A Deranged Deck – Giving Shiftry a Try
During my Flashfire Preview, Shiftry was a card that I ranked as my #3 Pokemon in the set. Its a card that I think has great immediate potential and even more potential as the game moves forward with rotations.
Shiftry is a Stage 2 Grass Pokemon with both a strong Ability and a strong attack. Its Ability, Leaf Draw, lets you draw 3 cards when you discard a Grass Energy. This is great, as once one Shiftry hits the field, it becomes immensely easier to get out more Shiftry with the additional draw support beyond your Supporters for turn.
Its attack, Deranged Dance, does 20 damage times the number of benched Pokemon on both players benches. With just a full bench on your side of the field, you’re hitting for 100 damage, which is fairly strong. However, it is the interaction with your opponent’s side of the field where things start getting more interesting. If your opponent just has two benched Pokemon, you’re hitting for 140 damage, which means with a Silver Bangle, you can OHKO 170 HP EX Pokemon. Shiftry can max at 200 base damage when both you and your opponent have full benches, which means you can even OHKO Mega EX’s if you have the Silver Bangle.
Its attack really lives up to its name of being a deranged dance between you and your opponent. If they fail to bench enough Pokemon, they can find themselves in trouble when you start N’ing them to low hand sizes as the game progresses. If they fill up their bench too much, then you will be hitting them for big time damage. I think there will be a certain skill to playing against Shiftry that we don’t see in a lot of matchups, because it can be really difficult to figure out just the right amount of benched Pokemon to take on such an attack.
Even before Flashfire came out, I started testing Shiftry. Interestingly enough, a lot of the new cards combo well with Shiftry. My list has gone under quite a few changes since I first started, but here is where I’m at right now:
Pokemon – 16
4 Seedot FLF
Trainers – 32
2 Professor Juniper
4 Ultra Ball
2 Silver Bangle
1 Dowsing Machine
2 Tropical Beach
Energy – 12
I went with a 4-1-4 Shiftry line in the deck as I want to be able to attack with as many Shiftry as I can throughout the game. A 2nd Nuzleaf would be nice, but with the added draw power of Leaf Draw, and only 2 Professor Juniper, meaning I probably won’t have to waste many Rare Candy, I felt I could get by with just one Stage One, and could be more reliant on Rare Candy than usual for streaming multiple Stage 2’s.
At 140 HP, Shiftry is actually really bulky, and a lot of stuff can’t even knock it out in one hit, so it’s not too rare to see one Shiftry getting off multiple Deranged Dance attacks off, even when your opponent is attacking it.
Miltank is the main alternate attacker. I only played one, as it isn’t as good in here as it is in other decks playing Stage 2’s. With no Muscle Band, its capped at 80 damage against non-EX’s, which means it can’t knockout stuff like Raichu and Suicune. However, it’s still a solid one-of as if your opponent has a small bench, you can 2HKO an EX if you failed to get enough damage for the KO with Shiftry.
Suicune is another alternative attacker, and more importantly, its a Safeguard Pokemon. Attackers that knockout Suicune usually take a little longer to setup than the standard EX attackers, so it can buy you a few turns early game to get setup, and to get multiple energy attachments to Shiftry line pieces, allowing you to stream multiple Deranged Dance attacks, even when your Shiftry is OHKO’d. Suicune can be setup by attaching a Water (which can be searched out by Professors Letter and brought back with Energy Retrieval later in the game) and DCE or by….
Milotic really shores up the deck’s strategy and alternate strategies well. Its Energy Grace Ability lets you knockout Milotic and then attach three Basic Energy from your discard pile to one of your non-EX Pokemon. This is great for getting an attack off with Shiftry when you didn’t get ahead on attachments or to instantly power up Suicune to attack. I’ve even attacked with Milotic to win a game before, it can knockout Charizard EX and Landorus EX, among others, with Silver Bangle attached which is always nice when a Pokemon that you’re using for its Ability can attack in niche situations.
The final attacker in the deck is Shaymin EX. I’m already playing Grass Energy, and the deck trades prizes one for one, which means my opponent will often work themselves down to one prize in the game, allowing you to Revenge Blast for the maximum 180 damage. I decided to just use a singleton Energy Switch to set it up, which can also be discarded and gotten back with Dowsing Machine. Ditto was an option for setting up Shaymin EX in one turn, but I felt Energy Switch was more consistent as if I gained an energy attachment at any point, I could use that to power it up, even when Milotic is prized.
You can still get the Shaymin EX powered up with no Energy on your field by using Energy Grace and then using Energy Switch. On that note, Shaymin EX combos really well with Milotic, you can use Energy Grace, and put your opponent down to one prize, powering your Revenge Blast to the 180 damage, allowing you to take the game if you’re knocking out an EX.
Jirachi EX is a natural inclusion as this is a Stage 2 deck, and you really need that little extra consistency boost that Jirachi provides.
The first set of trainers are pretty self explanatory, you need balls to search out your Pokemon and Rare Candy to evolve into Shiftry quickly.
Professor Letter lets you search out your Water Energy for Suicune as well as pull multiple Grass from your deck, which can then be used with Leaf Draw to draw cards. Energy Retrieval lets you get back your Grass Energy to use with Leaf Draw or to attach to Shiftry to attack. One Energy Retrieval can easily turn into two Leaf Draw Abilities being used, which means you just used one card to draw 6, which is quite strong.
Super Rod is your third Energy recover card, which can also let you put Pokemon back into your deck, always a good choice for a deck.
I went with 1/1 for Switch and Escape Rope. Escape Rope has a lot of utility in this deck for bringing up one of your opponent’s EX Pokemon to keep the prize trade going how you want it, so I started with 2 Escape Rope in my list. However, I found myself in a lot of situations where they had an EX active that I wanted to knockout, and the Escape Rope would undo that, so I ended up going with the 1/1 Switch in the end.
Lastly, Silver Bangle is in here as a damage modifiers. If your opponent is playing tight with their bench, it lets you hit a lot of the damage numbers you want to hit. If they have two benched Pokemon, you can then do 170 damage, or 190 damage if they have three benched Pokemon, which are the numbers you need to hit to OHKO most EX Pokemon. It also lets Suicune OHKO Water weak Pokemon.
As far as Stadiums go I went with the standard Tropical Beach for a Stage 2 deck. I think you do need the Tropical Beach to make this consistent enough to work.
The Grass Energy is self explanatory, as you use it to both attack with Shiftry and use its Leaf Draw attack. I think this is about the right number to play as it gives you room to play Energy Search and Energy Recovery cards, which can have a more profound effect on the game than just having the single Grass that would take their place.
I started with 2 Water, but found with Professors Letter, one Water Energy worked well enough. Suicune isn’t your main attacking strategy and its primary utility in the deck is as a wall. It only needs one Water to attack, so just the one works well enough when you can search it out of your deck fast, and as Shiftry is a more than capable attacker, you can get by taking knockouts until you pull it out of your prizes and then can use Suicune later in the game to attack with.
Finally, 4 Double Colorless makes sense with Shifry’s [G][C][C] attack cost. Attach a Grass, then attach a DCE, and you’re good to attack with Shiftry. It also works well for an early Suicune, as it attacks for [W][C][C]. It also can be used to pay Miltank’s [C] attack cost for Powerful Friends and for part of Shaymin EX’s [G][C] attack cost for Revenge Blast.
Why I Chose Not to Play Virizion EX
I think a lot of people’s first intention to building the deck would be to play Virizion EX in there. The logic being that you can use Virizion EX to power up your Shiftry and then also gain its Verdant Wind Ability for shutting off status effects.
The first part is a complete no-go for me. Virizion EX takes away from the general prize trade the deck is looking for, giving up two prizes early in the game. Shaymin EX works because you don’t use it until your opponent only has one prize left. Additionally, look at how tight the list already is. How are you going to fit in multiple Virizion EX in here? If you could attach to two different Shiftry with Emerald Slash, it might be worth more of a look, but even then, you can just spend the two turns spent attaching to Virizion EX attaching to two different Shiftry line pieces.
Shaymin EX can actually perform a Pseudo Emerald Slash for you when you start with it. Synthesis for [G] lets you search your deck for a [G] Energy and attach it to one of your Pokemon. You can use that to gain Energy attachments under the right situation. For example, if you go second, you can attach a [G] to Shaymin EX, use Synthesis to put an Energy on a Seedot. More often than not, Shaymin EX won’t be knocked out on turn 2. You can then attach an Energy to a second Seedot, and then Synthesis to a third. You then have three Shiftry that you can stream back, to back, to back compared to the two Virizion EX would provide.
As for its Ability, its solid, but its range is limited. Its biggest draw would be to prevent Yveltal EX from using Y-Cyclone with Muscle Band and Hypnotoxic Laser to knockout a Shiftry, as its advantageous for all the Energy to stay on the Active and knock that out. However, I found this range of use too limited, and think just bouncing their Virbank with Tropical Beach as well as them just whiffing all the cards for the combo is more effective, and actually kind of common when you can bounce their Virbanks with Tropical Beach.
While I haven’t got to play Shiftry against everything the format has to offer yet, I have played a lot of the important matchups and can use my general knowledge of the game to make determinations about where Shiftry can be most effective matchup wise, and least effective.
The first thing I’ll say is just because Shiftry is a Grass guy doesn’t mean he has a bad Fire matchup, which I think a lot might thing based on Virizion EX/Genesect EX’s rough time with Fire Pokemon. The being worth only one prize really effects this a lot, and if you can trade Shiftry for a Fire EX, you come out ahead on that prize exchange. The fact that Suicune and Milotic can both OHKO Water weak Fire EX’s also helps the deck a lot. I’ve beaten Charizard EX, Emboar, and Pyroar decks with Shiftry so far, and would say Shiftry is fairly favorable against them.
Yveltal EX is a solid matchup for it. It trades well when it’s getting OHKO’s versus EX’s. However, Yveltal EX’s speed can just overwhelm the deck sometimes, and if you don’t draw well off your Supporters, without access to Leaf Draw and Energy Grace, Garbodor versions of the deck provide another challenge for you to have to deal with.
Generally, Shiftry will do well against stuff that likes to attack with EX’s and also requires a big bench. That means decks like Aromatisse, Blastoise, and Emboar are all pretty good matchups for it.
One thing that can be problematic are gust effects. If you’re trying to wall and they bring up what you were setting up for a KO, that can put you too far behind to make a comeback. However, with N, sometimes you can withstand this and make a comeback as you force your opponent to draw well out of the N to maintain what they want to do strategy wise.
Shiftry’s biggest opponent is probably itself. As its a Stage 2 deck, sometimes it just doesn’t setup. I’ve tried to make my list as consistent as possible while maintaining enough versatility, but its just a fact that Stage 2 decks will have games where you just lose because you don’t draw everything you need.
One example that sticks out, I was playing a game where I drew my deck down to about 10 cards left. After the game, my opponent told me he saw what I was going for but that my deck needed Rare Candy….yeah, sometimes its possible to go through most of your deck and just never get the Shiftry/Rare Candy/Skyla combo and lose as a result.
I am really excited for Shiftry as a deck archetype. I think we have all the right kinds of support in the format right now to make Shiftry work as an archetype.
More exciting is as the format presumably slows down next season and the year after, Shiftry gains even more strength relative to the rest of the format. For example, Yveltal EX will have a significantly worse Shiftry matchup next season after it loses access to Dark Patch.
By my count, only 4 cards in my current list won’t be available for next season (Level Ball, Super Rod, and Tropical Beach). Level Ball can potentially be replaced by Pokemon Fan Club or dropped altogether, Super Rod can be replaced by Sacred Ash. Tropical Beach is the biggest lost for the deck, but I think I’ll probably just replace that with Kangaskhan EX when the time comes and use Triple Draw to setup. Between Triple Draw and Leaf Draw, you will be drawing an extra three cards a lot!
My biggest worries for the deck is its own consistency, and that would be the main thing that would make me shy away from the deck. With that said, Shiftry is one of the five decks I have built and will be testing aggressively headed up to U.S. Nationals.