Putting Some Flare on Volcanion – 16th Place Dallas Regionals with Volcanion

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This past weekend at the Dallas Regional Championship I played Volcanion EX to a 16th place finish out of 516 Masters Division players going 7-2-0 on the first day of the tournament and then 2-2-1 on the second day of the tournament to finish 9-4-1 overall. My friend, Edan Lewis, also used the same Volcanion list to finish 40th place in the tournament at 6-2-1.

There is a lot to like about Volcanion as a deck archetype to bring to a Regional Championship. It has Energy Acceleration in the form of both Max Elixir and Power Heater. It can OHKO almost everything in the game thanks to the Steam Up Ability. The deck is all Basic, and mostly EX, so you can get almost entirely setup off a single Ultra Ball with Hoopa EX. The deck is dual type, and while not too important right now, this could provide Volcanion great type coverage in future meta games. Additionally, Jolteon EX decks were hyped to counter Yveltal EX decks and Volcanion is one of the few Basic decks that is loaded with options for dealing with Jolteon EX.

volcanion-ex-steam-siege-sts-26Volcanion was one of the most interesting decks headed into Dallas. It had kind of set itself up as the 2nd best deck in the format following London, with the major knock on the deck being that it lost to Yveltal, the best deck in the format. Then League Cup tournaments started happening and Volcanion started to win in large numbers. Most importantly, the Volcanion decks were consistently beating the Yveltal decks in top cut, where the tournaments typically shift to best of 3. The sample size was small, but in a variety of areas Volcanion was beating Yveltal, and it is very improbable for it to happen that many times if the matchup was as bad for Volcanion as people said it was.

After testing the Yveltal EX matchup extensively, I came to the realization that the matchup favored Volcanion EX when played properly. That along with solid testing results against Greninja made me decide that Volcanion was a pretty solid play for Dallas and I decided to go with it.

Deck List

Here is the list I played for the tournament.

Pokemon – 11

2 Volcanion STS
4 Volcanion EX
1 Flareon EX
1 Salamence EX
1 Hoopa EX
2 Shaymin EX

Trainers – 38

4 Professor Sycamore
2 N
2 Lysandre
1 Fisherman
1 Pokemon Ranger

4 Ultra Ball
4 VS Seeker
3 Trainers’ Mail
4 Max Elixir
3 Energy Retrieval
2 Escape Rope
1 Switch
2 Fighting Fury Belt
2 Float Stone

2 Parallel City
1 Rough Seas

Energy – 11

11 Fire

When building my list for Volcanion I referenced the existing top performing Volcanion EX lists from previous tournaments before adding my own stuff to the deck. I used the lists that Clinton Kirkwood, Ahmed Ali, and Attar Rico had used for Top 8 finishes at the Fort Wayne Regional Championship and the London International Championship to inform me on what card counts could work in the deck. I then started playing Attar Rico’s list from London and started making changes to it, using the others’ lists for information on what I could get away with cutting corners on. For example, when I wanted to create room for Flareon EX, a Fire Energy was the most logical thing to remove from the deck, and I was able to use Ahmed’s list to figure out that 11 Fire would be workable.

In this section I will go over my mind set for playing the cards that I did for the tournament and I will also have a separate section later on where I go over what may have been better paths for building my list.

The biggest surprises in my deck were the Pokemon I chose to include as well as their counts. I chose to play “tech” Pokemon like Flareon EX and Salamence EX in the deck, while also cutting down to two Volcanion.

flareon-ex-generations-RC6-312x441I have been getting acquainted with Flareon EX since as far back as State Championships of last year when I was testing it out in Entei variants for State Championships and then I tested it again in Volcanion when I was testing Volcanion for the World Championship. I then had it in my initial Volcanion list I made at the start of the season. However, it wasn’t there when I started testing with Attar Rico’s list, but I knew shortly into testing that I wasn’t going to be going to a tournament to play Volcanion without my Flareon EX in the deck.

What Flareon EX brings to the deck is a stable attacker. One of the flaws with Volcanion decks is that Volcanion EX is an imperfect attacker because it needs to be reset in some way to attack on consecutive turns. This leaves you chasing resources to continue to attack with the same Volcanion EX and when you need to reset, you can easily whiff your outs to continuously attack when being hit with late game N’s to small hand sizes.

Flareon EX’s Ability, Flash Fire, also makes it a good option to have in the deck. It can move Fire Energy from less than ideal Max Elixirs, Energy attachments, or Power Heater attachments to itself, making those attachments no longer bad. Adding Flareon EX instantly makes Max Elixir and Power Heater much more potent aspects of the deck as you’re able to more maximize their value in the long run.

For example, if you’re not playing Flareon EX and you have a situation arise where you have something like a Volcanion EX active and Shaymin EX on your bench after a Setup to start the game, if you drew Max Elixir and had Professor Sycamore, you would not use Max Elixir to attach an Energy to Shaymin EX. However, with Flareon EX you can use that Max Elixir to Shaymin EX and then move it to Flareon EX later in the game.

Additionally Flareon EX gives you an option to condense a single Power Heater into getting an attacker setup for next turn. This allows you to push the tempo in the early game with Flareon EX. It also lets you quickly setup a stable late game attacker, which can allow you to setup a 4th EX attacker, making your opponent play a pseudo 8 prize game (1 non-EX, 3 EX’s, and the half of an EX they didn’t knockout before you shifted gears to Flareon).

salamence-ex-xy-promos-xy170The Salamence EX was a rash decision and was thrown in at the last minute as a means to help in the Volcanion EX mirror match, which I expected to be popular, as well as to add another option against Darkrai EX/Giratina EX/Garbodor BKP. The idea behind the tech in the mirror match is that if you attach a Fighting Fury Belt to Salamence EX and have Parallel City Red Side facing the opponent, then they would need 4 Steam Ups to OHKO the Salamence EX. This is unlikely to happen as you should be N’ing them so they’re limited in the resources they have for their next turn. If you Red Side your opponent in the mirror match they will generally have enough EX Pokemon stuck on their field for you to take OHKO’s. Being not weak to Water makes Salamence EX one of the few cards that actually can be used in the mirror match to make a comeback after a dominant field presence has been established.

Speaking of Parallel City, this is a Stadium Card that has caused a lot of confusion in regards to Volcanion with people questioning why anyone would ever play it in the deck. I’m not quite sure why people are so skeptical of Parallel City in the deck, with variants running two Parallel City making Top 8 at both Fort Wayne and London.

parallel-city-breakthrough-bkt-145-312x441The reason Parallel City is good in this deck is the same reason why it is good in most other decks. The first being it allows you to use Hoopa EX and Shaymin EX to quickly setup your field and then send those two to the discard pile making it so there aren’t easy prizes on your bench for your opponent to take. Additionally, if you get Parallel City in play before your opponent gets their Parallel City into play, that means they can’t get their own into play. Because Volcanion decks play an explosive Hoopa EX engine in them with lots of Trainers’ Mail, they typically see more cards during their first turn, and thus are more likely to find their Parallel City than something like an Yveltal EX deck that only uses Shaymin EX to setup its field and which typically plays a lower count of Trainers’ Mail or none at all.

Against Sky Field decks, such as Rainbow Road, Raichu/Golbat, and M Rayquaza EX, you can use the Blue Side to relegate your opponent to smaller damage numbers if they cannot find one of their counter Stadiums. You can even use Blue Side against Greninja if they play too many Froakie down to lessen the number of Frogadier they can bench with Water Duplicates.

The Red Side is also relevant in strengthening some of Volcanion’s matchups. The Red Side can deny would be knockouts against both Greninja and Vespiquen decks, two of the most hyped decks headed into Dallas.

volcanion-steam-siege-sts-25To give myself space for the tech Pokemon I used, I did cut down to 2 Volcanion STS. This was a hard decision that I spent a lot of time thinking about, and I think I made a good call on this one. The dilemma with cutting down to 2 was that I only ever wanted to attack with one in most of my games, but it was also the best starter in the deck by a significant margin. If I were to play 3 copies, I would start it approximately 4 out of 10 games, and if I played 2 copies I would start it approximately 3 out of 10 games. This meant that over the course of 15 rounds, I would only get about 4 additional games of starting it by bumping my count up to 4, and that wasn’t a significant enough amount of games for me to want that boost in consistency.

I also thought back to past Yveltal EX lists that ran two Yveltal XY and never seemed to have an issue finding them and getting them active early in the game, so with that having worked in the past I thought that it could probably work for Volcanion decks as well.

With 5 Switching cards in the deck and 4 Ultra Ball, it was never too difficult to get a Volcanion active in most games. As you already don’t start it in the majority of your games, even with three, I think it makes sense to marry yourself to having to switch it into the active position in most games. Including Switch in my list over Olympia also gave me more options to get it active on the first turn.

The one last thing I tried to do with the deck is to eliminate cards that I felt were too costly. I think that Professor Sycamore, N, and Lysandre are the best Supporter cards in the game by a significant margin and I am of the mindset that using one of those cards for my Supporter for a turn is probably better than any other Supporter card I could play. For this reason, I think using Supporter cards for effects that Item cards can already do is too costly and sought to eliminate those from the deck.

delinquent-breakpoint-bkp-98In my testing, I found myself never wanting to play Olympia or Delinquent as I felt one of the three aforementioned Supporter cards typically provided me a better effect to use in most game situations than those cards did. However, I still wanted the basic effect that these cards were bringing to the deck. So what I ended up doing was replacing Olympia with Switch to keep that slot devoted to a Switching effect, and switched my Delinquent into a Rough Seas for the Parallel City removal slot.

I chose Rough Seas as the Stadium Card of choice because the matchup you most need to worry about removing a Parallel City in play is against Yveltal decks and you could use Rough Seas in that matchup to also help negate the power of Fright Night Yveltal against you.

Tournament Report

Round 1 – Michael Pramawat – Yveltal EX/Garbodor BKP – WW (1-0-0)
Round 2 – Eugene Boe – Yveltal EX/Garbodor BKP – WW (2-0-0)
Round 3 – Long Bui – Jolteon EX/Glaceon EX/Lugia EX/Garbodor BKP – WLL (2-1-0)
Round 4 – Sean Foisy – Vileplume Toolbox – WW (3-1-0)
Round 5 – Daniel Altavilla – Volcanion EX with Pokemon Catcher – LL (3-2-0)
Round 6 – Jarvis Leaks – Yveltal EX/Garbodor BKP – WW (4-2-0)
Round 7 – Edward Villarreal – Rainbow Road – WW (5-2-0)
Round 8 – Ryan Allred – Volcanion EX with Entei AOR – WW (6-2-0)
Round 9 – Nick Greco – Darkrai EX/Giratina EX/Salamence EX – LWW (7-2-0)
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Round 10 – Grafton Roll – Greninja BREAK/Talonflame STS – WLW (8-2-0)
Round 11 – Xander Pero – M Gardevoir EX STS – LWW (9-2-0)
Round 12 – Dalen Dockery – M Gardevoir EX STS – LW (9-2-1)
Round 13 – Igor Costa – M Mewtwo EX/Garbodor BKP – LL (9-3-1)
Round 14 – Michael Canaves – M Mewtwo EX/Garbodor BKP/Fairy Drop – LWL (9-4-1)

The first half of my first day of the tournament was loaded with matches against some very strong players. My first 5 rounds of the tournament involved players ranked in the Top 100 of The Charizard Lounge’s Player Rankings. I played against Michael Pramawat (#5), Daniel Altavilla (#19), Sean Foisy (#38), and Long Bui (#62). I was fortunate to survive the early slaughterhouse of matches with a 2-2 split keeping me alive as long as I won the rest of my matches against players not in the Top 100.

yveltal-ex-xy-promos-xy150TOM started my day off by pairing me against Michael Pramawat in the first round, who won the last major Standard tournament, the European International Championship with his Yveltal EX/Garbodor deck. While this type of match is somewhat scary to start a day off with, it actually wasn’t that bad for me. In my preparation for the tournament I had tested exclusively with and against Pramawat’s Yveltal list from London, so I was very used to playing against his deck come tournament time and all of the practice against it really paid off when it came to playing against the real thing.

After beating Pramawat in the first round I felt pretty confident against Yveltal for the rest of the day and ended up also beating it in my 2nd and 6th rounds.

lugia-ex-ancient-origins-aor-94The match that I played against Long Bui was on the stream. I was able to take an easy victory in the first game as he only was able to get out a single Lugia EX and got benched out. The second game went similarly easy for him as he locked me with a turn 2 Garbodor and I struggled to put anything together in the game. The third game was very difficult as I got off to a slow start and prized both my Lysandre. Without Lysandre it’s very difficult to deal with a Jolteon EX when Garbodor is in play, as it would require using Pokemon Ranger twice to knockout the Jolteon EX. I did have some options to take some knockouts with Escape Rope later in the game, but I took too long to take a knockout in the game and eventually Long’s damage overwhelmed me.

One thing Long did really well that a lesser skilled player might not of was switch out of attacking with Jolteon EX and using Lugia EX to weaken my board position and accelerate the damage on the field so he could win the game sooner. A lesser skilled player may have committed fully to only using Flash Ray, which could have potentially given me the time necessary to find my outs and win the game.

The next round against Sean Foisy went much better, however. I was able to quickly power up attackers to preemptively knockout his Pokemon EX, and was able to hit my Pokemon Ranger and Lysandre in timely fashion. He didn’t get a Vileplume very early until a few turns into either of the two games. In this matchup I think it’s best to leave the Vileplume alone and try to use your Lysandre to take knockout on EX’s like Manaphy EX and Shaymin EX for two prizes when you can.

pokemon-catcher-breakpoint-bkp-105Against Daniel Altavilla I missed some of my beats in the game and fell behind in the prize trade. I did have the Salamence EX to potentially comeback, but it wasn’t working out for me. He also had 4 Pokemon Catcher, and while he flipped mostly tails in the first game, I think that probably gives him the edge in the mirror match overall as he can more aggressively draw through his deck (or disrupt with N) while still getting a gust effect. When I choose to use a gust effect, I am unable to use Professor Sycamore or N because my gust effect is a Supporter, while the Pokemon Catcher variant can putting the non-Catcher variant at a bit of a disadvantage in a mirror that is mostly about trying to knockout 3 Water weak EX’s before the opponent can do the same  to you.

Against Edward Villarereal’s Rainbow Road, he didn’t draw too well early in the first game and ended up conceding early on. In the second game, he got off to a fast start taking 4 or 5 prizes in his first few turns of the game, but wasn’t able to setup a second Xerneas in the process and eventually I was able to knockout his first Xerneas with Flareon EX with Fighting Fury Belt and then was able to Lysandre his benched Xerneas on the next turn to prevent him from powering it up. From there, he didn’t draw out of my N and I was able to Lysandre up benched EX’s for my last four prizes.

Against Ryan, I believe I was able to bench him out after his first turn as he failed to draw another Pokemon. In the second game it felt like I was behind early but I was able to use Salamence EX to turn the match back in my favor. I don’t remember too much from this match though, it was a mirror match and it was late in a long day.

Similarly, I don’t quite remember all the details of my last round game, but I know I lost the first game after starting in a very strong position, but then couldn’t finish out the game as I dead drew after an N. I think I ended up putting like 4 different EX’s up to 130 damage, but couldn’t find the Lysandre or VS Seeker to finish out the game. I’m a bit hazy on the last two games details, but I know in at least one of them I was able to use Salamence EX for almost all of my knockouts.

After doing nothing for the first seven rounds of the day, Salemence EX actually ended up being very helpful in getting the last two Swiss wins for me to put me at 7-2-0 and getting me locked into Day 2.

greninja-break-breakpoint-bkp-41-312x441I started the day off by playing against Grafton Roll’s Greninja. Greninja is mostly a 50/50 matchup. The way the matchup generally works is Greninja wins when it sets up quickly and Volcanion wins when Greninja stumbles. If both decks run perfectly, Greninja wins, but Greninja is a very inconsistent deck, so Volcanion is more likely to draw well enough to win.

This matchup is like playing a game of Roulette. About half of the time the ball lands in the Greninja stumbles slots while the other half it didn’t. The only thing you can do is sit back, pray to your deity of choice, and hope the ball lands in the right slot.

In the first game, I didn’t open a Supporter and had to manually power up Flareon EX over the course of my first 3 turns, but he ended up dead drawing and couldn’t draw an Energy to Water Duplicates or attack with Talonflame, so I was able to win the first game despite not opening a Supporter. In the second game he got a solid setup, so he won easily. In the third game, he had a bit of a clunky setup, so I was able to take three prizes with my mini Volcanion which pretty much ensures that I will win the game, as then I just need to trade each EX for a prize over the next three turns to win the game, either by doing 130 on a Greninja, using Lysandre to pick off an easier knockout on the bench, or using Pokemon Ranger to re-activate my Abilities so I can use Steam Up to hit up to 170 and knockout a Greninja BREAK.

m-gardevoir-ex-steam-siege-sts-79In the second round against Xander he won the first game in a blow out. In the second game, I used Ultra Ball for Shaymin EX on my first turn and then he conceded the game during my turn to save time, as Gardevoir does have an advantage in the matchup and he would be going first.

In the third game, I was able to run very hot and win the game in just a few turns while he had to discard all of his M Gardevoir EX on the first turn of the game. I used Power Heater for 30 on my first turn on his Hoopa EX. Then when it was still active during my next turn, I was then able to do a quadruple Steam Up Power Heater to knockout the Hoopa EX. He then knocked out my mini Volcanion. I then used Lysandre to knockout a Shaymin EX with a Volcanion and went down to 2 prizes. He then knocked out my Volcanion EX with his M Gardevoir. I then promoted my Flareon EX which had an Energy and Fighting Fury Belt attached and used Flash Fire to bring a Fire Energy up off my benched Volcanion EX and I was able to hit my Energy Retrievals to do a triple Steam Up, get an Energy to attach for turn and then used Blaze Ball for 210 damage for the knockout.

The next round I played against Dalen who was undefeated and who was playing a list similar to Xander. He mostly was in control of the matchup in the first and third games. In both of those games he opened Hex Maniac preventing me from using Hoopa EX for a quick setup. Hex Maniac is a super strong play against Volcanion decks on the first turn of the game and with so much Garbodor in the format you barely come across that with most other decks using Garbodor for their Ability locking. After seeing the lists posted online, there was only 1 Hex Maniac in their list, so it was a bit of bad fortune on my part for him to be able to find it on turn 1 of both games. With a lackluster setup to start my game, I am pretty sure I would have lost the third game if time hadn’t been called unless I were to get really lucky with sticking him with a bad hand with N.

m-mewtwo-ex-breakthrough-bkt-160-312x441After securing the tie that round, I just needed one more win to advance to Top 8. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be as I was paired against M Mewtwo EX/Garbodor BKP both of the last two rounds.  M Mewtwo EX/Garbodor is probably one of Volcanion’s worst matchups. Igor Costa beat me very easily 2-0, and then Michael Canaves beat me 2-1, with both of his wins being blow outs and my only win being a result of him not getting a second Pokemon on his first turn and me being able to use Volcanic Heat for 190 on my second turn to knockout his lone Mewtwo EX.

I didn’t expect M Mewtwo EX to actually be a major player at this tournament. I had taken the cards out of my binder to build M Mewtwo EX, but ended up not building it as I didn’t expect it to see significant play. So without testing against it, I didn’t have much of a real game plan for the matchup, which surely hurt me some. I’m not sure if testing against it would have changed anything though, Psychic Infinity is an attack that counters attacking Volcanion EX’s very hard, so I’m not sure if there is a good strategy for dealing with it for the list I brought to the tournament. I think that the Pokemon Catcher variant that some people played could do better against it by clearing out Trubbish early in the game and then using the mini Volcanion’s to setup knockouts or even just 2HKO the Mewtwo EX’s themselves.

I didn’t expect to play against the deck though, so my list wasn’t built with dealing with Mewtwo EX in mind at all.

I played against 3/8 of the Top 8 players as well as 9th and 10th place during Day 2, so my opponent’s win percentage was the highest in the tournament which meant I had the good fortune of being the only 28 point player to land into the Top 16 of the tournament.

What I Would Cut

While I think my list was fairly good for the tournament, after having played it for 14 tournament matches there are a few things I would cut. I’m not entirely what the correct cards to replace these things are yet, but these are cuts that I would make.

Salamence EX – This card was underwhelming for most of my tournament. It did come through to shine in the last two rounds of the first day, but while it helped in those matches, it wasn’t necessarily something needed to win those matches. When I tried using it to bail me out against M Mewtwo EX, they were able to easily play around it making it ineffective.

Fisherman – While I cut most of the costly Supporter cards, one that I did not was Fisherman. I never really used this card to a great effect in any of my matches and this could easily be replaced by an Energy Retrieval or Super Rod as less costly cards for getting back Energy.

For these two cuts, I would want to include a 12th Fire Energy for sure. I am not sure what would be best other addition into the deck. A 4th Energy Retrieval could be good, Super Rod could be useful for getting back Energy for late game Elixir and Steam Ups, as well as getting back knocked out Pokemon. A 13th Fire Energy would also be good. Whiffing Fire Energy in the early game is one of the ways to get setback into a loss, so playing more so that you see them more often could be a good line of play.

Rough Seas – While this fulfilled its purpose of countering Parallel City cards, it did not have much impact beyond that throughout the day. If I were to play Volcanion again, I would switch out Rough Seas for Faded Town to try to help Volcanion improve its matchups against the Mega Pokemon decks. While I think Parallel City still warrants an inclusion in the deck, I am probably going to explore testing variants of Volcanion using 2 Faded Town and only 1 Parallel City and see how I like it.

Conclusion

Volcanion EX is one of the best decks in the format and is one that should be able to put up solid results throughout the season. Even with a Day 2 meta game full of very rough matchups for it (I think M Mewtwo EX has to be its worst matchup) it still managed to place two players into the Top 16, and another in Top 32. The good thing for Volcanion is that M Mewtwo EX should probably see a decline in play moving forward after M Gardevoir EX gained a ton of hype with its Regional win. I don’t think Volcanion can really tech for M Mewtwo EX, but I do think M Gardevoir decks can probably be teched for to make the matchup solid for Volcanion.

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