Bringing Light to the Night March Counter Strategies People are Trying for Dallas

Few decks in the game strike as much fear in players as Night March. Players really hate losing to Night March and with Azul Garcia Griego winning the last Expanded Regional Championship in San Jose with Night March/Zoroark GX, it should be expected in Dallas that players will be digging into their bag of anti-Night March tricks to try to deal with the most successful Expanded deck of the season.

We have had three Expanded Regional Championships this season and Night March has won two of them, with Michael Pramawat also notching a win with Night March at the first Regional of the season in Fort Wayne.

Coming off Pramawat’s win in Fort Wayne, the meta game in Daytona Beach the next month was full of Oricorio and Karen in almost everyone’s deck, regardless of archetype, and then there was also the Garbodor Toolbox deck that very much hard countered Night March that ended up winning the event.

At Dallas, I would expect to see a similar response to what we saw in Daytona Beach, with almost every deck playing either Oricorio or Karen, and then some decks being picked by players specifically because they’re perceived to have a strong Night March matchup. I like using the word perceived when talking about the Night March matchup as Night March tends to find ways to overcome its counters.

In this article I am going to go over some of the decks that might see play in Dallas because of their perceived strength against Night March.

The Techs: Karen and Oricorio

Before we get into the decks, let’s first talk about the techs. The primary two tech cards that players will use to counter Night March are Karen and Oricorio.

Karen counters Night March by shuffling all Pokemon from both players discard piles back into their deck.  Oricorio places 1 damage counter on your opponent’s Pokemon in any way you like for each Pokemon in the discard pile with its Supernatural Dance attack which costs [C].

In general, I favor playing Oricorio in decks. I think Karen is too passive of a counter and Night March decks of late have been playing various Pokemon that can be used as alternate attackers after an opponent uses a Karen, such as Tapu Lele GX, Zoroark GX, and Tauros GX.

The only real exception I would make to this is in lock decks, such as those based around Seismitoad EX or Giratina EX. The locks create some type of barrier that the Night March deck has to work around which can make Karen effective. Karen is usually paired with Seismitoad EX when it’s teched in, but a Seismitoad EX doing 30 damage isn’t all that threatening and gives Night March ample time to figure out a response. A dedicated Seismitoad EX deck with Hypnotoxic Laser and Energy Removal cards will put on much more pressure allowing Karen to actually be effective.

For anything else, I think Oricorio is almost always better. Oricorio allows you to figure out a strategy that you can use consistently against Night March. You can leverage the high HP of your Pokemon in many decks to force the Night March player to discard a lot of Night March Pokemon so that they can take a knockout, and then that opens the game up for you to punish them with Oricorio. They can somewhat play around that by attacking with Marshadow GX, but most lists are only playing a single copy of Marshadow GX right now and that can be denied from attacking with Hex Maniac.

Now onto looking at the decks that people may be trying out to counter Night March.

Trevenant BREAK

The first place that players may look into countering Night March is one of Night March’s oldest enemies, that is Trevenant BREAK. Trevenant has always been a difficult matchup for Night March as the turn 1 Item lock can completely shut Night March out of the game as Night March is heavily reliant on an Item based engine. The spread from Trevenant BREAK also is great for taking out the low HP Night March Pokemon and with Energy removal cards, Trevenant can make it difficult for Night March to continuously attack throughout the game.

The most popular variant of the deck currently is the Broken Trevenant deck popularized by Seena Ghaziaskar. Limitless TCG recently did a profile on the deck, which is definitely worth a read for anyone that plans on attending Dallas. Here is the list from that article.

Pokemon – 15

4 Phantump BKP
4 Trevenant XY
3 Trevenant BREAK
2 Tapu Lele GX
1 Jirachi EX
1 Espeon EX

Trainers – 37

4 Professor Sycamore
3 N
2 Wally
1 Guzma
1 Lysandre
1 Team Flare Grunt

4 Ultra Ball
3 Level Ball
4 VS Seeker
4 Enhanced Hammer
2 Super Rod
1 Field Blower
1 Computer Search
2 Rescue Scarf

4 Dimension Valley

Energy – 8

4 Mystery
4 Psychic

The biggest issue Trevenant will face in Dallas is having to overcome the prevalence of Zoroark GX in decks in the Expanded format. With its Dark type it can quickly OHKO a bunch of Trevenant very quickly and with its Trade Ability it can gather resources under Item lock giving it more resources to try to build a strategy off of.

The answer that Trevenant packs to this is using Espeon EX’s Miraculous Shine attack to devolve Zoroark GX’s into Zorua and knock them out. All it takes is two Silent Fear spreads before a Zoroark GX can be devolved into a knockout. In theory this sounds great, but with some smart bench staggering and timely Acerola use, Zoroark players can often enough overcome this strategy.

From the games I’ve played, I wouldn’t say that the Zoroark GX is a terrible matchup for Trevenant, but it’s a very close matchup, probably slightly negative against the better Zoroark players.

As far as Night March goes, with only a 2-2 Zoroark GX line it’s much more difficult for them to get Zoroark GX into play, so it’s much easier to deal with for Trevenant. However, Night March decks still can take a bunch of early knockouts with the Night March attack. I really like getting Marshadow GX attacking in this matchup as its high HP gives it some staying power, and if you’re taking a knockout every turn you won’t give Trevenant the time to get two attachments to use Tree Slam to take advantage of its Weakness (which still doesn’t even OHKO Marshadow GX).

The biggest thing Zoroark GX would add in this matchup is an attacker that can continuously take OHKO’s, even after a Karen. While the Limitless list doesn’t play Karen, I do see it pop up pretty frequently in the Trevenant decks I play against online.

I think Trevenant will see some play, especially after players saw how successful Broken Gardevoir was after being hyped, but I personally wouldn’t bring the deck into a meta dominated by a Dark type Pokemon, that seems like a disaster waiting to happen.

Seismitoad EX/Zoroark GX Plus Other Toad Decks

The next deck, or set of decks that players might see pop up in Dallas to act as Night March counters are Seismitoad EX decks. There is the classic Expanded favorite Toad deck of Seismitoad EX/Giratina EX, the new Seismitoad EX/Seviper deck that Grant Manley debuted in Daytona, and Conner even wrote about bringing back Seismitoad EX/Garbodor in a recent article on Some1s PC.

One variant that I’ve been working on is Seismitoad EX/Zoroark GX, a deck which I think of as a modern day reincarnation of the old Seismitoad EX/Slurpuff PHF deck from the 2014-2015 season. This is essentially a better version of the deck as Zoroark GX not only draws more cards than Slurpuff, but it can also act as a backup attacker to close out games.

Pokemon – 15

4 Seismitoad EX
4 Zorua SGL
3 Zoroark GX
1 Zoroark BKT
1 Exeggcute PLF
1 Tapu Lele GX
1 Shaymin EX

Trainers – 41

4 Professor Juniper
2 N
1 Guzma
1 Hex Maniac
1 Acerola
2 Team Flare Grunt
1 Xerosic
1 Karen

4 Ultra Ball
4 VS Seeker
4 Hypnotoxic Laser
4 Crushing Hammer
2 Enhanced Hammer
1 Field Blower
1 Rescue Stretcher
1 Special Charge
1 Computer Search
2 Fighting Fury Belt
2 Float Stone

2 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 4

4 Double Colorless

The first thing to note about my version of this deck is that it is entirely built around using Seismitoad EX for almost the entirety of the game. This deck is aimed at locking the opponent down and stripping them of their resources to attack while you slowly take control of the game with Quaking Punch.

I originally had Puzzle of Time in this list (because why not, every Zoroark GX list has it), but ended up finding them lackluster. VS Seeker already provides you enough recursion of your resources to close out a game in most cases, and without Puzzle taking up 4 deck slots you had more room to diversify the cards you play to open up some additional tactics for the deck.

Some of the more interesting cards in this list are Exeggcute PLF and Zoroark BKT. I think Exeggcute is too good not to play in here as it essentially lets you use Trade for free. Your resources are valuable in this deck, so you don’t want to go around discarding too many of them, and if there are cards that you want to get rid of to thin your deck, then you can choose to not Propogate during that turn and instead Trade away the card you want to get rid of.

Zoroark BKT serves three purposes in this deck. First, it gives the deck some better mobility. Second, you can Stand In before playing Guzma to keep your preferred attacker in the Active Position. Lastly, it provides the deck a non-EX attacker that can take OHKO’s against decks that play with a large bench.

There are a few other variants of this deck that I’ve seen. One is very similar to this, but plays Choice Band instead of Fighting Fury Belt to make Zoroark GX a more threatening attacker. With a full bench, Choice Band, and LaserBank, Zoroark GX can do 180 damage.

Another variant that I’ve seen is one that focuses entirely on using Acerola almost every turn of the game, but this has seemed very bad whenever I played against it. I think too many decks in Expanded have too high of attack ceilings to make a continuous healing gameplan effective for Seismitoad EX decks…it’s not like it has 250 HP like Wailord EX.

Darkrai EX/Dragons

Another idea that I thought of, and which I’ve also heard other players thinking about in response to the San Jose meta is Darkrai EX/Dragons. The theory for this being a good play is that it beats Night March because Giratina EX’s Chaos Wheel prevents Night March from attaching its Double Colorless Energy to attack. It beats Zoroark GX decks by locking Parallel City into play and also preventing them from attaching their Double Colorless Energy. It beats Trevenant, which has gained hype because of Darkrai EX’s Dark typing.

Among the popular Expanded decks, it would have major issues against Gardevoir GX, as it hits everything in the deck for Weakness in some way, and it could have a rough time against Fighting decks if they make their way into Expanded. It also is going to be worse against the Seismitoad EX decks than a regular Turbo Darkrai list, as it is less streamlined and more clunky.

Pokemon – 11

3 Darkrai EX BKP
1 Darkrai EX DEX
2 Giratina EX
1 Shining Rayquaza
3 Shaymin EX
1 Hoopa EX

Trainers – 35

4 Professor Juniper
1 N
1 Colress
1 Hex Maniac
1 Guzma
1 Karen

4 Ultra Ball
4 VS Seeker
4 Dark Patch
4 Max Elixir
1 Battle Compressor
2 Enhanced Hammer
1 Special Charge
1 Dowsing Machine
2 Choice Band

2 Sky Field
1 Parallel City

Energy – 14

10 Darkness
4 Double Dragon

As your strategy is to lock decks from attaching their Double Colorless Energy they need to attack, it’s also important to remove any Energy your opponent got onto the field before you got off your first Chaos Wheel. To do that, you play two copies of Enhanced Hammer. If you really want to hammer home the Energy removal aspect of this matchup, you can cut the Special Charge for a third Enhanced Hammer, although I like Special Charge for getting back Double Dragon Energy in the late game as adding +40 damage to Dark Pulse can be very good in a lot of matchups and sometimes you’re forced to discard the Double Dragon Energies early game when you don’t want to.

The Night March list that Azul used in San Jose didn’t play Pokemon Ranger, so a Chaos Wheel after all Energy has been removed from the opponent’s field would essentially win the game. While they didn’t play Pokemon Ranger in San Jose, it is possible Night March players include it in their Dallas lists as they may expect an uptick in decks that include Seismitoad EX or Giratina EX, and Pokemon Ranger gives Night March a better chance against these decks.

A new addition to the deck is Shining Rayquaza, which takes the place of Tyrantrum EX. They both do 190 damage for four Energy while discarding three, so I went with the non-EX Pokemon, which gives the deck a non-EX attacker to prize trade with, something otherwise lacking. The one advantage Tyrantrum EX has is that it’s searchable with Hoopa EX, but you usually have extra Ultra Ball that you draw into that you can use for Shining Rayquaza, and if you are just looking for something early game to attach Double Dragon to, you can grab Giratina EX, even if you don’t plan on attacking with it.

While Fighting Fury Belt has long been the staple Tool card for Darkrai decks, I’ve been losing faith in the card. Field Blower is such a better card than Tool Scrapper and Startling Megaphone that it sees way more play in decks than those cards ever did in Expanded, which means for the most part Fighting Fury Belt doesn’t have staying power, so I’d rather use Choice Band to raise the deck’s damage cap, given that Fighting Fury Belt’s defensive properties are failing any deck that isn’t Item Lock as your opponent inevitable plays a Field Blower to remove it from play.

I also tried a variant with Latios EX and Muscle Band to take donks, but that made the deck even more clunky and wasn’t worth having to find the room for multiple switching cards.

As cool as this deck seems in theory, in practice it’s the same old clunky mess that it’s always been, so I wouldn’t let the deck fool you into playing it in Dallas. I would much rather take my chances with a classic Turbo Darkrai list with an Oricorio thrown in than try to win with the inconsistent deck that is Darkrai EX/Dragons.

Speaking of Turbo Darkrai, here is my current list for the deck:

Pokemon – 12

3 Darkrai EX BKP
1 Darkrai EX DEX
2 Darkrai GX
1 Yveltal XY
1 Oricorio GRI 56
3 Shaymin EX
1 Hoopa EX

Trainers – 

4 Professor Juniper
1 N
2 Colress
2 Guzma
1 Hex Maniac

4 Ultra Ball
4 VS Seeker
4 Dark Patch
4 Max Elixir
2 Battle Compressor
2 Hypnotoxic Laser
1 Dowsing Machine
2 Choice Band

2 Sky Field
1 Parallel City

Energy – 12

12 Darkness

Primal Groudon EX & Wailord EX

Another deck that I think could pick up and see some play again is Primal Groudon EX. The deck should have strong matchups against both Night March decks and the majority of Zoroark GX variants. The one Zoroark GX variant that I think would give it some trouble is Zoroark GX/Golisopod GX variants, but that’s probably one of the less popular variants of the deck in Expanded.

The general path of victory for Primal Groudon EX against Night March is to run them out of Energy, leveraging Robo Substitute and Focus Sash to deny Night March from taking prizes. I think the majority of games in this matchup end with Primal Groudon EX decking out the Night March deck.

I don’t think Primal Groudon changes much from the list Chris Schemanske used to finish 2nd place at the Toronto Regional last season. The one big addition to the deck is Lusamine, which is a Supporter card that gets back two in any combination of Stadiums and Supporters. This is great new addition to the deck as it gives the deck a VS Seeker out to a Stadium, which is important for getting the boosted damage output with Gaia Volcano.

With decks playing less Stadiums and more Field Blower, Primal Groudon EX had a harder time stringing 200+ damage Gaia Volcano attacks as sometimes it would whiff the Stadium needed to reach those boosted damage numbers needed for knockouts. Lusamine will definitely help in avoiding these whiffs.

As usual, this isn’t a deck you have to worry about too much in your testing. There is only a limited amount of players with access to four Tropical Beach, and of those players with four Tropical Beach there is a very limited amount that would consider playing Primal Groudon in a tournament setting.

The other big tank deck that could see play in increased numbers in Dallas is Wailord EX, which Drew Kennett took to a Top 8 finish at San Jose. Like Primal Groudon it won’t see a ton of play because of the requirement of needing four Tropical Beach to play it optimally, but I could see some higher tier players picking this deck up in Dallas.

It’s not quite as good against Night March as Primal Groudon EX is, as Night March can actually OHKO a Wailord EX, but it is still very tough for a lot of other decks to deal with. It essentially has a near auto win against Zoroark GX variants that aren’t playing Golisopod GX, which is a very good thing to have in the current meta.

I’ve only played a handful of games with Drew Kennett’s Wailord EX deck, but from the games I have played so far the deck has proven to be very strong.

Conclusion

With Night March winning the last Expanded Regional Championship and winning 2/3 of the Expanded Regionals this season it should rightfully be looked at as a major threat to win Dallas as well. While you don’t necessarily need to hard counter Night March, I would make sure that your deck has a passable Night March matchup at the least as you’re likely to see it a few times in your Swiss rounds in Dallas.

I think the Zoroark GX collective will be more popular than Night March in Dallas. This includes Zoroark GX/Lycanroc GX, Lonzoroark (which is pretty much straight Zoroark GX with a 1-1 Alolan Muk line and Seismitoad EX), and Zoroark GX/Golisopod GX. I’m sure there will be plenty of other wacky stuff people toss in with the Zoroark GX engine.

I’ve gotten a good amount of testing in Expanded over the last week and am very excited for Dallas. I absolutely loathe playing anything Standard format, but Expanded is still a very fun format to me, with decks that consistently function properly and an endless variety of decks that can see play.

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