If you look over the results from State Championships, it’s not a secret, Emboar and Blastoise decks have done really well at State Championships this year. They have a high amount of Top 8 finishes, with each deck taking at least one State Championship title, with Blastoise probably being the most successful deck overall during State Championships.
The rise of Rain Dance decks may not be too surprising if we look at how the format has changed with the advent of XY. The strongest card from XY is Yveltal EX, a card whose strength is largely based on the opponent’s Pokemon having Energy on it. Both Blastoise/Emboar have attackers that can score OHKO’s that only leave one Energy left on them after they attack, which allows them to deal with Yveltal EX better than most decks.
A Big Basics/Aromatisse deck has also arisen, which doesn’t deal too well with either of the Rain Dance decks. Garbodor has also seen a decrease in play, as a lot of decks that are popular tend to have good matchups against the deck.
Lastly, after Aaron Tarbell won St. Louis Regionals with Pokemon Catcher in his Blastoise deck, Pokemon Catcher has been put back in most of these lists, something that was lacking during City Championships and most of last Regional Championships. Pokemon Catcher is super impactful in these decks as they will just OHKO whatever target they bring up with Pokemon Catcher.
While these decks are functionally the same (attach as many Energy as you like to score OHKO’s), they really are two entirely different decks when you really look at them to their core. So while functionally the same, the experience of playing the two decks is very different.
The main draw of playing Emboar decks over Blastoise decks is because of their Fire typing, they naturally have a better Virizion EX/Genesect EX matchup than Blastoise decks do. So in a meta game where Virizion/Genesect is popular, Emboar will usually be the better choice of the two.
The real unique feature of Emboar decks is how natural of a fit Delphox XY is in the deck as it gains strength with a Fire Engine. Its best use in the deck is its Mystical Fire Ability, which lets you draw cards until you have six in hand. This is amazing in a deck that plays 9 cards that discard cards from your hand and also is able to play down any Energy it has in hand instantly.
The biggest mistake I think most players make is prioritizing getting out Emboar first, when really should they should turn their focus to getting out Delphox first, and then using the extra power to get Emboar out. Generally, once Delphox hits the field, then Emboar will follow closely behind. This isn’t much different from the Magnezone/Emboar and Magnezone/Typhlosion Prime decks of yesteryear, in which once you got Magnezone Prime out and gained access to its Magnetic Draw Ability you would get out your other Stage 2’s very quickly.
Additionally, Delphox has an attack called Blazeball, which does 50 damage plus 20 more damage for each Fire Energy attached. Its the Fire version of Secret Sword, and gives you a strong non-EX attacker to mix up in the prize exchange. Beyond Delphox, Emboar decks have a great lineup of non-EX attackers. Reshiram BLW/LTR and Rayquaza DRX are the main two. Reshiram can do a solid 120 with Blue Flare, and Rayquaza does 90 with its Shred Attack. Reshiram in particular is great for taking out Safeguard Pokemon like Suicune and Sigilyph, as well as dealing with something like Absol in the Darkrai matchup.
One disadvantage of Emboar decks compared to Blastoise decks is they do have to specifically resort two spots minimum to some type of switching effect. Blastoise decks have it built in with Keldeo EX’s Rush In Ability. What this means is that Emboar decks will automatically be at at two card disadvantage compared to Blastoise decks.
I played Emboar at a League Challenge this weekend, going undefeated for a First Place finish. Here’s the list I used for that tournament.
Pokemon – 17
3 Tepig LTR
Trainers – 33
2 Professor Juniper
4 Ultra Ball
1 Dowsing Machine
2 Tropical Beach
Energy – 10
The most interesting feature of this list is probably the Supporter count. I only played 10 Supporters, while only playing 2 Professor Juniper. I think a low Juniper count is the best way to play the deck as discarding too many Superior Energy Retrievals in a deck with limited Energy is a sure way to lose the game. With a low Professor Juniper count, the obvious replacement is Colress, which is horrible early game and not really needed late game once you have Delphox setup, so I decided against playing it.
To get around this, I played Jirachi EX, whose Stellar Guidance Ability lets you search your deck for a Supporter. With Jirachi EX, you now have 16 outs to a Supporter on turn one, making the deck subtly consistent and then you have the two Tropical Beach, giving you 18 outs to positive outcomes for your turn one. I used Jirachi EX turn one in 2/3 games at the League Challenge I played it at, and probably would have lost both games otherwise.
As far as switch effects, I played one Escape Rope, and one Keldeo EX. The Keldeo EX is an idea I got from the Emboar list Jay Hornung made Top 8 at Minnesota States with. It gives you a switch effect searchable by Ultra Ball, and something you can throw on your field and always have a switch effect ready.
As far as Fennekin goes, the one in the XY base set is the bad one, with only 50 HP. If you want to play Emboar for Regional Championships, try to track down the 60 HP Fennekin from the Starter decks.
I think Blastoise decks are the one that players are more familiar with, as it’s been a successful archetype for a longer period of time. Blastoise decks main focus is Black Kyurem EX, which does 200 damage with its Black Ballista attack. Its backup attacker is Keldeo EX, which does 50 damage plus 20 more damage for each Water Energy attached.
The big thing Blastoise decks have over Emboar decks is Keldeo EX. It gives the deck an extra two spaces making it easier to fit in everything you want, and it gives the deck a better Garbodor matchup as it has a Basic Pokemon it can load Energy onto that doesn’t discard.
One other non-EX attacker that is an option is Suicune PLB, which also gives the deck a Safeguard option, adding another layer of strategy to the deck. Check Brit Pybas’ States report to see his unique list that made use of Suicune. Really make sure to read his report. Brit is a high profile player, so whether you want to play Blastoise or not, it will be information worth having. I wouldn’t be shocked if in some areas a lot of players try to copy Brit’s list when making their own Blastoise decks, so be prepared for the little tricks it used to give him great success during States.
The approach I took to Blastoise is a little bit different than Brit’s. I like to call this Starfox Blastoise, as it has the Stellar Guidance of Jirachi EX and the draw power of my beloved Delphox.
Pokemon – 15
3 Squirtle BCR
Trainers – 35
2 Professor Juniper
4 Ultra Ball
1 Dowsing Machine
3 Tropical Beach
Energy – 10
Now, while this is functionally very similar to my Emboar deck, there is quite a bit of extra space, so I will mainly cover how I filled that space in here.
I played a third copy of Tropical Beach, giving it a little better early game consistency compared to the Emboar deck. I also was able to fit in a second Professor Letter, which helps the deck get off to more explosive starts compared to Emboar.
Lastly, I fit in a Max Potion. Being able to clear Energy of of your behemoth EX’s is very strong!
While these two are functionally the same deck, I would say Blastoise can be described as a more consistent deck than Emboar. One other approach to this that you can take is to thicken your Delphox line to a 2-0-2, just like Emboar, making that part of the deck more consistent. The second Professors Letter and the Max Potion are the most obvious spots to make these cuts, however I think Max Potion is more important for Blastoise just because it doesn’t have as many strong non-EX’s to use to mix up the prize exchange.
Whether you decide to play it or not, Blastoise and Emboar will be two decks that you should expect to see at Regional Championships. Because of the limited number of Tropical Beach available to players, it will have less players playing it than you would generally expect from a main archetype. But that doesn’t mean to disregard it, as the deeper you go into the tournament, the more likely that you will be to play it in the tournament.