One of the most interesting decks headed into the Anaheim Regional Championship is Vespiquen. Despite taking up 3 of 8 Top 8 spots at the Athens Regional Championship, in the national meta game it appears that Vespiquen is still not being taken as seriously as it should be. I personally believe that Vespiquen is still one of the top contenders headed into the Anaheim Regional Championship, and I think it actually improved itself with some of the new cards in Sun and Moon.
In this article I take a look at Vespiquen’s place in the meta game, re-establish what I feel is the true skeleton for my favored variant of Vespiquen, go over how I would fill it in for Anaheim, and go over some of the other recent trends that could impact the deck.
Vespiquen at Past Tournaments
In a sport like basketball, there are the top level statistics that most casual fans are familiar with and then there are the set of advanced statistics that more hardcore fans are familiar with. A casual fan, for example, may look at the stats and conclude that Russell Westbrook has been better than Kevin “cupcake” Durant because Westbrook is averaging 31.2 points per a game and Durant is only averaging 25.9 points per a game. However, someone paying more attention to the details would realize that Durant’s 25.9 points is more valuable than Westbrook’s 31.2 points because Durant is doing it on an ultra efficient 65.0 true shooting percentage, while Westbrook is doing his on 54.4 TS%.
A similar misevaluation is going on with Vespiquen right now in Pokemon. It’s being routinely ranked below decks like M Mewtwo EX and Greninja BREAK (last format), despite being a clearly superior deck to either of them. At every Regional Championship this year, Vespiquen has likely been played in the single digits, probably less than 5 people playing it at some of the tournaments, and despite that, starting with Fort Wayne it has had Top 32 finishes at every event.
- Fort Wayne – Darin O’Meara, 11th
- European International – Alex Hill, 9th
- Dallas – Tyler Vaughn, 17th
- Athens – Dylan Bryan, 2nd; Carl Sitavi, 3rd; William Boatman, 7th
When a deck consistently is putting up high finishes, despite barely anyone in the room playing it, that is a strong indicator that the deck is super strong and being underrated massively.
If you examine the Top 32 numbers from the US Evolutions Regionals (Fort Wayne, Dallas, and Athens) this is very clear. In terms of points per finish, Vespiquen has netted players an average of 86.4 CP per each appearance in Day 2. This is better than any of the other Top 10 decks. Here’s the full list of the Top 10 total CP decks in format, re-ranked by CP/apperance:
- Vespiquen – 86.4
- Turbo Darkrai EX – 84.8
- M Gardevoir EX – 68.4
- Volcanion EX – 68.4
- Yveltal EX – 65.8
- M Rayquaza EX – 56
- Rainbow Road – 49.3
- Greninja BREAK – 48
- M Mewtwo EX – 45.1
- Jolteon EX/Garbodor – 38.4
To add some context to these numbers, the average points per finish at a Regional is 54.75. This means that fan favorites like Greninja BREAK and M Mewtwo EX have performed less than the average deck would be expected to perform in a Day 2, meaning that most likely the decks aren’t as good as people tend to think and are mostly the result of high numbers of players playing them. Deck’s like Vespiquen and Turbo Darkrai EX, on the other hand, have performed very well when making it into Day 2.
Vespiquen Deck Skeleton
Here is the general skeleton for Vespiquen for the style that I’ve been using this season. These are the card counts that I don’t think you should touch with the deck.
Pokemon – 22
4 Combee AOR
Trainers – 27
4 Professor Sycamore
4 Ultra Ball
1 Stadium Card
Energy – 4
4 Double Colorless
*Super Rod or Buddy Buddy Rescue can be substituted for one of these, although I’m not a fan.
This skeleton list is 53 cards, which gives us 7 spots to freely use as we like. Only 48 of the skeleton cards are firmly in place, as the alternate attacker line and Stadium Card spot are all malleable.
The majority of your open spots you are going to want to devote to extra Pokemon to help shore up some bad matchups and to give you enough Pokemon to ramp up Vespiquen’s Bee Revenge damage. In general, the most successful Vespiquen lists tend to be right around 28 Pokemon in it, with a little variance up and down depending on the list.
How you fill in the empty spots in the skeleton will come down to the expected meta game. There is a plethora of options available to the deck and choosing the right ones for a given tournament can greatly increase your performance.
Here are some of the common cards that players have been using to fill in these spots.
As far as alternate attackers go, at this point I consider there being two primary alternate attackers and that is Zebstrika BKP and Zoroark BKT. In a meta game where I expect high amounts of Yveltal EX/Garbodor decks, I would play Zebstrika as that matchup can be tough without it.
In almost any other scenario, Zoroark is going to be a better alternate attacker as it has more general utility. Against anything without Lightning weakness and Fighting resistance, Zoroark will almost always have a higher damage output. M Rayquaza EX is probably the only other deck where Zebstrika is better than Zoroark, and even in that matchup Zoroark is terrific.
One of the nice things about Zoroark is that you can use its Stand In Ability to get Unown and Klefki to the bench to use their Abilities. The Zebstrika variant sometimes gets stuck with a Klefki or Unown active when they whiff drawing into a Float Stone, while the Zoroark variant is more consistent at transitioning into an attack early.
There are three primary sets of support Pokemon that people have been playing in Vespiquen and these are Garbodor BKP, Octillery BKT, and the Ancient Origin Eeveelutions.
The Garbodor tech is primarily for meta games where you expect Greninja BREAK to see play. With Bursting Balloon and Giant Water Shuriken the matchup can become a little bit negative without it, but with it, Greninja is almost a free matchup. Some players have also went with Giratina XY184 in place of Garbodor, but this is a weaker lock that they can play around by getting a Silent Lab into play, re-activating their BREAK’s Ability. It probably does shift the matchup into Vespiquen’s favor, but it is going to have a higher failure rate against Greninja than a Garbodor variant of Vespiquen.
The next card that some players have used is Octillery BKT as a draw engine, sometimes replacing some of the Shaymin EX in the deck. I’m not a big fan of this card in Vespiquen because that is two Pokemon on the bench that could be in the discard pile fueling your damage. With that said, Abyssal Hand is very strong at what it does and does do a great job of helping you go through your deck and protecting you for N.
A new option to replace Octillery with is Oranguru SM, which gives you weaker draw, but also is easier to get into play and which also only is only 1 Pokemon on the bench instead of 2.
The Ancient Origin Eeveelutions, Flareon, Vaporeon, and Jolteon are used to change the type of your Stage 1’s so you can hit Pokemon for weakness. The most prominent of these is Vaporeon, as it hits Volcanion for weakness, turning a once bad matchup into a favorable one. Flareon most likely gains value from Sun and Moon’s release as Lurantis GX, Decidueye GX, and Solgaleo GX are all weak to Fire and all of them have some degree of potential. Jolteon typically isn’t played as you already have a favorable M Rayquaza EX matchup and Yveltal decks play Garbodor, shutting down the Ability.
Vespiquen for Anaheim
With that said, here is my updated Vespiquen list that would be how I played Vespiquen for Anaheim if I were able to go.
Pokemon – 28
4 Combee AOR
Trainers – 28
4 Professor Sycamore
4 Ultra Ball
1 Faded Town
Energy – 4
4 Double Colorless
I’m not going to completely go over this list as I’ve done some more recent ones as this is an established archetype and this style of list is verified with good results at both Regional Championships and League Cups already. I want to primarily focus on the new stuff.
For some of the more typical minutia of the deck, here is the quick rundown:
- Zoroark over Zebstrika for the alternate attacker. I do think Yveltal EX/Garbodor BKP will see a bit more play at Anaheim than it saw at Dallas and Athens, but I think it’s still going to be something most players only see once in the initial 9 Swiss rounds so it’s probably not worth teching for, as Zoroark will be better in most of your other matches throughout the day.
- I chose Eeveelutions over Garbodor as I don’t think Greninja will see much play. Vaporeon is for Volcanion EX, one of the deck’s worst matchups which you can expect to be there. While in most circumstances you want the 2-2 Vaporeon to really stick it to Volcanion, I think for this tournament you will want to split your resources. Playing a copy of Flareon will be smart as I think there is a sizable number of players looking to play Lurantis GX/Vileplume, and you will also improve your Decidueye GX and Solgaleo GX matchups if people decide to try those out in Standard as well.
- With Mega Pokemon on the decline, I don’t think it’s worth it to have 2 Faded Town, so I’ve cut it down to 1 and put in a Forest of Giant Plants again. While I think Mega Pokemon will play a diminished role at Anaheim, it is still likely that M Mewtwo EX and M Gardevoir EX see a decent amount of play and Faded Town is great against both decks.
Now, onto the two new exciting additions to the deck.
There are two primary ways in which Tauros GX can be used in the deck, and that is as an early game attacker or as a late game attacker…or in the case of the early game, as a wall.
What Tauros GX does for you in the early game is give you something to do while you build up your damage output. Typically in the first few turns of the game you wouldn’t be doing too much except giving up prizes as your low HP Pokemon get knocked out. So you were already generally starting games a couple prizes behind, but now Tauros GX also gives you the potential to take some early prizes as well.
Against decks with low HP Pokemon you can use Tauros’ Horn Attack to take early knockouts. Against EX and GX decks, if they hit you for any significant damage without knocking out Tauros, then you can use its Mad Bull GX attack for a OHKO and two quick prizes.
One of my favorite moves in the early game, before I can OHKO stuff with Vespiquen, is to clean up all of the Shaymin EX I had to play down onto my bench so I don’t lose the game because they get brought up with Lysandre later in the game. Tauros GX is an excellent wall to Sky Return into.
If they hit into it, then you can use Mad Bull GX for a OHKO in most cases. Otherwise they need to use Lysandre to play around it, and there is a good chance they won’t be able to play Lysandre anyhow as it’s the early game and they still have to setup their board. If they choose to do nothing, then Tauros GX has bought you an extra turn without giving up a prize for you to build up your damage output for Bee Revenge. Tauros GX is great at creating damned if you do, damned if you don’t situations for your opponents.
There is an alternate use for Tauros GX and that is as a late game attacker. It gives Vespiquen a 7th prize game plan, and if Tauros is your only Pokemon on the field and your opponent has to rely on 2HKO’s on it, it very well could win you games from this position. It’s really in the deck for its early game utility, but it’s important to keep in mind that you can use Tauros GX in the late game too if you end up in a bad spot.
Beyond being a 7th prize, it can also be used to stall in the late game. If you need to buy a turn to get a Vespiquen established to finish the game, you can send up Tauros, N your opponent, and then if they can’t OHKO it and don’t draw a Lysandre that could buy you the turn to get evolved into Vespiquen to win the game. If they do hit into it, you can Mad Bull GX them of course for the win without Vespiquen. This isn’t an option the deck had in the past as your HP topped out at 110 HP with Shaymin EX previously.
To state the obvious, Oranguru gives you great protection against late game N’s. One of the top ways that Vespiquen decks have lost in the past is from getting N’d to 1 and not drawing the right cards out of it, but Oranguru makes it so that you almost always draw the right cards to end the game.
In the early and mid-games it gives you a little extra draw which makes the deck marginally more consistent. I’ve noticed the card is typically very strong when I have a VS Seeker or Professor Sycamore in hand and I’m planning on playing it. If I can work my hand down to just that card, I can use Instruct for 3 and a decent amount of time you will draw a Pokemon or two that you can discard with the Professor Sycamore to increase your damage output.
The card doesn’t make Vespiquen unstoppable or anything, but it undoubtedly improves Vespiquen’s percentages of hitting the cards it needs, especially out of late game N’s. Changing a few probabilities just a little bit can be all it takes to elevate a deck to a higher tier.
I think Oranguru is a better option for Vespiquen decks than Octillery. It is much simpler to get into play because it’s a Basic Pokemon and it is also only one Pokemon on your bench instead of two. That 10 damage from putting something on your bench instead of a discard can change whether something is a knockout, so only having to put 10 damage worth of Pokemon on the bench for this effect can give you some knockouts in some situations that you wouldn’t be able to if you had to put 20 damage worth of Pokemon on your bench with Octillery.
Not Cuckoo for Kukui Puffs
When I first saw Sun and Moon scans I thought Professor Kukui would be a great inclusion into Vespiquen decks, but it ended up not being that great in testing. The biggest problem with Professor Kukui in Vespiquen is that in most cases using Professor Sycamore not only sets up your field more, but it also boosts your damage more as you discard Pokemon with it (all it takes is two Pokemon discarded to match Kukui) as well as giving you more draw, meaning you’re more likely to draw into Ultra Ball + Pokemon to boost damage or cards like Unown or Klefki which can be discarded for more damage.
Karen and Vespiquen
At the most recent tournament I played at with Vespiquen, 2/5 opponents I played against had copies of Karen in their deck. My friends that have been playing Vespiquen for their local League Cups have also reported seeing Karen pop up in decks after they had some League Cup success with the deck following Athens.
So far this year, I’m 3-0 with Vespiquen against Karen decks, and the reason for this is because I don’t think the decks I played against with it actually improved their matchup against Vespiquen by including it.
The general advice on playing Karen from players through most of the season was that you can include it over alternatives like Super Rod or Brock’s Grit in decks that want that type of recovery. This led to people playing Karen in decks like M Rayquaza EX, M Gardevoir EX, Raichu/Golbat, and Rainbow Road, but it actually isn’t that helpful for any of these decks.
For M Rayquaza EX and M Gardevoir EX all playing Karen over and over again does is put the Vespiquen player’s Klefki back into their deck, allowing them to continuously re-use their Klefki and prevent the damage from Mega Pokemon, while still scoring 2HKO’s. In M Rayquaza EX’s case, they also put the Zoroark (or Zebstrika) back into the deck, allowing the Vespiquen player to get that back to attack with.
In M Gardevoir EX’s case, eventually they run out of Ultra Ball, making it so the Rattata is difficult to find, making it so they have a difficult time getting around the Klefki while you 2HKO them. I’ve found in most cases that I can work up to 2HKO damage, and if I can 2HKO them while only giving up a prize every now and then (when they get Rattata to counter Klefki) while taking two prizes myself for each knockout, that is a winning prize trade for me as the Vespiquen player.
I actually found that Karen helped me against M Gardevoir EX by putting my Vespiquen into my deck making it easier to setup six attacking Vespiquen in a game to barrage M Gardevoir EX for 2HKO’s. One of the ways that M Gardevoir EX can actually win is by continuously using N while taking knockouts, putting immense pressure on Vespiquen to keep up in prizes. Sometimes Vespiquen just falters and runs out of Pokemon to attack with and loses. By using Karen, this winning game state disappears from M Gardevoir EX.
The other two decks are both Sky Field decks, which means that putting Zoroark back into the deck gives you a good attacker to OHKO anything on their field, which usually also contains a lot of EX’s that give up two prizes. None of the attackers in these decks have high HP either, so it’s fairly easy to build up enough damage to OHKO their attackers.
Karen is actually better for decks that don’t naturally combo with it than the ones that do, because all of the decks that combo with it have some other inherent weakness to Vespiquen decks. Playing Karen with a deck that has some inherent weakness to Vespiquen is mostly useless.
Instead use Karen as a counter for Vespiquen in decks where it will actually swing the matchup. If a deck like Turbo Darkrai EX or M Mewtwo EX/Garbodor BKP plays a Karen against Vespiquen, that Karen probably wins them the game as they don’t have inherent weaknesses to Vespiquen otherwise. (M Mewtwo EX has Garbodor to prevent Vespiquen players from using Klefki’s Wonder Lock Ability)
Vespiquen/Eeveelutions & Vespiquen/Passimian
In the past week, some newer variants of Vespiquen have popped up in the form of Vespiquen seeing new combos with the Eeveelution GX’s, some variants doing Espeon GX and other doing Umbreon GX, and then there is another variant playing 4 Passimian.
I’m not a big fan of the Eeveelution variants at all. These gained popularity off of a dumping of a bunch of Japanese decklists that received zero extreme vetting over whether they were actually legitimately competitive or not. Many of these decklists in the dump looked fairly bad overall, but players didn’t stop to question whether they were solid lists or not.
The concept behind these are to give you a strong early game attacker. You have Espeon GX to use its Division GX attack to spread damage counters to setup easier knockouts for your Vespiquen later in the game. The Umbreon GX version does a similar thing using Shadow Bullet to start pounding the active while spreading 30 damage on stuff softening them up. Out of the two, I think the Umbreon GX is stronger for this early game role than Espeon GX.
The problem these cards introduce in the deck is that you have to run a decent amount of Basic Energy in the deck to use these cards effectively, so you have to take out other essential stuff from the deck. Typically Pokemon counts have been lowered in the deck, making it so your Bee Revenge are less potent.
Tauros GX gives you this strong early game attacker while allowing you to still only play 4 Double Colorless in the deck.
The Passimian variant of the deck is even more mind boggling. The idea behind the Passimian is that you can use Passimian to hard counter Turbo Darkrai EX decks (and to a lesser extent new cards like Umbreon GX and Tauros GX). In matchups where you can’t hit for weakness, you then just chuck them away.
I’m not sure why anyone would choose to hard tech against Turbo Darkrai EX with Vespiquen as it’s never been too bad of a matchup. The Zebstrika variant typically went 50/50 at worst against Turbo Darkrai, and adding Zoroark in place of Zebstrika makes the matchup generally favorable for Vespiquen.
If you can’t beat Turbo Darkrai EX with Vespiquen without teching a Passimian deck into your Vespiquen then Vespiquen probably isn’t the deck for you.
Both of these concepts seem like a case of people doing stuff because they can, and not because they should. I think making minor tweaks to the proven Vespiquen lists makes much more sense than trying to reinvent a wheel that doesn’t need reinventing.
Headed into the Anaheim Regional Championship, Vespiquen is one of the top contenders for the Primal Clash through Sun and Moon format. There is nothing new in Sun and Moon that badly damages Vespiquen as an archetype and it even gains some new toys to play around with from the set.
While some players will try radical new ideas in their Vespiquen lists for the tournament, I think the most successful lists for the deck in Anaheim will follow the constructions that have seen success at the past few large tournaments.