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Analysis of the competitive Theme Deck Format, May 2018

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01 June 2018 - 08:00 PM



    Senior Trainer

  • Oldschool1990

The following thread represents an analysis of the current Theme Deck competitive Metagame. My analysis might differ from the experience of various players who find themselves in different metagames due to the MMR/ELO. (nevertheless, I hope any kind of player may find some value in this asseblmy of randomly arranged letters)



general advantage:

"X>Y" means "X beats Y"

"X=Y" means "X matches Y as equally strong"

"X<Y" means "X loses to Y"

"max" means "160+ damage", which is the amount of damage needed to kill every relevant mon in the meta


Alright, let's jump into this right away, took me long enough.


The previous state: Imperial Command and Mach Strike dominated the metagame, altho certain anti-meta decks such as XY Basic Green have proven to hold their ground.


The current state:  with the addition of Tropical Takedown and Twilight Rouge, two new very strong decks have increased our deckpool, altho not as frequently used as they should be (especially since Tropical Takedown seems difficult to navigate for certain players, more about that later), the new decks, especially Twilight Rouge, surpass the old ones in sheer power.


That said, the most used deck still remains Mach Strike, simply because most players didn't make themselves properly familiar with the new decks or want to play aggro with Gumshoos. Turning to a slower deck seems bad at first glance, however, if you look at the tradeoffs and matchups against other decks, Twilight Rouge is far stronger than Mach Strike.


Next, I will present you my ranking for the current meta, including a matchup analysis and a %winrate tested out an equal number of matchups against each other relevant deck.



Tier 1:

Twilight Rouge (short: "TR"): Midrange Bench Control

What sets this deck appart is that it can uphold it's momentum by force-dropping basics onto your opponents bench and regain energy with Malamar. Whilst other decks may run out of heavy hitters at some point, with TR you got enough power to end things 6-4 or 6-5 vs. MS or IC on equal terms. Going more specific:

>Mach Strike (%80%)

My first test with this deck was a quite symbolic one: my opponent had the Lucario-Garchomp Combo on turn 2 and called "gg", thinking I would have lost already.

That was not the case. I matched him heavy hitter for heavy hitter and came out winning 6-5. Dusknoirs bench dropping ability directly puts 3 counters on the dropped mon, which turns a potential 150HP Garchomp into a 120HP Garchomp, which then can be oneshoted by Lycanrock. That extra 30 damage basically lets you trade more efficient by letting you onehit their tier1 mons with your tier2 mons, and tier2 mons with tier3 mons.

>Imperial Command (80%)

IC usually pumps its own bench full of mons so that Empoleon can get the max damage.

TR doesn't need to pump its own bench, it only counts your opponents mons. Means you can force-drop your opponents bench full with Dusknoirs ability if necessary, whist keeping your own bench clear so that Empoleon doesn't get to max hit you. It can still use it's other attack tho, which hits for 90 and discards an energy from your mon, but overall you'll win the trades, as no other mon in IC can hit for more than 100 (with Kukui), meanwhile, if you get to force drop their Piplup with the 30 extra damage, you'll be able to oneshot Empoleon with Lycanrock, and since the IC player will always need 2 hits to kill your mons without their Empoleon, you tradeoff is better.

<Tropical Takedown(40%)

Ex-egg-utor (out of egg-utor, to decypher the spelling of that mon) can be a huge thread, beeing able to dish out 120-140 damage turn 2 and hitting Lycanrock and Solrock with weakness, meanwhile presenting 160 HP for a stage1 mon, which is difficult to crack at turn2 (TTs Alolan Marowak comes to mind, could hit for 80x2 weakness, would require a mirrormatch and some luck tho). Both Raticates are able to hit your Dusknoir-evoline with weakness and possibly even onehit Dusknoir with coinflip luck/Kukui.

Means TTs Tier1 wrecks TRs Tier2 and TTs Tier2 wrecks TRs Tier1.

Weakness gives a huge advantage here, even more so since TT can protect their Raticate from Lycanrock/Solrock onehits due to a sneaky weakness Policy. (arm the Fieldblowers!)

The key is not running into early Exeggutors, so you might have the chance to force-drop TTs Exeggcutes and drop the deadly counter on their bench with Dusclops first attack.

>Clanging Thunder (70%)

Here, TR has the better matchup.

Sure, Kommo-O can hit hard, but the drawback is taking 30 extra damage. The empty bank rush also falls short when you can simply bench-drop them, so it never gets to utilize the 2-energy 120 damage burst. Raichu gets eaten by Lycanrock/Solrock, Gastrodon hits their own bench, which is bad for tradeoffs and gets resisted by TRs ghosts. Unless CT gets turn3 Kommo-O up fast, it loses to TR when it comes to tradeoffs.



Mach Strike (short: "MS"): Aggro Combo

Well, we basically all know what this deck does; Garchomp-Lucario-Cynthia for the max damage hits, Gumshoos+Kukui for 120damage turn2, Hippopotas getting max damage when you have 3 or less cards in your deck (l legitly use this mon as a more or less unexpected backup plan), spiritomb to disable basics and to regain used supporters.

=Imperial Command(50%)

An even matchup. IC may either chose to go aggro with Floatzel and kill your Gabite, or it will hax you to death with all those para/sleep/agillity coinflips. Beeing on the recieving end of the RNG-Stick is never a great experience, I tell you. Ultimately, both decks trade equally well, Empoleon and Garchomp both hit for max, Floatzel loses to Gumshoos, IC has 2 Abomasnows that can sleephax, but die to Hippowdon. Therefore, IC got a really fast energy setup due to Abomasnow and Aqua patch. The double Sandslash card draw and the Garchomp-Lucario tutor effect kinda balance each other out, IC is a bit slower in getting what it needs, but therefore far more consistant in what it does, especially when MS gets their Lucario priced.

>Tropical Takedown(70%)

Due to Gibles and Gabites evolving move, matching the speed of Alolan Exeggutor is possbile for MS. Garchomp can onehit the tree with Cynthia, Lucario deals with Raticates, and Gumshoos+Kukui/Hippowdon both find easy targets, meanwhile Sandslash and Marowak lack the damage to onehit either of them. However, if exegguted rightly, TT can get some nice trades, using rescue stretcher for a 3rd tree to swing for up to 140 damage when they least expect it, as it only costs 1 energy, potentially taking down a scratched Garchomp.

>Clanging Thunder (70%)

The new dragons beat the old one. That said, Kommo-O and Garchomp both can onehit eachother when having Kukui/Cynthia, but Garchomp can evolve faster and Lucario helps getting that Cynthia, while Kommo-O requires good draws to hit for max.

Despite its weakness, Raichu can onehit both Lucario(2 energies) and Hippowdon(3-4 energies and also Gumshoos(2 energies) in a tradeoff. It can even onehit Garchomp(3 energies) with Kukui On the other hand, Hippowdon can also onehit Kommo-O with Kukui. The one falling from grace here is Gastrodon for hitting its own bench, making it easy for Garchomp to snipe scratched mons with quick dive that it wouldn't be able to snipe otherwise.


Imperial Command (short: "IC"): Ramp Bench Control

This deck mainly compensates lack of skill with coinflip luck. Well, what do you expect? Pokemon has been a gambling game ever since Blue/Red Edition and the ptcg Base set.

It might be considered as dirty or cheap (just like nightmarch is), but that's what you have to come to accept when playing competitively. The deck can also lose, ultimately each gamble is a calculated risk, whether or not it's a timer ball doubleflip, Floatzels Agility attack flip or parahax/sleephax, if the coin lands tails, that often means 1 price taken by the opponent. It is not nice to get coinflip haxed 10 times in a row, but that's what you sign up for when playing this game. The rest of the deck is Empoleon playing mind games with your opponents about how many mons they put on their bench and energy shenanigans with Abomasnow, increasing your ramping tempo, which also comes handy when dealing with the high retreat costs of this deck. Sometimes it can be wiser to use Abomasnow to help with retreating rather then ramping up your next attacker.

>Tropical Takedown(70%)

TT requires different mons to be benched, such as Alolan Sandslash to draw cards or maybe you want to use Oricorio for some more energy. Alolan Marowak counts your alolan mons, so TT might want to start benching them early. This is easy food for Empoleon, which will have no troubles cracking max damage to break Alolan Exeggutor.

Besides that, TT can only reach 140 damage with Kukui, which is not enough to onehit Empoleon. The general damage output of TT is high enough, but it doesn't spike up like in other decks, which makes trading mons efficiently quite difficult if you are up against a deck that outbursts you and outhaxes you with para/sleep coinflips.

Nevermind the grass weakness some IC mons have, it will seldom come to play, as the only real grass attack in TT comes from Exeggutor, which will usually be faced against Empoleon or Abomasnow.

<Clanging Thunder(30%)

CT will make sure to have an somewhat empty bench, so that Kommo-O can use it's first attack and hit for 120 with only 2 energies. With Devoured Field in play, Kommo-O+Kukui can onehit Empoleon with max damage, meanwhile beeing able to tank Empoleons attack beforehand if your bench is empty or only has 1 mon. Raichu will basically just grill Empoleon, and basically any other mon in IC that has sufficient energy on it, which comes down very effectively in narrow tradeoffs. More often than not CT will be able to win the trades with IC. Having swap+escape rope+malasada really helps the deck against ICs hax coinfips, while beeing able to retribute some of that in the same manner with the fast Gastrodon approach. Nevertheless, Raichu remains the game breaker here, beeing able to potentially have 4 Raichus going (if you rescue stretch 2 Raichus and 1 Pikachu back in your deck) means having a clear advantage by beeing able to force trades, catching an Empoleon, which IC has to use at some point before giving away to many price cards for free, and then bringing out Kommo-O as the bulky heavy-hitter to seal the deal. IC basically has to play more aggressive and staightforward against CT, because the attack costs are more efficient thanks to Abomasnow. (it takes a while to put 3 energies on a Raichu)


Tropical Takedown (short: "TT"): Aggro Combo

This deck may seem weird or random at first, but actually, once you've got the hang of it, it is working pretty well. When Alolan Exeggutor was first spoiled to be the lead of this deck, people wondered how in the world this is going to work out. Well, Sophocles and Ultra Balls fill your discard pile with energies, so do defeated mons. The deck covers a wide variety of weaknesses, which makes it somewhat flexible. The standard idea would be to get the Exeggutor on the field right away and play aggro, 160HP are difficult to beat in the earlygame and if you got 2 different energies in your pile, let's say because you used an Ultra Ball turn1, Exeggutor already swings for 60 damage for 1 energy, which is to much to handle for many decks early on. However, it is also possible to play the slow game and ramp up for some midgame action instead. Depending on what your opponent has on the field, TT allows for quite some adaption.

=Clanging Thunder(50%)

Quite an interessting matchup, as TT usually relies on it's benched mons, meanwhile Kommo-O will use that advantage for its first move. Exeggutor has the advantage over Raichu for only needing 1 energy to hit hard (Raichu is supposed to punish heavy hitters that usually require 3 or more energy) and Gastrodon, which it hits with weakness. Meanwhile, Raticate can get hit with weakness and be onehitted by Solrock with Kukui and Devoured Field, unless it's got a Weakness Policy. (again, pretty strong card against decks that lack equipment removal) Kommo-O is able to onehit Exeggutor with Kukui and Devoured Field, however the backdraw of recieving 30 extra damage next turn will make revenge killing pretty easy. It might be better to take on Exeggutor in 2 steps, opening with a Raichu, then switching to Kommo-O, scratching both mons and sacrificing energy for keeping your evolved heavy hitters alive. For TT the same might apply, putting on early pressure is the key, but if it doesn't work out, Sandslash can be quite annoying, scratching mons for 50-70 while beeing able to switch to sacrifical basics with its attack. This hit&run tactic might cost TT some price cards, but make the important tradeoffs easier in return. It's basically enough to win 6vs5 by playing it save, as in this matchup, the one who loses their tier1 mon first will lose the neccessary damage output to efficiently trade off tier2 mons. Raticate might bait you into going aggro with fast Gastrodon, however that might also mean getting revenge killed by Exeggutor. Don't hesitate to retreat when those Exeggcutes hit the bench, as CT will lose more power in tradeoffs against TT.


Tier 1.5:

XY Basic Green: ramp stalling

This deck sees very low usage actually, but is a very strong counter against most meta-decks. It has the best trainer pool with up to 2x Lysandre/Sycamore (with VS.Seeker) and the sheer amount of heal. Just look at the decklist, it's pretty awesome. Shiftry does the same thing that Empoleon does and provides insane card draw, Chesnaught just tanks everything away with up to 3x Pokemon Center Lady (healing for 60) and 2 Potions (healing for 30), healing itsself for 20 with its attack and throwing back 30 damage to attackers. That means if a Garchomp (150HP) was to hit it, it would throw back 30 damage, then hit for 90, and then (even if it gets knocked out) throw back 30 again, means Garchomp will kill itself. Unless you reach max damage, Chesnaught can always heal away all that chip damage, forcing extremely unfavourable trades. Linoone can hit the bench for 30, Dodrio trap is obvious, Simisages Torment attack can be a game deciding lockdown. Tropius is so-meh and should only be used to buy some turns if necessary. The amount of status heal makes it easy to fight against ICs coinflip haxes and with Ace Trainer you can shuffle away your opponents hand, which is pretty useful against many decks. With the Lysandre you can hit any mon your opponent is ramping up, destroying their game plan, or you can buy time trapping mons with high retreat cost. The kind of power this deck holds still lives up against all the new powercreep decks.



Clanging Thunder (short: "CT"): Midrange

With most of its heavy hitters requiring 3 energies to attack, it is one of the slower decks that is outraced by aggro mons like Gumshoos or Floatzel. That turn2 is very dangerous, but if this deck manages to properly set up some heavy hitters, it can trade efficiently against most decks. Of course, this deck can also go aggro with Gastrodon and Kommo-O, however, the heavy swings are only coming in on turn3.

Kommo-O can give IC a hard time, as IC wants to fill it's bench in most cases, which lets Kommo-O use it's first attack. War cry only costs 2 energy and hits for 120-140 without any backdraw, means you can easly set up a fast Kommo-O with an Exp.Share equiped and shred through your opponents mons, effectively reducing the damage for Empoleon with any mon that IC loses. CT should mainly be considered a counter-deck against Imperial Command. Against MS, I highly advise not to use Gastrodons Earthquake (which scratches your own benched mons) if you have basic mons on your bench that could then fall victim to Garchomps Quick dive.


Tier 2: (insignificant for competitive play, there is a lower ranking, but it's not of interesst for us)



Special Mentions:

Ring of Lightning:  Bench-hitter

this deck likes to drop damage counters on stuff.

Galvantula hits the bench for 60 electric AND grass type weakness, means you can oneshot a benched Piplup from IC, Shellos from CT and various other mons that have those weaknesses, which is great to stop Empoleon or Gastrodon from going up early. Sadly, the deck only got one scary Spider. The big hitter Hoopa is not really doing a good job, unless you manage do get the 130 burst as a surprise attack with Ninja Boy. Therefore, 2 Ampharos provide a 80+para/120 burst attack which comes in very handy against IC, especially if you want to get that Empoleon down the coinflip doesn't even matter. Drifblims Burst Curse can stop many things from going up by dropping 8 counters on your opponents mons however you like, which is enough to kill a benched Gabite from MS and stop that Garchomp from going up. Let us also not forget about Ambipoms chance to hit for 80 turn 2, Joliks free retreat and Hawluchas repel effect, which round up the deck and give you some useful shenanigans to play around with.

<Twilight Rouge

Dusknoir from TR can dead-drop a Joltik from your hands with it's ability, taking 1 free price before even attacking. Given that you have 3 Joltiks in that deck, it's not a favourable matchup at all. Fighting weakness hit's the electric and colorless types. It's also outmatched by the trainer pool and Malamars energy setup speed.


Destruction Fang: Ramp Midrange

To keep it short and simple: this deck gets absolutely wrecked by fighting types.

Those are very abundant in the current meta and the darkness type only hits ghosts like TRs Dusknoir. Strongest card in this deck is the Wishful Baton, which gives it a 3 energy advantage, means you can ramp up a heavy hitter like Hydreigon just by losing your active mon. That competes with the ramp of ICs 2 Abomasnows+ Aqua patch, sadly that won't help, as this deck never reaches max damage to onehit tier1 mons and has no way of attacking the bench.

Edited by Oldschool1990, 03 June 2018 - 07:15 PM.

Specialized on Theme Deck Tournaments.
Latest theme deck analysis here:
Contra principia negantem non est disputandum.
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03 June 2018 - 07:01 PM



    Senior Trainer

  • Oldschool1990

What the future holds:

with Celestial Storm on the horizon, we will get a Sceptile Theme Deck and a Swampert Theme Deck. Sadly not the fairy-type Deck we all hoped for, from what is known already there seem to be no fairy types in Celestial Storm at all. Both new decks will be centered around energy ramp. These decks should be able to deal some serious damage, altho we already got water and grass types in the meta and lack a decent deck featuring fairy types. With more and more theme decks around, the meta will somewhat get healthier with each new set. Well, it's still 2 month till then, so you've got another 8 weeks of bench control/aggro meta to deal with.

Edited by Oldschool1990, 03 June 2018 - 07:15 PM.

Specialized on Theme Deck Tournaments.
Latest theme deck analysis here:
Contra principia negantem non est disputandum.
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