it’s honestly useful. If you only play Silent Lab, your disruption can be removed at any time by an opponent’s Stadium or Field Blower. If you only play Alolan Muk, you need a thicker line and you still need to play some Stadiums (or more Field Blowers) to counter Path to the Peak.

Silent Lab can be played as soon as turn one to slow down an opponent by denying them the use of Dedenne-GX and Crobat V. Alolan Muk also works very well with Gengar & Mimikyu-GX. If you’re against a deck that enjoys using Basic Pokemon’s Abilities, such as Tsareena, Mad Party or Fusion Strike, you can cripple them by using Horror House GX on the turn you play Alolan Grimer (ideally turn one), then evolve into Alolan Muk on the next turn. This way, the opponent doesn’t have a window to Guzma and KO Grimer before it can evolve. (They can KO Muk, of course, but it’s harder to find Guzma when you can’t dig for it with Dedechange or search for it with Tapu Lele-GX’s Wonder Tag.)

Crobat V (44/72)Dedenne GX (57/214)

Having a lot of disruption in the format might seem undesirable. I understand if EggRow or Stall don’t seem to you like most fun decks to play against and if you’d rather play in a format where such strategies don’t exist. However, I think that they are far more manageable than unexperienced players think, they just require to adapt your mindset. More to the point, I think disruption is honestly a good thing for the Pokemon TCG.

Without disruption cards, the game would be reduced to how goes faster and draws better. That’s sometimes what Standard looks like to me, although it’s obviously not as simple as this. In Expanded, where decks can be very consistent and draw almost all their deck in one turn if they really want to, “who wins the toss and draw better” would be a very, very boring contest. If the metagame was full of decks like Speed Zacian, there would be no strategy involved beyond good sequencing. Thankfully, these decks are kept in check by the disruption cards in the format. Speed Zacian can be very strong, and I don’t think it’s bad that such a deck exists, but I think it’s good that it’s hurt a lot by cards such as Path to the Peak and Wobbuffet. Disruption cards add interactivity to the game: they force players to consider what their opponent does or might do and try to counter them. Instead of just Knocking Out all my opponent’s attackers, maybe I should Knock Out Garbodor to keep access to my Abilities in the next turns? I can’t win as fast if I do that, but it means that if I get N’d, I can draw with Dedenne-GX. By adding more dimensions to the game than just racing for Prizes, players must make more meaningful choices.

Disruption cards also force deck builders to make choices: Do I go all in on my plan and lose to any disruption card or do I add some counters (such as Field Blower against Path to the Peak or Escape Rope against Wobbuffet) to not be helpless against them, even if that lowers my consistency? Different players will answer these types of questions differently, which is also interesting. Many decks can be tweaked to be made disruptive.

Finally, disruption cards are also what allow less impressive Pokemon to compete with more aggressive, powerful strategies. Togekiss VMAX and Dragapult VMAX don’t deal a lot of damage by themselves, but by using Silent Lab (in the former’s case) or Garbodor (in the latter’s case), people were able to build great decks around them. Their lower damage output compared to, say, ADP / Zacian, was balanced by their ability to counter their opponent’s strategy.

Good, even great decks can exist on both ends of the disruption spectrum, but often, when a deck seems particularly dominant, it sits in the middle of the spectrum. Completely non-disruptive decks are often too easy to beat with some type of disruption. On the other hand, completely disruptive decks like Stall are usually not good or consistent enough to beat some straightforward strategies like Turbo Dark. (When they are good and consistent enough, something usually gets banned: think back to some broken strategies such as turn one Marshadow plus Delinquent for example.) When Pikarom was king of Expanded, what made it particularly good in that format was how it would get an early lead by using Vikavolt V’s Paralyzing Bolt to either take early Prizes or to soften up bigger Pokemon (with Electropower) and then use the tempo advantage it would gain to win the game. Similarly, Shadow Rider doesn’t need to completely stop the opponent from doing anything. Silent Lab and Alolan Muk, just like Shadow Mist, are simply obstacles to be placed in the opponent’s path to delay them while the Shadow Rider player builds an unstoppable board advantage.

Marshadow (45/73)Delinquent (98/122)

I think that understanding which disruption cards every deck uses is key to mastering Expanded. For example, many recent EggRow decklists only play one Path to the Peak, often alongside one or two Silent Lab. This is because Silent Lab stops more things (like everything in a Tsareena deck) and because it doesn’t shut down Decidueye-GX and Vileplume-GX’s Abilities, unlike Path to the Peak. Against other decks such as ADP / Zacian, these two cards are equivalent. However, Shadow Rider doesn’t mind Silent Lab at all, but Path to the Peak is a big threat to it. Since Shadow Rider is so good right now, I expect EggRow players to switch to playing a second Path to the Peak, to get a better Shadow Rider matchup.

On the other hand, it’s also possible for Shadow Rider to improve its EggRow matchup if needed! One way they can do so would be by adding a Marshadow UNB, which is a great Path to the Peak counter (although it’s not as easy to play against EggRow because you can’t play Fog Crystal or Mysterious Treasure to search for it). Another way would be to make themselves less vulnerable to Item lock, for example by cutting a VS Seeker for a second Guzma. More Guzma means better odds of Knocking Out Vileplume and removing the dangerous Item lock from the game.

Countering the opponent’s strategy through your own techs and countering their techs that are attempting to counter yours, is where Expanded deckbuilding and strategy gets the most intense and I think it’s a big part why I enjoy the format so much. It does require some knowledge of the format, but if you look at popular decks, you’ll notice that many of the disruption cards are used in several decks, so it’s not like you need to know every card since Black & White: the pool of cards that are played is big, of course, but it’s far, far smaller than the actual Expanded card pool.

To tie this discussion back to Shadow Rider, I’ll give you some examples of cards you can add to your Shadow Rider deck. This way, I’ll illustrate my points while also explaining how to build the current best deck of the format!

I mentioned back in the first section that the decklist I was giving was not exactly what I’d play. I’ve added a bit more consistency than is strictly necessary. Mallow, third Trainers’ Mail and second Quick Ball are cards you can cut.

The Disruption Cards

Trevenant & Dusknoir-GX

This card was originally included in Kevin Rocchio’s list, which is the basis for the decklist above. Trevnoir doesn’t deal as much damage as Shadow Rider, but Night Watch adds some potent disruption to the deck. If you include it, I recommend cutting an N for a Marnie, since Marnie plus Night Watch is a well-known combo. This will be particularly useful against Pokemon with low HP which can be one-shot by Night Watch. Shock Lock is a particularly good example: it already suffers from Marnie, so adding more disruption to that is even better.

Wobbuffet

Many Shadow Rider lists have included Wobbuffet in the past. I don’t think it’s that good and getting away from it is, I think, part of why Shadow Rider has been doing much better lately. It’s not that Wobbuffet is a bad card: it can slow down an opponent on turn one, before you can set up Alolan Muk. However, doing so means you expand a Fog Crystal (or similar Item card) to searching Wobbuffet, along with a Float Stone to retreat into Wobbuffet and you’ll need another Float Stone to retreat Wobbuffet on the next turn. Trashapult (a deck combining Dragapult VMAX and Garbodor) has found success doing so, with decklists usually playing four Float Stone and two Air Balloon to help this happen. In Shadow Rider, however, you don’t want to play that many Tool cards (Trashapult will use one of these Item cards on Garbodor BKP to activate Garbotoxin, so it needs to play Tools anyway) and getting one more Shadow Rider Calyrex V is almost always better than playing Wobbuffet, because you need as many Shadow Riders as possible in play for the deck to work.

That said, Wobbuffet has some uses, especially against Turbo Dark which often counts on its draw Abilities to set up. It’s also good against EggRow (if there’s no Silent Lab in play) since it can shut down Vileplume’s Ability when Active and allow you to play your Item cards. Overall, I don’t think Wobbuffet is great, but it can be right in some metagames.

Enhanced Hammer

Shadow Rider doesn’t need a lot of Energy removal, but a single Enhanced Hammer pairs well with Shadow Mist. Against ADP / Dragonite or some other Special Energy-reliant deck that went first, you can use it to discard their Energy attached on turn one, then use Shadow Mist to buy some time while you set up. Removing one Energy from Coalossal VMAX can also make a huge difference, both because you increase your damage by removing Stone Energy and because you can make it harder from then to get to the point when they can use G-Max Boulder.

Enhanced Hammer (94/108)Enhanced Hammer (124/145)Enhanced Hammer (162/160)Enhanced Hammer (162/145)

Parallel City

Parallel City shouldn’t replace Silent Lab completely, but it can be played alongside it. It has two uses: first, you can limit your opponent’s Bench. That’s especially good against Eternatus VMAX, although you shouldn’t count on it sticking, but it’s also useful against any deck that wants a decent board, including the mirror match. Second, you can use it the other way to discard liabilities from your Bench, such as a damaged TAG TEAM Pokemon or a Tapu Lele-GX when your opponent only has two Prizes left to take.

Other Cards (Anti-disruption or Cards That Can Improve Some Matchups)

Marshadow UNB

I mentioned this as a counter to Path to the Peak. Against Coalossal VMAX or other decks that plays that Stadium, you can search for Marshadow with any of your Item cards and remove Path to the Peak. It can also remove Chaotic Swell so you can stick a Silent Lab in play. Obviously, Marshadow can’t discard Silent Lab itself, so be careful when playing it because it might permanently take a Bench slot if Silent Lab sticks in play. Overall, it’s a card that hasn’t been necessary so far but might be if Path to the Peak takes a bigger role in the format.

Lunala Prism Star

A high-HP, Basic, one-Prize Pokemon, Lunala Prism Star has two useful attacks. Full Moon Star is a good attack to use on turn one or two if you happened to discard several Basic Energy. Psystorm is also usable, even if it’s expensive! I originally used it against Blissey, which needs a lot of Energy in play all the time to work. However, my main reason for including it now is the mirror match. It’s not impossible for the total Energy count in play to reach sixteen in a Shadow Rider mirror match, so Lunala Prism Star can OHKO Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX. If the opponents limits their Energy count to avoid this, then they’re also limiting their damage, which is good!

Lunala (62/156) (Prism Star)

Giratina LOT

I haven’t mentioned Astral Barrage yet in this article and this is because it’s not that useful. I’ve taken some KOs on the Bench with it on damaged opponents and against some decks like Mad Party, you can KO two 50-or-lower-HP Pokemon (such as Bunnelby and Mew) in one turn. However, often, Basic Pokemon have 60 HP or more.

That’s where Giratina comes in. It’s a Psychic Pokemon, so you can search it with anything. Then, after discarding it, you can bring it back to add a damage counter to two Pokemon. This can be used to KO 60 HP Pokemon such as Trubbish against Trashapult, Pikachu against Shock Lock, Oddish against EggRow and Sobble against lost Standard players. Giratina is also a usable one-Prize attacker.

Honestly, I haven’t tried Giratina yet and I don’t think it’s needed. But it’s the kind of card that I like keeping in the back of my mind since it could be useful at some point.

Weakness Guard Energy

Shadow Rider’s biggest weak point is its literal Weakness, the Darkness type. While Darkness has been a powerful type in Expanded forever, due to many good Pokemon tied together by Dark Patch, it’s currently not doing so well in the metagame. I do think it will come back in force, so Shadow Rider players should consider playing a couple of Weakness Guard Energy, cutting at least one Psychic Energy for it. Weakness Guard Energy doesn’t add to Max Geist’s damage, but if it lets a Shadow Rider VMAX survive an attack from Galarian Moltres V for example, you can then heal it with Acerola, attach the Weakness Guard Energy to the new attacker and KO Moltres. In addition to Silent Lab and/or Alolan Muk, this gives Shadow Rider a real shot against Turbo Dark.

Conclusion

Thank you for reading this guide. I hope I was able to shed light on some of the Expanded format’s subtleties and that if you were feeling lost, you’re now a bit more confident about at least trying it. Shadow Rider is honestly a good deck to start playing Expanded with its basic game plan is simple and doesn’t require a lot of knowledge and it can answer many annoying archetypes, so you shouldn’t feel lost even when facing an unknown deck. Then, with experience, you’ll learn which cards are important in each matchup, when is Alolan Muk really need, which techs seem better suited for any metagame and so on.

If you have further questions, feel free to contact me on Twitter.

And with all that said, I wish you a Happy New Year!

Stéphane

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