Dragon Locked – A Look at Dragonite

The biggest story of the first weekend of Regional Championships wasn’t the first place deck, but rather the third place deck, a Dragonite deck piloted by Dylan Bryan.

The deck isn’t exactly one that came out of nowhere, I’ve come across the deck before in random games on PlayTCG, they just were never really refined to be a truly competitive deck. So it was pretty special when a player was able to refine the concept into a very good tournament worthy deck.

After hearing about the deck, I put it together, tested it some, and then played it for a tournament. The deck is largely a conglomerate of existing concepts and previously used strategies, all put together in one deafening deck.

Skeleton List

First, I would like to go over a skeleton list for the deck. I think it’s important to look at a skeleton for this deck before going into a completed deck list for this deck so we can strip it down to the bare essentials necessary to execute the deck’s strategy.

Pokemon – 17

3 Dratini
3 Dragonite PLF
2 Trubbish
2 Garbodor DRX
2 Solosis
2 Reuiniclus BLW
1 Virizion EX
1 Jirachi EX
1 Mr. Mime

Trainers – 29

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
2 Skyla
1 Colress

4 Ultra Ball
4 Rare Candy
1 Tool Scrapper

2 Float Stone
2 Silver Mirror
2 Silver Bangle

1 Ace Spec

2 Tropical Beach

Energy – 10

6 Basic Energy*
4 Double Colorless

*At the very least, some of your Basic Energy should be composed of Grass Energy to make use of Virizion EX’s Verdant Wind Ability. It’s a very important component to the deck executing its strategy.

Now this is a pretty filled out skeleton list for the deck, it’s already at 56 cards, which is already 93.3% of the deck. I’ll explain why these are the essential cards to the deck in the next section.

Deck Strategy

First let’s look at the main attacker in our deck, which is Dragonite PLF. The main use of the card in this deck is its Deafen attack, which costs CCC and does 60 damage, and also prevents your opponent from playing Item cards on their next turn of the game. This attack doesn’t do a lot of damage, but you can boast it to 90 damage with Silver Bangle, which is good enough to 2HKO EX’s.

As Dragonite is a bulky Pokemon at 150 HP, some decks, such as Darkrai EX for example, don’t have the means to OHKO a Dragonite without use of their Item cards like Hypnotoxic Laser. So there is potential to tank Dragonite in some matchups. Now there is a problem in that Dragonite is a Stage 2 Pokemon that takes two Energy attachments to setup, so it can be difficult to stream multiple Dragonite in a game. So ideally, we would like to be able to just setup one Dragonite, and use that for the entire game.

There is a way we can do that, and that is Reuniclus, whose Damage Swap Ability lets you move damage counters off one of your Pokemon and onto another. This is a concept that has seen play in year’s past in the Truth and Gothitelle/Reuniclus decks, which attempted to setup a game state in which the Active Pokemon could never be knocked out in one hit, and any damage done to the Active Pokemon was just moved to the bench.

Now since Solosis, the Basic of Reuniclus only has 30 HP, it is imperative to play Mr. Mime to give you time to evolve into Reuinclus. If you don’t play Mr. Mime, you are forced to bench two Solosis in the same turn to give yourself a chance to evolve into Reuiniclus if you’re playing against a deck with a snipe attack that does 30 (such as Hammerhead or Night Spear), and even then, you’re only giving yourself a one turn window to get the Reuiniclus into play, which is a very short period.

Against decks like Blastoise or Emboar whose strength is powering up attackers in one turn through Energy Acceleration Abilities, you setup Garbodor instead to lock their Abilities and limit what they can do. Against decks like Plasma or Virizion/Genesect, you play Garbodor as well to shutoff Red Signal, allowing you to attach a Silver Mirror to Dragonite while preventing your opponent from attacking into anything else beyond the Active.

As Deafen locks them from playing Items, they will be unable to remove the Silver Mirror.

You need to use Deafen every turn to maintain the Item lock, so you also need to be able to successfully use every turn to make the deck work. Because of this, preventing status conditions that could prevent you from attacking for a turn, and thus breaking the lock, need to be stopped. Now you naturally block the main status infliction card of Hypontoxic Laser through your Item lock. The real reason to play Virizion EX is to prevent a Sableye from using Confuse Ray against you. Just one turn of missing Deafen to a confused Dragonite could cost you the game.

Filling in the Skeleton

There are a few different ways that we could go about filling out the skeleton for the deck to get the completed product. I’ll cover a few different angles that you could take when finishing off the deck.

The first way you can fill those 4 remaining spots is by adding more consistency cards, allowing the deck to better setup. The most obvious changes would be to add another Skyla, another Colress, and 2 Level Ball to the deck to help it setup. Alternatively, using a spot for Super Rod may be a wise decision as you may discard important pieces of an evolution line while chasing your setup.

As is, I think the deck sets up okay. You have to rely on Jirachi EX to get the right Supporters to complete your setup, but with 11 Supporters, 4 Ultra Ball, 1 Jirachi EX, and potentially a Computer Search, you have 17 possible consistency outs on the first turn of the game.

The Ace Spec is interesting. I think the two main Ace Specs that should be considered are Computer Search and Dowsing Machine. Computer Search adds setup consistency to the deck and can be used to search out your Double Colorless Energy to get off Deafen the turn you want it. Dowsing Machine is good in the sense that space is tight, so it might give you that extra Rare Candy or Tool Scrapper that you need for a given matchup.

A less conventional choice for the deck would be Rock Guard, which can help Dragonite build up more damage on your opponent’s Pokemon when they choose to attack into Dragonite.

As far as Energy goes, Grass is what you will want to make the main focus, so you can properly use Virizion EX’s Verdant Wind Ability, but you can also play some other Basic Energy so you can use the attacks of Dragonite’s pre-evolutions, or an attack of one of your alternative Pokemon.

Max Potion is also a consideration here to be played along with Reuiniclus. You can move damage to your Virizion EX, and then Max Potion up to 160 damage off of it, giving you high healing potential.

The last way to fill out those 4 remaining spots is by adding utility Pokemon into the deck. Cresselia EX will gradually heal off damage as the game goes on, being able to have the same effect as Max Potion over the course of 8 turns. I’m not sure the deck needs any healing options to be honest, as you have a lot HP on your bench to move damage to, and if you setup in a timely fashion, you can probably sacrifice some Pokemon for intentional knockouts to have more space to move damage to the bench.

Mewtwo EX is probably the best backup attacker the deck can has, as it just needs a Double Colorless to attack. Just in the few testing games I’ve played with the deck, it’s amazing how well the deck can function as a Mewtwo EX/Reuiniclus deck when your overall setup fails you, or your opponent has something to knock Dragonite out. Additonally, if you don’t play Mewtwo EX, your opponent can build up a giant Mewtwo EX and roll through your Dragonite’s with OHKO’s.

It’s good in general to play at least one more EX in addition to Virizion EX just so you have a bulky Pokemon on your bench to move damage to. Additional Dragonite’s on your bench can provide a bulky Pokemon to move damage to, but its harder to setup additional Dragonite than it is to drop an EX onto your bench.

The other additional Pokemon you could play are middle evolutions for your Stage 2’s to boast your consistency in getting those setup.

Ho-Oh Dragonite

One thing I noticed about the deck is that its Virizion/Genesect matchup can be a bit shaky if they play enough non-Plasma alternative attackers such as Mewtwo EX or multiple Bouffalant. Bouffalant can trade evenly with a Dragonite, so that’s a bit of a problem, and a Mewtwo EX can be loaded with Energy to OHKO Dragonite’s.

With that in mind, I built a version of the deck that takes advantage of Ho-Oh EX to help out your Virizion/Genesect matchup.

Pokemon – 20

3 Dratini PLF
3 Dragonite PLF
2 Trubbish DRX
2 Garbodor DRX
2 Solosis PLB
2 Reuniclus BLW
1 Virizion EX
1 Cresselia EX
1 Mewtwo EX
1 Ho-Oh EX
1 Jirachi EX
1 Mr. Mime

Trainers – 30

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
2 Skyla
1 Colress

1 Computer Search

4 Ultra Ball
4 Rare Candy
1 Super Rod
1 Tool Scrapper

2 Float Stone
2 Silver Bangle
2 Silver Mirror

2 Tropical Beach

Energy – 10

4 Double Colorless
3 Grass
1 Lightning
1 Psychic
1 Metal

Tournament Deck List

As I stated earlier, I did play the deck for a League Challenge. Here is the list I used for that tournament.

Pokemon – 20 

3 Dratini PLF
1 Dragonair PLF
3 Dragonite PLF
2 Trubbish DRX
2 Garbodor DRX
2 Solosis PLB
2 Reuiniclus BLW
1 Virizion EX
1 Cresselia EX
1 Mewtwo EX
1 Jirachi EX
1 Mr. Mime

Trainers – 30

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
2 Skyla
1 Colress

1 Computer Search

4 Ultra Ball
4 Rare Candy
1 Super Rod
1 Tool Scrapper

2 Float Stone
2 Silver Mirror
2 Silver Bangle

Energy – 10

4 Double Colorless
3 Grass
2 Psychic
1 Lightning

This is a pretty standard list for the deck, outside of the extra Basic Energy I used to be able to use backup attacks other than Deafen. Everything else is pretty in line with what you would expect from the deck.

Tournament Report

The tournament I played the deck in was a five round League Challenge at Yeti Gaming in Crestwood, Missouri.

Here are how my matchups played out:

Round 1 – Round – W
Round 2 – Darkrai/Garbodor – W
Round 3 – Darkrai/Garbodor – L
Round 4 – Big Basics/Garbodor – W
Round 5 – Virizion EX/Genesect EX – L

In my round 1 matchup against Round, I got the turn 3 Deafen off. It would have been turn 2, but I had to attach a Double Colorless Energy on turn one, and that got Enhanced Hammered on my opponent’s turn. Thanks to the Item lock, my opponent had difficulty filling his bench with Pokemon with Round, limiting him to hitting for only 120 damage at his maximum. Once a Seismatoad was knocked out, he had difficulty getting another one setup, and with Reuiniclus in play, he could never knock out my Dragonite.

My round 2 matchup was pretty uneventful, from the standpoint that once you get setup in this matchup, you can’t lose the match. What I want to highlight are the types of plays you can make with the deck that aren’t so obvious. So on the turn I was going to be able to use Deafen, I intentionally knocked out my benched Dragonair to free up a bench space. In that bench space, I played down Jirachi EX, and used Stellar Guidance to search my deck for a Skyla and used that to get Tool Scrapper, to remove the Tool from his benched Trubbish, preventing him from getting Garbotoxin working against me and shutting off Damage Swap. Next, I moved damage to Jirachi EX to knock it out to play down Virizion EX onto my bench, to prevent him from confusing my Dragonite. From there, I had a setup that guaranteed me the victory. I sacrificed three prizes in the turn to do it, but once I had all that setup, there was nothing my opponent could do from preventing me from winning the game.

I lost my next round against the deck because of the general inconsistency of Dragonite. I got Reuniclus out before I could use Deafen, and my opponent hit heads on a Pokemon Catcher, allowing him to knock out Reuiniclus. From there, I used my Tool Scrapper on his Garbodor when I had it in hand, but whiffed Deafen and so he got another tool on Garbodor, preventing Damage Swap for the rest of the game. I still had an out when I N’d my opponent late game, if I could hit a Double Colorless and Silver Bangle, I could take a knockout and probably win the game. I whiffed the Bangle, and was unable to knockout his Darkrai EX, and from there the game was his.

The next round against Big Basics/Garbodor, I prized my Tool Scrapper but was able to take a knockout with two Bangled Deafens and drew my Tool Scrapper off my first two prizes. Once that happened, I was able to use Damage Swap and had an unstoppable setup to take the game.

The last round against Virizion/Genesect, I started with a lone Solosis and it was donked by Hypnotoxic Laser/Virbank City Gym.

This Deck Has Issues

One thing that I and a lot of others who were testing the deck noticed is that the deck has a lot of vulnerabilities which can be exploited by the top decks in the meta game.

First of all, the deck can struggle against Emboar/Blastoise if they get setup. Blastoise for example, can use the non-EX Black Kyurem to OHKO a Dragonite, and it isn’t even OHKO’s back by Deafen, allowing it to knockout two Dragonite’s before its taken down, and presumably break the Deafen lock. Rayquaza can OHKO Dragonite for Emboar, but it can be OHKO’d back by Deafen. Reshiram, alternatively, can trade evenly with a Dragonite, as it will put the Reshiram up to 120 damage, allowing it to Outrage for 20, then 80, then 140.

Virizion EX/Genesect EX can trade well enough with Dragonite decks if it plays non-EX attackers, and if it gets setup fast enough, it can target down the Energy with Red Signal.

Sableye/Hammers can also just remove the Energy from your field before you get to Deafen with Crushing Hammer and Enhanced Hammer, preventing you from ever getting to use Deafen in a game.

Lastly, Garbodor decks can pose an issue for you prize Tool Scrapper or are forced to use it before you can Deafen as in these matchups you will need to go to Reuniclus to tank your Dragonite, otherwise they will just run over you fairly easily.

Conclusion

This is definitely an interesting deck, and I think it’s cool to see such a unique deck do well at a major tournament. I don’t think there are many more confident positions you can have in this game than using Deafen with Reuiniclus in play, knowing your opponent has no means of winning the game.

With that said, the deck clearly has issues which pretty much every major deck in the format if they’re built properly. I think Dragonite’s success can largely be associated to being played in the right meta game by a very good player. I think Dragonite will ultimately just be a one hit wonder in this format, and it’s success in Virginia won’t be replicated anytime soon.

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