This weekend will be the first one to feature tournaments with the brand new Forbidden Light expansion. Unfortunately, neither me nor any other Limitless player will be attending the Special Championship in Tours, and our next tournament will probably be the Sheffield Regional Championship in exactly a month. This means I’ve been taking it a lot more slowly than usual when it comes to testing new formats, but playing around with new cards and decks is still a fun thing to do.
The one deck I’ve spend the most time playing so far is the one I’ve decided to write about today, Lapras. I’ve always been a big fan of Expanded Darkrai, and this deck feels similar. Playing a ton of Basic Energy and flooding the board with them through the use of items just never gets old for me.
Why is Lapras making a comeback?
There’s been a lot of talk about Lapras recently, even though it gained only a single card out of Forbidden Light: Volcanion Prism Star. Is it really that good?
In my opinion, yes. Volcanion is a huge upgrade for the deck. One of the main drawbacks of Lapras has been its inability to consistently hit more than 190 damage in a format dominated by Pokemon with 200 or more HP. Volcanion is a very efficient non-GX attacker that can 2HKO everything while rarely getting OHKOd back, but its attack also does 20 damage to every benched Pokemon, which puts the likes of Zoroark and Lycanroc into KO range for Lapras. This is big deal. Setting up Leles for easy Guzma KOs is also relevant. In addition, Volcanion’s ability can help to get energy in the discard pile for Aqua Patch, which is a nice early game bonus.
The second reason for a possible Lapras resurgence is the changing metagame. The beginning of the Forbidden Light meta has been full of prize races between decks like Buzzwole and Malamar/Ultra Necrozma, games where a consistent and fast deck like Lapras can shine. As Lapras has 8 energy acceleration items at its disposal, hitting a T2 OHKO is quite easy, oftentimes it can also pair that with a Guzma. Sometimes it can even start drawing two prizes in the very first turn. Lapras doesn’t run out of steam easily either, and can usually replace and power up a new attacker every turn.
One of the biggest problems for Lapras has always been Golisopod-GX, a card that OHKOs it for one energy while also being out of range with its 210 HP. Golisopod is still a major problem that Lapras can’t really deal with, but as of now, it has lost a lot of its popularity. It remains to be seen how the meta shapes up in the first Forbidden Light legal tournaments, and I would expect Golisopod to regain at least some of its pre-FLI meta share, but there’s hope for Lapras to at least not face it all the time.
Lapras is our mainhitter and we want to charge up three fresh ones in almost every game. Playing 4 makes that possible even if one is prized, or gets damaged in the early game. We also want to draw into multiple Lapras quickly to always have good targets for our energy acceleration cards. A full playset of Lapras makes the most sense to me.
Octillery is the perfect support Pokemon in an aggressive deck that has Brooklet Hill, so just like in Buzzroc, we want the 2-2 line of it. Getting out the first Octillery is of top priority in the early game, and the second one will often follow towards the end of the game. The one Lele also fulfills the same purpose as in Buzzroc, you don’t really want to use it, but it still turns all the Ultra Balls into potential Supporter outs, which is very important.
Manaphy is mostly a “nice to have” in this list, as I already play a bunch of Float Stones. However, Lapras will usually be equipped with a Choice Band, and being able to retreat it for free is great. I would never cut Manaphy, but also see no need for a second one. Dawn Wings Necrozma could be an alternative, as it also resets Lapras’ Blizzard Burn, but Manaphy is more consistent because of not being disrupted by Blowers and being searchable by Brooklet Hill. By the time it becomes relevant there’s rarely not a second fully powered attacker ready to go, so the Blizzard Burn drawback isn’t a real problem.
Sycamore and Guzma are obvious 4 ofs and there’s no reason to go lower on them. Cynthia is the best supplementary draw supporter and can get us out of awkward hands we don’t want to discard. N isn’t great in here, but a valuable option nonetheless, and still a decent early game draw supporter.
Not much to say about Ultra Ball, Aqua Patch and Max Elixir. Some players may consider going down to 3 of either energy accelerator, but I wouldn’t advise doing so. Drawing into them reliably and as fast as possible is the point of this deck. These cards are almost never a bad draw.
Choice Band is one of the most important cards in the deck as it allows Lapras to take OHKOs. I would go up to 5 or 6 is possible, but 4 have to suffice.
Float Stone can seem like a rather weird inclusion in a deck that has Manaphy for free retreat, but I’m a big fan. It makes the deck much more explosive by taking away the need to attach energy to Pokemon that we don’t want to attack with. Without Float Stone, the odds for a T1 KO are incredibly low, Float Stone however makes that a real possibility, while almost guaranteeing the T2 attack. Against other aggressive decks like Buzzwole or the mirror, every energy attachment can make the difference. Some lists play Energy Switch to address this energy efficiency issue, but in my mind it’s just a slower and much more inconsistent Float Stone.
The one other item I’ve seen in other lists that’s missing here is Field Blower. Just like in Buzzroc, I don’t see much of a point in playing that card in this deck. Lapras doesn’t care about discarding random tools, most games are races where the opponent needs to stop us, not the other way around. Garbotoxin is annoying, but if we removed their tools and made good use of Octillery, that’s just running straight into Trashalance OHKOs. Not being able to use Manaphy is not a huge problem as we have Float Stones.
As for the rest of the list, Brooklet Hill is the obvious stadium of choice. It adds a lot of consistency while also countering Parallel City. They can clunk up the hand though, especially in a format with so many of them already around, so 3 is a fine number.
14 Energy is a lot, but they’re such an important part of the strategy that I’d add as many as possible. Even 15 or more don’t sound crazy to me, but this amount has been completely fine.
With Buzzwole/Garbodor and some other decks bringing a good amount of Fighting Fury Belts back into the meta, I would add a couple of Field Blowers again. They swing those matchups completely, while still being occasionally useful against other decks as well.
My current cuts are the 3rd Brooklet Hill and 3rd Float Stone. Trimming the stadium hurts consistency a bit, but the deck doesn’t usually struggle with finding a Pokemon to attach to, so it’s fine. There are even situations where we avoid putting it down to not help the opponent’s set-up. Blower also replaces its function as a Parallel City counter.
Having one less Float Stone hurts a bit more it feels like, but the odds of drawing one in the first two turns aren’t bad and additional copies after that usually have less value. It seemed to be the most manageable cut for now, but I would still never go lower than that, or cut Float Stones completely. I stand by this version being superior to the popular double Manaphy + Energy Switch style, matchup-wise.
As a disclaimer, I haven’t done any “serious” testing in this format yet, as there’s still a lot of meta defining tournaments that will take place before Sheffield, that will have to be taken into consideration. As a results, all my opinions are based on my impressions of PTCGO ladder games.
So far, Lapras has been holding up very well against the most expected archetypes.
I’ve won almost all my games against Malamar variants, as those seem to have a lot of trouble in keeping up the OHKO race, as well as usually being behind on prizes. Hitting an Ultra Necrozma with a Metal Energy every turn is hard, especially when most lists are only playing two. Dawn Wings Necrozma’s GX attack is a way for them to get back into the game, but is rarely a problem because of Guzma and Volcanion’s ability.
Buzzwole decks have been harder to beat, but didn’t feel unfavorable. Lycanroc can be problematic because we don’t want to use Volcanion against Buzzwoles, but rarely draws more than two prizes anyway. The matchup is a prize race, but Lapras is faster than Buzzwole, so I’d say we’re fine, even though they have ways to swing the game into their favor.
It remains to be seen how Zoroark will hold up in this meta, but I’d expect at least Zoroark Garbodor to remain a very important deck. The matchup against that feels slightly unfavorable, as both Garbodor are pretty strong against the Lapras deck. As long as we don’t draw awkwardly it’s still very possible to win though. Volcanion is as amazing as against any other Zoroark deck, and creates favorable prize exchanges for most of the game. It’s very important to pay attention to item usage to not get OHKOd by a Trashalance too early, but if we can do that successfully the matchup is fine.
Aside from Golisopod, Gardevoir is one of the biggest problems. At 230 HP it’s impossible to OHKO, but can take out our Pokemon quite easily. Luckily, I don’t think it will see much popularity in a Buzzwole dominated format.
I haven’t played against a lot of other different decks, but Lapras’ chances against the field seemed alright. VikaBulu is a battle of back and forth OHKOs, but our deck is more likely to get ahead in prizes. Metal decks focused on Dusk Mane Necrozma are even more likely to fall behind.
Now that the meta is well defined, it’s a lot easier to assess Lapras’ place in it. Some problems have emerged that make it a risky pick, but I think it still has a lot of favorable matchups and could with some luck make a good run at the NAIC.
The Buzzwole matchup has changed negatively with the rise of Baby Buzz. The previously even or favorable prize trade got a lot more complicated, but it’s still not a completely terrible matchup. It can be difficult for Buzzwole to manage a fast Lapras start with early KOs, preferably targeting important Pokemon like Diancie, making whiffed KOs from their side more likely.
The other problem that emerged since the time of this article’s original release is the resurgence in Golisopod play. Zoropod has put up a bunch of great results over the last few tournaments, and is very hard to deal with. The strategy remains the same as against every other Zoroark deck: set up a fast Volcanion and clean up with Lapras OHKOs. Targeting Wimpods is usually correct, naturally. However, if they draw well and get back to back First Impression KOs, there’s not much we can do to respond.
Other than those, I believe that Lapras is positioned quite favorably. Malamar still feels like a favorable matchup. Zoroark Lycanroc is the most popular Zoroark deck, and unlike the Golisopod variant, it only gets a single OHKO per game, and even needs one more attachment to make it happen. A fast Volcanion, without crazy whiffs later in the game, should be enough to win the matchup most of the time.
Greninja has proven to be somewhat of a contender in this format, but it’s pretty easy to beat with this deck. Once again an early Volcanion is key, and sets up every Greninja for an easy Blizzard Burn KO later in the game. Starting from turn 2 you should never miss a knockout, which is not something that Greninja is good at dealing with.
The last matchup that gained a lot of importance, and made me switch up the list, is Buzzwole/Garbodor. Without Field Blower, their Fighting Fury Belt would take away our ability to OHKO Buzzwoles, but the current list has the answers it needs for this matchup. It’s important to take the first two prizes, but thanks to their lack of Max Elixirs, that’s usually not a problem. In fact, it should be easy to see exactly when they’d be ready to get ahead, and be one turn faster. There’s no need to take an agressive turn 2 KO, only to be met by an immediate Beast Ring Knuckle Impact revenge that could be left unanswered. Instead, it can be better to just Ice Beam instead and take the additional turn to set up a board of charged-up Lapras.
Once the KO trade is started, it’s just a matter of finding either Field Blower or Guzma twice to close out the game. Baby Buzzwole has the potential to swing this trade, but if you manage to take the first KO with a fresh Lapras, they’ll often be forced to forgo it and have to respond with the GX instead. And even if they do hit a Sludgehammer KO, we can draw the Guzma to get around it. In some games they won’t even get off the double Beast Ring that’s usually needed, and lose without much contest.
Things of course have to go right on the Lapras side as well, but generally I’d be comfortable facing this matchup.
If you want to check out some gameplay action with the deck, take a look at this video that Nico uploaded to the Limitless youtube channel!
To answer the article’s title, yes! In fact, if I was going to play a tournament this weekend, it would be my deck of choice. Granted that may just be caused by lack of proper preparation, but I definitely think it’s a solid deck that could establish itself in the meta if we see a decline in Golisopod play.
Thanks for reading, I hope you liked this quick deck review. I might be back next month with another longer article, so see you there!