Expanded Explorations #1 – Two Scoops of Pain Redux – Paralyzing the Competition with Vanilluxe
If the rumors rumbling through the community are true, then it looks like all Regional Championships will be played in the Expanded format this season. Combined with League Challenges, Expanded will be playing a much greater role in the tournament season this year. As far as I can tell, the season is shaping up to have City Championships, State Championships, National Championships, and the World Championship played in the Standard format and Regional Championships played in the Expanded format, with League Challenges played in both formats.
This is all speculation of course, but this looks like where the season is headed. I think this is a much better implementation of Expanded format than it was used last season. With entire large tournaments being played in the Expanded format, it will give the format the time it needs to develop an actual meta game which should make Expanded much more fun than it was last year, where there was a mix of true Expanded decks and players playing the same deck they played Day 1 making for a non-existent meta game.
With Expanded playing a larger role in the coming season, I want to devote more time on this website to covering the Expanded format. I am not really sure where to start with the Expanded format, so I think the best way to approach it will be to just look at certain deck concepts and talk about what these archetypes have going for them. As the year goes on, more specific meta game discussion and tiered decks can be discussed in depth.
For the first foray into the new Expanded format, I will be taking a look at Vanilluxe NVI. Vanilluxe is a Stage 2 Water Pokemon known for its Double Freeze attack, which costs [W][C] and has you flip two coins. For each heads, the attack does 40 damage, and if either of the two coin flips are heads than the opponent’s Defending Pokemon is paralyzed.
Vanilluxe was released in the Noble Victories set making it part of the HGSS-NVI City Championship format, widely regarded as one of the most fun formats in the post-BLW era. Players were quick to pair Vanilluxe with Vileplume UD, whose Allergy Flower Poke-Body made it so neither player could play Trainer (Item) cards. This meant that if Vanilluxe Paralyzed the opponent’s Pokemon then the opponent would be unable to play Switch to free their Pokemon from being paralyzed. There were very few Abilities, Poke-Powers, or Poke-Bodies that could work around Paralysis, so the status condition was very strong.
At its base, Vanilluxe would paralyze the Defending Pokemon 75% of the time, which meant 25% of the time your opponent’s Pokemon wouldn’t be paralyzed and could attack you back. However, players also added Victini NVI into the deck, which lets you re-flip coin flips with its Victory Star Ability. When you add Victory Star into the equation, you will paralyze your opponent’s Pokemon ~93% of the time, making it a rare occasion that you miss the paralysis, although anyone who has played the deck knows that the misses do happen.
Some other players had the idea of complete invincibility in mind, so they began playing it with Mew Prime which opened up other attack strategies. Mew Prime could copy the attacks of any Pokemon that were placed into the Lost Zone as its own attack with its Lost Link Poke-Body. Its attack See Off, which costed [P], would let you search your deck for a Pokemon and send it to the Lost Zone. Relicanth CL was another common inclusion in such decks as its Prehistoric Wisdom attack costed [C] and let you put a card from your hand into the Lost Zone and then you drew three cards. This let you not only get Pokemon into the discard pile, but also draw cards to aide your setup.
The deck ran supplementary attackers with invincibility attacks to attempt to make it so your opponent couldn’t KO Mew. The two common ones were Unfezant BLW and Swanna EPO. Unfezant’s Fly attack costs [C][C] and has you flip a coin, if heads you do 50 damage and prevent all effects of attacks including damage done to this Pokemon during your opponent’s next turn, if tails the attack does nothing. Swanna’s Wing Dance attack did 30 damage and costed [C][C] as well, and it had you flip a coin if heads prevent all effects of attacks. Swanna was safer as it did the damage even if you flipped tails, but Unfezant saw play in most players’ decks as its 50 damage gave it a greater range of knocking out Pokemon.
The deck saw some play at City Championships, but it wasn’t very successful, although it did win a few of them. With the meta game narrowing down to a few EX heavy decks it actually made a lot of sense as a counter deck in the State Championship format after Mewtwo EX was released, but once again it didn’t see much success, although some players gave it an unsuccessful go.
Vanilluxe saw a giant surge in popularity right before US Nationals. During the lead up to Nationals, the Top Cut’s Kyle “Pooka” Sucevich won a Battle Roads with Vanilluxe/Vileplume/Victini (VVV) setting off a Vanilluxe hype train that traveled all the way to Nationals. Vanilluxe saw significant play during that tournament, but very few players ended up making it into the Top 128 cut with the deck.
Then Vileplume UD fell victim to rotation and everyone slipped Vanilluxe back into their binders. Then Ancient Origins was announced….and Vileplume’s back! With Vanilluxe and Victini still in the Expanded rotation, VVV lives on three years later.
Changes to the Deck and Format
While the core of the deck remains intact, some of the cards from the Heart Gold Soul Silver block of sets that were great for the deck did not get new cards that suitably replace them. This is fine, it’s just important to remember that the deck will be functionally different in some regards.
The deck loses Pichu HS, whose Playground attack let you search your deck for Basic Pokemon to place directly onto your bench (you could choose as many as your open bench spaces allowed). This let you get multiple Oddish and Vanillite into play to start the game. It was a very strong setup attack for Vileplume based decks.
The other very big loss for this deck is Twins. Twins was a Supporter card that let you search your deck for any two cards and put them into your hand. This was very strong with Vileplume decks, because they were slower to setup and as soon as your opponent knocked out one of your Pokemon you could play Twins to get a Rare Candy and Vileplume from your deck. Teammates can be played in a similar role, but it’s only useful immediately after a knockout, and once you get into using Double Freeze there will be few knockouts in the game.
I think the biggest loss for the deck is Flower Shop Lady, a Supporter card that let you shuffle 3 Pokemon and 3 Basic Energy back into your deck. Lysandre’s Trump Card existed to fill this role before it was banned, so I think the lack of a recovery card for when you are under Item lock is accidental and I think we will be getting one in an upcoming expansion set.
Additionally, Rescue Energy was another great way for the deck to get back its Vanilluxe line after it was knocked out from one of your opponent’s attacks. This was most important in the VVV version as you were dependent on the entire Stage 2 line for your attacking. The Mew version was able to stream Mew Prime’s well enough with Flower Shop Lady.
There are also many new threats in the format to the status condition strategy. Virizion EX prevents Status Conditions from Pokemon with Grass Energy attached, Keldeo EX can Rush In to break a Pokemon free of status conditions, Pokemon Center Lady heals status conditions, and AZ and Cassius can pick a Pokemon up off your field to break the lock. There is also Wonder Energy for Fairy decks which prevents effects of your opponent’s Pokemon’s attacks except for damage.
Espeon DEX did exist during the 2012 Nationals format and its Solar Revelation Ability prevented effects of your opponent’s Pokemon’s attacks except for damage, but most players opted not to tech it into their decks for Nationals giving status condition decks a chance to succeed.
Lysandre also exists now which will let your opponent bring up your Vileplume in an attempt to break out of the paralysis lock. There are plenty of counter plays to this such as Darkrai EX or Fairy Garden when paired with Rainbow Energy, so this is something that may need to be changed about these decks as an actual meta game develops for Expanded.
Lastly, Hex Maniac exists to shutoff Abilities. Your opponent can play Hex Maniac to shutoff Vileplume’s Ability allowing them a turn to play Items which can let them do something like attach a Float Stone to Keldeo EX to use on future turns or play a Switch. If Hex Maniac starts seeing more play, Xerosic probably needs to be added to the deck to remove Float Stone from Keldeo EX. Outside of that, I wouldn’t be overly worried about Hex Maniac as your opponent’s Abilities will be shutoff as well, so they won’t have an explosive turn using Shaymin EX’s during the turn they use Hex Maniac. Hex Maniac is such a unique card that I’m unsure of how it will effect the meta game and certain strategies. I think it will definitely see play, but it’s still a mystery in what counts and in how many decks.
VVV – Vanilluxe/Vileplume/Victini
This is a functional successor to the VVV decks that saw play during the 2011-2012 season. With Vileplume AOR’s Frustrating Pollen Ability shutting off Items for both players all relevant Abilities to make the deck work again are here. Here is my deck list for this version of the deck:
Pokemon – 25
4 Vanillite PLS
Trainers – 27
3 Professor Juniper
2 Rare Candy
3 Tropical Beach
Energy – 8
For this version of the deck, I chose to make my Pokemon lines very thick. As we want to be playing under Item lock most of the game, the deck is light on Item cards and heavy on Supporter cards and Pokemon.
The only two Item cards that the deck has is Rare Candy and Float Stone. Ideally you would land a Float Stone onto Vileplume before you evolve into it allowing you to retreat Vileplume if your opponent brought it Active with a Lysandre. You have additional protection against Lysandre with Vanilluxe NXD, whose Slippery Soles Ability acts as a reverse Escape Rope.
I chose not to include an Ace Spec in this deck. I don’t think you would hit into your Ace Spec often enough before Item lock goes up to make it worth a spot in the deck.
Wally lets you evolve into a Stage 2 from a Basic in one turn when your hand supports it. For example, if you have Oddish on your bench, you can play Gloom to evolve your Oddish and then play Wally to evolve Gloom into Vileplume.
Bunnelby is the deck’s only recovery. When using Bunnelby, I would try to use Lysandre to bring something up that will have difficulty retreating or knocking out Bunnelby with its attack to try to open up opportunities to attack for multiple turns with Bunnelby to get more recovery. I’m not sure if there is a better option than Bunnelby for the deck. Floatzel FLF can put 3 Pokemon from your discard pile back into your deck, but it’s a Stage 1 and will take up more space.
Lastly, the deck plays Suicune as you are already playing Water Energy. EX heavy decks such as Yveltal EX and Seismitoad EX will struggle to deal with a Suciune when they’re under Item lock.
I think a lot of players will want to put Forest of Giant Plants into every Vileplume deck, but I don’t think it’s the correct play in this deck. While turn 1 Item lock would be nice, this deck is a multiple Stage 2 deck so there is a lot of setup that needs to be done, and Tropical Beach best serves this role.
I haven’t tested this yet, but one thing that is definitely worth testing is Wobbuffet in the deck. The logic behind playing Wobbuffet is that you can use it to play Item cards, which would allow you to play cards like Super Rod or Sacred Ash for recovery as its Bide Barricade would shutoff Vileplume’s Ability. With Vanilluxe NXD in the deck, you could promote Wobbuffet into the Active position at will, and then you can attach a Float Stone to Wobbuffet and retreat back into Vanilluxe.
Silent Lab could be worth trying out in the deck to try to work around decks that use Virizion EX or Keldeo EX. This would have the drawback of shutting off Victory Star, so ultimately I don’t think the inclusion is worth the space and if you play Vanilluxe you have to accept the losses against decks that can work around status conditions.
Invincibility – Mew/Vanilluxe
While Mew Prime is gone, Mew EX is here and can serve a similar role to Mew Prime. With Mew EX in the fold, the deck can use a variety of other attackers to add depth to the deck’s strategy. Here is my Mew/Vanilluxe list:
Pokemon – 21
4 Mew EX
Trainers – 31
4 Professor Juniper
2 Ultra Ball
4 Dimension Valley
Energy – 8
In this version of the deck I play more Items to try to make sure that I can get a Mew EX active on the first turn of the game and start attacking early. On the first turn, the goal of the deck is to copy Quaking Punch with Versatile to start disrupting your opponent with Quaking Punch’s Item locking effect from the first turn of the game.
With Dimension Valley, you are able to use all relevant attacks in the deck for a single Energy attachment. Once you get Vanilluxe and Vileplume setup, you transition to using Double Freeze, while hopefully getting Float Stone onto your Vileplume before you evolve into it.
This deck once again goes for the hard lock by using Zapdos EX to try to prevent Mew EX from getting knocked out. Its Agility attack costs [L][C] and does 30 damage and has you flip a coin, if heads, prevent all effects of your opponent’s attacks including damage. Whenever you get a Pokemon into knockout range, you can use Zapdos’ Agility attack to attempt to make Mew EX invincible when your opponent promotes a new Active Pokemon.
I went with Zapdos EX since it’s a Basic Pokemon, but if you’re willing to create room for a Stage 1, then you have a few more options available to you. Noctowl PLF has Fly for [C][C][C] which does 50 damage, just as Unfezant did in the old version of the deck. You could also play cards like Scizor or Hippowdon to prevent attack damage from EX Pokemon only.
The one Sky Field is in there to help aide with bench clogging. Some stuff like Seismitoad EX or Shaymin EX will be useless as the game moves foward, so you might want to do a two turn Stadium swap to clear extraneous Pokemon from your bench. One neat trick you can pull off is to use Sky Return with Mew EX when you’re taking a knockout and put up something like an Oddish for your opponent to knockout to clear a bench space as well.
It’s hard to tell if Vanilluxe will be viable with so many counters available in Expanded, but there are still a lot of decks that people have been playing in Expanded tournaments that would hate to be paired against a Vanilluxe variant, so I think there is some room for its success. This is kind of how I view the Expanded format as a whole, everything has a counter, so it’s important to understand all of the options in the deep card pool so you know all the weapons available to counter the meta as it circles through different decks and strategies.
As the season goes on, I will continue to look at more and more expanded archetypes. Some of them will be more rogue, like Vanilluxe is, and others will be more standard meta game stuff.