As we move towards the National Championship, we will be covering more and more of the meta adjustments that are coming with the Flash Fire expansion due for release in May. The first in this series of articles will be to discuss Pyroar, and what the current meta decks can do to deal with the fiery lion.
For those living under a rock who also don’t have internet access, here is an important update on the upcoming meta game…Pyroar is the most hyped card in Flash Fire, and for some good reasons.
Who is Pyroar?
To conquer our enemy, we must first know as much about the enemy as we can. Before we can make any statements regarding how to combat Pyroar, we must first understand who Pyroar is so we can start creating strategies to deal with him. (Yes, it is a him, Pyroar has clearly distinguishable male and female forms. Who knows what they have in store for the female Pyroar!)
His attack, Scorching Fang costs [R][C][C] and does 60 damage, plus 30 more damage if you discard a [R] Energy attached to him.
All of this is underwhelming, as it is his Ability that has given so much hype. Intimidating Mane says, “Prevent all damage done to this Pokemon by attacks from your opponent’s Basic Pokemon.”
Most of our meta game is composed of decks that depend on Basic attackers, so this is a very big deal.
So to deal with his Ability, we have two obvious options and that is attack with evolved Pokemon, or use Basic Pokemon with Shred attacks to knockout Pyroar. Another strategy could be to use Poison to knock it out.
As it has a Water weakness, evolved Water Pokemon probably provide the lowest Energy investment to damage ratio needed to knockout Pyroar. There’s some other good universal counters that can fit into a lot of decks as well, but some of those are in need of a bit more setup.
Pyroar will see play in both its own archetype, as well as a possible wall in other decks. For the ones that choose to wall with Pyroar, Pokemon Catcher and Red Signal can be used for a lot of prizes, but for the dedicated Pyroar decks, a little more may be needed.
First, lets take a look at the option of using Shred attackers. These are attackers who have attacks that go through all effects on the Defending Pokemon, and that would include Intimidating Mane.
Now the first big problem with these attackers is that they are difficult to setup, as they have odd Energy requirements making them hard to fit in decks that don’t involve Fairy Transfer. The only other obvious deck is Emboar for Rayquaza, and they already play it.
The secondary problem is the attacks hit 20 short damage wise, so a Muscle Band would be needed. Emboar doesn’t have room to fit in Muscle Band, although Fairy Transfer already does, so they could be a fit in there.
Now, there is a third problem with these cards, and that is their Dragon weakness. Pyroar decks will certainly play the new Druddigon, which has Revenge, and hits Dragons for weakness. So even if you manage to set one of these up to knockout a Pyroar, you’re going to be losing your attacker the next turn to Druddigon, and something like Fairy Trans can’t afford to have three Energy wiped off the field every time they take a KO.
There’s also Latias EX, which has the unique kicker of Pyroar can’t damage it because of its Bright Down Ability. Of course, it shares the Druddigon problem, and the game will either end up in a tie from players not doing anything or the Pyroar player winning by knocking out Latias’ with Druddigon.
We have Cobalion EX with its Steel Bullet attack which costs [M][M][C] and does 100 damage, so it would also need a Muscle Band. The big problem with Cobalion EX? That Fire weakness. There is no use in trading two prizes just to get one.
And then finally, our last option is G-Booster, but this has to go on the Fire weak Genesect EX, so this is also a non-option.
We do have stuff like Chandelure EX which place damage counters to get around Pyroar, but that’s simply too little damage to keep up.
Poison For the Knockouts
One option some players may take to combat Pyroar is to use the Poison status effect to knock it out. There are a few options to inflict Poison in this format, the most popular being Hypnotoxic Laser and Toxicroak EX also gives a potential Poison option.
The issue with this strategy is it will be very easily countered. The Pyroar player can play Virizion EX, Slurpuff XY, or Keldeo EX to get around the Poison, preventing Pyroar from being knocked out by such a strategy.
Deck Specific Counters
The next thing I want to take a look at is what specific decks can do to counter Pyroar. I don’t really want to list universal counters to the deck, as knowledge of the deck specific counters is much more valuable information. Raichu, with its DCE attack cost is probably the most viable universal counter, but it has the issue of having 90 HP, making it very easily countered by their next Pyroar.
In the past, a deck like Pyroar (think something like Quad Sigilyph) could be overrun by just knocking all of their Energy off the field. This won’t be the case with Pyroar as it has Blacksmith as an option, making it so easy to power up multiple Pyroar.
This is the most accessible deck to combating Pyroar. You don’t really need to change much of anything to counter Pyroar, as you have a really strong evolution Pokemon as an attacker.
If you run out of Delphox to attack with, you have some other options. Rayquaza DRX can trade 1 for 1 with a Pyroar deck, but it’s almost a 2 for 1. The way it works, is you can 2HKO Pyroar with Rayquaza. They can then choose to knock it out with another Pyroar, or use Revenge with Druddigon. If they go the Revenge route, then you can knock that out with Reshiram BLW.
The last resort option is to just 2HKO a Pyroar with your Emboar.
Overall, Emboar decks seem very well suited for dealing with Pyroar.
The only real evolution played in most lists is Blastoise, and you should be able to trade a Blastoise for 2 knockouts on Pyroar. You can get a lot of mileage out of one Blastoise if you also choose to play Max Potion. With Max Potion and Dowsing Machine, you should be able to take down the entire deck with one Blastoise if you don’t prize those cards.
They could of course tech Leafeon to deal with Blastoise, but if they go that route, they’re giving you an extra free prize, and you’re also forcing them to hurt their own consistency to deal with one deck.
One option you also have is to play a heavier Wartortle line. Maybe go something like 4-2-3 for your Blastoise line in the deck. Wartortle OHKO’s Pyroar with its Waterfall attack, and you can recycle Wartortle back into the deck with Super Rod or Sacred Ash.
This deck has a couple of options, one to play evolved attackers and the other is to just play Garbodor, and shutoff Intimidating Mane with Garbotoxin.
The most obvious evolution attacker to play in the deck would be to play Zoroark DEX like Kevin Baxter did for a Top 8 finish at Wisconsin Regional Championships. Zoroark has the issue of being knocked out by a Pyroar with Muscle Band, and you might have trouble having enough of them to last the game, but the Pyroar player will also run out of Muscle Band or whiff Black Smith if you N them at appropriate moments. You can also play Sacred Ash to get a 3-2 Zoroark line back in your deck, which may be enough to finish off the game.
The other option is to just keep the deck as the Yveltal EX/Garbodor, which a lot of players favored during Regional Championships. One potential limiting factor with this strategy is you could put the game on a clock, as in if they Catcher KO all of your Garbodor lines, you’re just stuck doing nothing for the rest of the game.
Playing a thicker Garbodor line or Super Rod/Sacred Ash could help mitigate this problem. If you can keep Garbodor online most of the game, I would think you would win most matches against the deck.
This deck is put in the most difficult position as a result of Pyroar, as it is a deck that runs solely on Basic Pokemon with no answers, meaning that it has to evolve as a deck concept otherwise just suck up an autoloss to anything playing Pyroar.
All of those Team Plasma sets did give us plenty of evolved Plasma Pokemon that we have all been ignoring that will soon find a place into Plasma decks.
I think the path of least resistance in dealing with Pyroar is to pick something with Water typing to hit it for weakness. I see two main options for these Pokemon.
The first is Glaceon, whose Icy Wind attack does 60 damage, good to knockout a Pyroar. It also adds something to the deck in that it gives all of your Team Plasma Pokemon two less retreat cost, making the deck more mobile. It does only have 90 HP which blows, but if you pair it with Umbreon PLF which increased the HP of your Team Plasma Pokemon by 20, it should survive, but that’s a lot of stuff to put in, so you probably want to look elsewhere for your counter.
There is Beartic PLS, which I think is the superior counter. Its Glacier Drop attack does 90 damage, and with 130 HP it will survive an attack from Pyroar. It also can possibly serve benefit to other matchups that can’t OHKO it as its Powerful Rage attack does 20 damage times the number of damage counters on Beartic.
The big question for Plasma will be whether it can still compete with the rest of the meta game while still teching for Pyroar.
This deck has at its disposal any Stage 1 you could want. I would probably just stick with Beartic, as it’s pretty easy to setup and has good HP.
The issue Aromatisse decks will have is that they only have so much Energy that they can devote to evolved Pokemon, as they run on 4 Prism and 4 Rainbow Energy, and only Rainbow Energy count for the attack costs of their Basics. If you have difficulty finding your Rainbows early, you might get into a tough spot. Additionally, if the Pyroar deck wipes out you’re Energy, you end up on a clock of whether you can get Energy back fast enough.
One advantage going for this deck is that they play a heavy Max Potion count, so theoretically it could get a lot of use out of one attacker. Something like Beartic is even difficult for a Mewtwo EX to knockout for Pyroar, as even a DCE and Muscle Band falls 10 damage short.
Virizion EX/Genesect EX
This deck is interesting, as it is a Fire weak deck, making it very vulnerable to a Pyroar strategy. You have to be careful with what you bench, otherwise they can just Catcher up your Fire weak Pokemon and take two prizes every time they do that.
Most of these decks play Raichu already, so that can serve as a quick and easy counter to Pyroar, especially against things just using it to wall. However, with only 90 HP, Raichu will easily be knocked out on your next turn.
G-Booster gets the job done, but that discard your Energy, and sends a Fire weak Pokemon in the line of damage. I would try to use G-Booster only to end the game or when you know your opponent won’t have a response.
As Virizion decks will probably be looking for a Water counter to combat Fire decks in general, Abomasnow is an option. It’s a Water Pokemon that takes Grass Energy for its attack cost, allowing it to fit nicely into Virizion decks. I think I’d still go with Keldeo EX over Abomasnow as you can use Double Colorless to set it up, saving your Grass for Genesect, and it doesn’t just get knocked out the next turn from a Reshiram.
Overall, I think just because of the Fire weakness, Virizion/Genesect is in the weakest position for dealing with Pyroar.
What About Archeops?
Now this is just our main meta decks. This doesn’t take into account other possible evolution decks like Greninja/Kingdra or Gourgeist that can deal with Pyroar because of their evolution status. As seen, most of these decks have solid options for dealing with Pyroar, so going the Archeops route is probably the most viable option for a dedicated Pyroar deck. I think Pyroar as a wall option in something like Strafeguard, or as an alternate to give a Fire deck strategic depth are going to be viable options, but if you want to play Pyroar as a dedicated deck, then Archeops is probably needed.
Archeops, with its Prehistoric Power Ability prevents your opponent from evolving from their hand. If your opponent only can play Basic Pokemon down, then Pyroar will obviously be in a great position.
Now, Archeops does make use of the convoluted Fossil Engine, which means it will be a little slow to setup. However, they should be able to get it out before you can get out most of your evolutions, so it can easily turn into a game of knockout the evolutions until you win.
There is an obvious way around this, which is just to put Evosoda in your deck. But most of the decks above don’t play Evosoda, and can’t really function if they’re fored to play Evosoda to combat Pyroar, so that’s not really a viable counter to the deck.
There is Clefable PLS, which lets you search your deck for an evolution, but that’s on a coinflip, and still involves including a Stage 1 you have to get out before they get Archeops.
With that said, there’s a few ways to counter Archeops. The first is to play Garbodor, and just hope you can get it out first, and when you do, it survives long enough for you to take down their deck.
With Archeops taking so long to take out, and being difficult to do so, I would expect most of the time, the deck would only be able to get out a maximum of two Archeops per a game. If this deck gets big, expect Gust effects to bring up Archeops to see more play. I think that will be the overall strategy towards combating the deck…knock out the Archen and Archeops, and then deal with your gameplan for just Pyroar after you do that.
Their lock should be a little slow to setup, and that should give you a chance to deal with the Archeops strategy. It won’t be easy though, as you have two lock strategies to take out before you can achieve your path to victory.
So there we have it for our first really big look into Pyroar. Most decks will have easy solutions to just dealing with Pyroar by itself, but adding Archeops to the mix makes things a lot more complicated.
Just the fact that we are talking about changing decks to include these additional strategies to just deal with two cards (Pyroar and Archeops) shows just how impactful this card will be.
Luckily for us, Archeops will only be around for one format, so we will just have to deal with Pyroar by itself for most of its lifespan, which is much easier than dealing with two locks.
I think Pyroar/Archeops will just be a thing in the meta that we will have to deal with through Nationals. Afterwards, just Pyroar by itself will be something that comes and goes out of the meta when it’s most useful. I think over the next two years we will move towards more evolution decks, limiting Pyroar’s usefulness as time goes on.