Having a BLAST with Expanded

Hello everyone! My name is Cody Michael Graham, and I will be writing some exciting new content on The Charizard Lounge now from time to time, starting today with one of my all-time favorite decks: Blastoise.

Blastoise has evolved a lot since it was originally printed.  Back then you had to evolve into Blastoise from Squirtle or Wartortle and probably played Tropical Beach.  Archie’s Blastoise really blew up when Jacob Van Wagner used it to win the World Championship in 2015. What distinguished this version of Blastoise from its original model was that you used the Supporter Archie’s Ace in The Hole in order to get Blastoise into play. It is actually a very common thing to pull off on your first turn and is one of the biggest goals of the deck. Since Blastoise is not a new archetype I won’t get overly into the strategy behind playing Archie’s.

My List

Pokemon – 20

2 Blastoise BCR
2 Keldeo EX
2 Articuno ROS
1 Lapras GX
1 Wishiwashi GX
1 Tapu Fini GX
1 Black Kyurem EX
2 Tapu Lele GX
2 Shaymin EX
4 Unown AOR
2 Exeggcute PLF

Trainers – 38

2 Professor Sycamore
1 N
2 Archie’s Ace in the Hole
1 Guzma
1 Fisherman

4 Ultra Ball
4 VS Seeker
4 Battle Compressor
4 Trainers’ Mail
4 Superior Energy Retrieval
2 Field Blower
1 Computer Search
2 Fighting Fury Belt
2 Muscle Band
2 Float Stone

2 Rough Seas

Energy – 12

11 Water
1 Lightning

The first thing about my list you should notice is that there are currently 70 cards in it. This is intentional because I wanted to mention all the cards I frequently find myself wanting to include in this deck. Your local meta will largely dictate what you finally decide to include, but if you’re taking this to a larger event you should consider whatever you think you are most likely to play against during the event.

Starting with Pokemon: two Blastoise, two Exeggcute, two Shaymin EX and two Tapu Lele GX should be considered the core of the Pokemon lineup. Blastoise has the “Deluge” Ability which allows you to attach as many Basic Water Energy from your hand as you like. This is the backbone of the deck. Exeggcute has the “Propogation” Ability, which allows you to move Exeggcute from the discard pile to your hand, which helps you throughout the game when playing cards like Ultra Ball and Superior Energy Retrieval and setting up your hand to be able to play Archie’s Ace in The Hole. Shaymin EX has the “Set Up” Ability, allowing you to draw until you have six cards in your hand, which is often used to dig for something to discard cards from your hand in order to play Archie’s on your first turn, but they are often handy in the late game. Tapu Lele GX is very useful in the deck as an attacker as well as a way to search out Archie’s Ace in The Hole on your first turn. Beyond this, attacking Pokemon in the deck are meta-dependent.

You’ll see my list has several different attackers, some of which you usually find in many player’s bulk. I’ll be going through them in no particular order, but I will make a point to mention relevant math as it comes up. Keep in mind, all cards coming up are based on meta and preference and what you expect to play against.

Unown is one of my favorite tech cards in the deck. Unown makes playing Archie’s a lot easier, because you are able to essentially turn one card in your hand to no card in your hand by just benching the Unown. Unown also offers some built-in N-protection because of its “Farewell Letter” Ability which allows you to discard it from your bench and draw a card. Unown is a card you can cut to a lower count if you’re really in a pinch to fit in another useful attacker, but I do want to point out that Unown with a Muscle Band KOs a Joltik.

Black Kyurem EX is a card that you may have forgotten about, but it was actually a staple in the older version of Blastoise, and it happens to be really good again now. The attack “Black Ballista” for [W][W][L][C] does 200 damage, and you have to discard three energy. Normally, discarding all that energy would really hurt, but we play so many ways to recycle it that it really doesn’t matter a whole lot. So, what makes Black Ballista good again? Zoroark GX. Zoroark GX made a big impact in San Jose, and Black Kyurem EX with a Fighting Fury Belt hits perfect math on Zoroark GX, and the Fighting Fury Belt makes it difficult for the next Zoroark GX to get a return KO on Black Kyurem. Generally speaking, when I am playing Black Kyurem EX, I will be playing Fighting Fury Belt. Black Kyurem EX does require you to play an additional Energy type, just a single Lightning energy, but between all the Battle Compressors and Superior Energy Retrievals you’ll be able to fetch it out of your deck easily so long as it is not prized.

Articuno ROS has a hugely powerful trait that allows you to take an additional Prize Card when you score a knockout. The attack you will be using to do this is “Tri Edge” which does 20 damage and you flip three coins, doing an additional 40 damage for each heads. I usually try to only do this attack when you need a single heads, but Articuno is always there for those desperate situations as well. Articuno is almost always a Pokemon you need to keep in mind when determining what tool cards you will play though. For example, Gardevoir is a very strong deck in Expanded, and Muscle Band allows you to KO both Ralts and Kirlia while only needing to flip a single heads. Without Muscle Band, you need two heads to knockout a Kirlia, which might not sound like a huge deal, but it really is. When playing two Articuno and two Muscle Band, I would consider Blastoise to be highly favored in that particular matchup. Articuno is also essential in making the Night March matchup playable, as it can be used to swing the prize trade in your favor by knocking out Joltik, Pumpkaboo, and now Zorua.

Keldeo EX is a very strong attacker in this deck, with a very high damage ceiling. It also has an ability “Rush In” which allows you to move Keldeo EX from the bench to the active position, which gives the deck some nice mobility and allows you to move stuff around as you need to. Keldeo EX also has a strong attack “Secret Sword” which for [C][C][C] does 50 damage, plus 20 more for each Water Energy attached to it. Keldeo EX is an attacker I would not cut, but it can also be an attacker that hurts you. Loading up a big Keldeo EX used to be an easy strategy to use, but now that every deck plays multiple copies of Tapu Lele GX it is really easy to punish a huge Keldeo EX with its “Energy Drive” attack, doing 20 damage times the number of energy attached to both active Pokemon. I would recommend reserving that big 10-Energy-Secret-Sword when you are taking your final knockout.

Lapras GX is an attacker in the deck that has certainly lost a little favor recently, but I felt it was still worth the mention. Lapras GX has three useful attacks: “Collect” for [W], lets you draw three cards. This is a great option if you miss your first-turn Blastoise, allowing you to draw an extra three cards and hopefully have a better chance of playing Archie’s the next turn. “Blizzard Burn” for [W][W][W] does a decent 160 damage, but Lapras GX cannot attack the next turn. Usually, this would not be an attack I would consider often, but Keldeo EX using its “Rush In” Ability allows you to reset the effect of this attack and repeatedly use “Blizzard Burn” so that’s actually not a big deal. Finally, “Ice Beam GX” for [W][W][C] does 100 damage and your opponent is Paralyzed. Before Guzma was printed, I was all about Lapras GX in Blastoise because of this GX attack, but now that Guzma is a staple in the same format, I struggle to be optimistic about this GX attack anymore. I would mention that playing Lapras GX in the deck should be paired with Muscle Band, as that allows you to repeatedly use “Blizzard Burn” for 180 damage instead of 160, which is perfect math on a lot of older Pokemon EX like Darkrai EX, which will always be a consideration of mine when thinking about the Expanded format.

Tapu Fini GX can be a very threatening Pokemon to play against. The attack “Hydro Shot” for [W][W][C] does 120 to any of your opponents Pokemon, and you discard two Water Energy. This makes it so that your opponent can’t play any Shaymin EX without you threatening a knockout on them from Tapu Fini GX. This attack allows you set up a checkmate position on your opponent, as they won’t be able to knockout your active Pokemon AND Tapu Fini GX AND remove their Shaymin EX from their bench. Finally, “Tapu Storm GX” for a single water energy can be absolutely crippling to deal with as it forces your opponent to shuffle their active Pokemon and all cards attached to it into their deck. This is a great way to shuffle away a hugely problematic Gardevoir GX or anything else you aren’t otherwise able to deal with on any particular turn. The first Pokemon I ever used “Tapu Storm GX” on was a fully loaded Primal Groudon EX and it was a truly magical moment in the history of Pokemon.

The last Pokemon on my list actually quickly became one of my favorites in the deck: Wishiwashi GX. I think every time I played it at Daytona, my opponent picked it up just to double check and make sure it’s bad. On its own, Wishiwashi GX is terri-bad, but when you’re allowed to attach unlimited Energy during your turn, it’s actually a really scary nuke. Wishiwashi GX does technically have three attacks, but it makes the list exclusively because of its GX attack. “Blue Surge GX” for [W][W][W][C][C] it does a whopping 220 damage, and then you must move all energy attached to Wishiwashi to your benched Pokemon in any way you like. At first thought this might seem bad, after loading up this big attacker you have to move all the energy, but it’s actually really good, because after Wishiwashi GX attacks, it is virtually useless, aside from maybe taking a hit, thanks to its hefty 210 HP. When moving Energy to your bench it is important to keep your goals for next turn in mind. Maybe set up Articuno if you think you’ll be able to pick something off or Tapu Fini GX if you want to clean up the game by taking a knockout on Shaymin EX on your next turn. Wishiwashi GX is a Pokemon that really has no bearing on which tool you decide to play as both Muscle Band and Fighting Fury Belt will put you over 230 damage for knocking out a Gardevoir GX.

Trainers are a little more rigidly defined for the archetype; starting with the Items we have four Battle Compressor, four Ultra Ball, four VS Seeker, four Trainers’ Mail, four Superior Energy Retrieval and Computer Search. These items are kind of the tried-and-true core for expediting that Blastoise onto your bench, which is always your goal for your first turn. The Supporter lineup is intentionally very thin because you don’t really want them in your opening hand as they end up being cards you need to get rid of in order to play Archie’s Ace in The Hole. For my Supporters I choose to play two Archie’s, two Professor Juniper, an N, a Guzma and a Fisherman. The Fisherman is the only debatable card here, many people choose to not play it, but I like to have another option to get Energy back in addition to Superior Energy Retrieval.

The next spot to fill is the Stadium/ Field Blower spot. I usually like this slot to be filled by two cards in any combination. I normally either choose a 1/1 split or two Rough Seas because Field Blower has potential to be a dead card in an opening hand, whereas Rough Seas is a card you can just play down. I used to like to play one Rough Seas and one Tropical Beach, but the first turn Archie’s is so common that I found myself so rarely actually using the Tropical Beach that I felt better off with either a second Rough Seas or the Field Blower. With Garbodor seemingly out of popularity in Expanded, I will likely be returning to two copies of Rough Seas, for now.

Finally, the last few slots are the Tool cards. The list I included has six Tools, and a general rule of thumb should be to include any three of them, depending on the Pokemon you are playing and the meta you expect to play against most. I find myself often playing a single Float Stone and then two of either of the other Tools. I often decide not to play a second Float Stone because of the mobility the deck already has access to between Keldeo EX and Guzma.

Matchups

Gardevoir

The Gardevoir matchup is, in my opinion, one of the best matchups the deck has. Articuno puts in a ton of work by taking multiple prizes on Ralts and Kirlia early on, and you can knock out a Gardevoir GX with a Wishiwashi GX with either a Muscle Band or Fighting Fury Belt. The matchup really just revolves around taking a knock out with Tri Edge at some point, but if you’re able to take multiple knock outs with Tri Edge, this should be a hard matchup to lose.

Zoroark Variants

This matchup is pretty well split, but some variants are better than others. This is a deck that Black Kyurem EX is good against, especially with Fighting Fury Belt. Fighting Fury Belt gives Black Ballista the perfect math to knock out Zoroark GX while also making the return KO require a Zoroark GX, Double Colorless Energy, a Field Blower and a full bench. While the Zoroark decks are pretty consistent, this can still be a lot to ask for. Alternatively, Wishiwashi GX can take a KO with its GX attack, you can set up Tapu Fini GX to knock out a Shaymin EX (Zoroark decks will often play down several Shaymin EX throughout the game) and then load up a huge Keldeo to knock out something from the active position. This is that ‘checkmate’ position I referred to earlier, where your opponent has to do more than they can do in order to prevent themselves from losing because if they choose to not knock out the Keldeo EX that you loaded up, it’ll just attack again next turn. If they don’t use Sky Return, your Tapu Fini GX will snipe them off the bench.

Night March

Finally, everyone’s favorite deck: Night March. Night March is the worst of these three matchups, but it is still very winnable. This matchup will involve you taking knock outs with Articuno in order to force a positive prize trade. You also need to not miss a beat. A competent Night March player will take advantage of being able to play Hex Maniac against you if you don’t have your energy in effective places. One good thing about Night March is that you are now able to trade with them a little better now that they rely a little more heavily on GXs. Night March is really a tough matchup because of how consistent it is.

General Tips

Know what is in your deck. Throughout the game, you should take special care to notice what is prized and what you have immediate access to. If you open the game with a Battle Compressor, usually the first things you should count are your Blastoise, Exeggcutes and Archie’s. Beyond that, after you get Blastoise onto your bench, you’ll want to pay special attention to what Supporters you prized, how many VS Seekers and Superior Energy Retrievals are in your deck, and whether or not you prized any Energy.

Prepare yourself for your next turn. This should seem obvious, but it is especially paramount when playing Blastoise. You should have a decent plan for your next couple turns, and you should always expect the worst from your opponent. Assume you will be knocked out and that your opponent will play Hex Maniac. Are you as prepared as you can be?

Know how you will win. This one might seem weird, but the learning curve for Blastoise is steepest when it comes to proper sequencing, both when it comes to playing the Archie’s engine, but also when it comes to closing out a game. When able, think about a game in terms of prizes counting down. For example, playing against any matchup you have a workable knowledge on, you should have an idea where your six prizes will come from. “Tri Edge a Ralts, Blue Surge w/ Muscle Band onto a Gardevoir, load up Keldeo EX to knock out Tapu Lele GX for game.” Have a plan and make it happen. Don’t play your tools until you need them unless necessary, and even then, play them where you know you will want them!

Do not mess up your first turn. This tip is very literally just “be good.” Before playing any cards, feel free to take your time to put them facedown as if you’re playing them to make sure you are doing everything in the correct order. Hitting a Blastoise on your first turn is extremely important, and to mess it up by doing something out of order by mistake would be very unfortunate.

Know what to prioritize with your Battle Compressors. As brainless as Battle Compressor may seem, it is an extremely important card to play intelligently. As you go through a game you will often have cards in your deck that are not essential to your path to victory.

Save an Unown on the Bench. Unowns are fantastic assets late game to prevent you from being killed by an N to one or two cards. Usually your deck will be so thin that drawing an extra card is all you need to get right back in it.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Archie’s Blastoise is a very strong deck, with flexibility to make it a contender in many different metas. The biggest struggles to playing Blastoise is getting past your first turn with a Blastoise on your bench and knowing how to navigate through the many, many different matchups in Expanded.

I’ve included the 60 card list I would play if Dallas Regionals was taking place this
weekend! You’ll see I have include two copies of Articuno to help out the Night March
matchup, Wishiwashi to keep the Gardevoir matchup positive and a Black Kyurem with two
Fighting Fury Belts to shore-up the Zoroark variants

Feel free to Like, Comment and Share! I’ll do my best to address any questions in the comments!

Pokemon – 16

2 Blastoise BCR
2 Keldeo EX
2 Articuno ROS
1 Black Kyurem EX
1 Wishiwashi GX
2 Shaymin EX
2 Tapu Lele GX
2 Unown AOR
2 Exeggcute PLF

Trainers – 

2 Professor Sycamore
1 N
2 Archie’s Ace in the Hole
1 Fisherman
1 Guzma

4 Ultra Ball
4 Trainers’ Mail
4 VS Seeker
4 Battle Compressor
4 Superior Energy Retrieval
1 Computer Search
2 Fighting Fury Belt
1 Muscle Band

2 Rough Seas

Energy – 11

10 Water
1 Lightning

 

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