Hey guys, welcome to my first article for Limitless. For those that don’t know me, I’m a player in the St. Louis area. I have been playing since 2011 and ran The Charizard Lounge website up until last year. The past couple of years I’ve been playing more casually, but with the changes to how League Cup best finish limits work and the exciting announcement that the World Championship would be in London, I knew this season was a good one for me to jump back into competitive play.
So far, my season has been going pretty well. I have earned 344 championship points and still have three blank finishes remaining for both League Challenges and League Cups. For my Standard format events, I’ve earned all my points with two decks – Malamar and AbilityZard.
These past two weekends we had our first Expanded tournaments in St. Louis and the decks I used in these tournaments are what I’m writing about today. The first is Turbo Dark, which I used for a 2nd place finish at our League Challenge. The second is Ultra Necrozma/Octillery, which I used for a 1st place finish at our League Cup.
Turbo Dark – Popular and Powerful
If you’re at an Expanded tournament there is a good chance that Turbo Dark is the most played deck in the room. The deck is not only one of the strongest in the format, but it’s also not too expensive to put together, and has a straight forward enough attacking strategy that makes it a good entry point into the Expanded Format for players who might otherwise be overwhelmed by the vast number of possibilities the giant card pool allows.
It is one of my top picks in Expanded. It is one of the strongest decks in terms of raw power, but it also has plenty of options you can use when building the deck to improve your matchups against various decks.
You can overcome tank strategies with Darkrai GX’s “Dead End GX” or Zoroark & Greninja GX’s “Dark Pulse” letting you knock out high HP Pokemon. With Dark Patch, Max Elixir, and drawing lots of cards in a turn with Shaymin EX and Dedenne GX, these attacks get setup on the first or second turn of the game making Turbo Dark a super-fast deck that can win games in just a few turns.
Weavile GX’s “Shadow Connection” Ability makes it easier to get the Energy on the Pokémon you want to attack with in a given situation and has opened the deck up to a wider range of attackers.
Weavile GX also acts as an excellent out to Vileplume BUS which sees play in the Rowlet & Alolan Exeggutor GX deck, giving you an evolution attacker that can be used to get around Vileplume’s “Disgusting Pollen” Ability which prevents Basic Pokémon from being able to attack.
The deck has a strong slate of non-GX attackers it can use to improve its matchups.
If people are playing Fighting decks like BuzzRoc or Lucario GX/Octillery, then you can play Mew FCO in your list, which is also a solid attacker in general as you can use it to create favorable prize trades while using powerful attacks, such as Dark Pulse. It also gives the deck a free retreat pivot which can be useful when you prize your Darkrai EX or are under Ability Lock.
A new option that came out in Cosmic Eclipse is Guzzlord. Its “Red Banquet” attack lets you take an extra prize card when you knock out an opponent’s Pokémon with the attack. We’ve seen Articuno ROS 17 be a valuable part of Archie’s Blastoise decks for its prize gaining Delta Plus Ancient Trait and Guzzlord can play a similar role in Turbo Dark decks.
Turbo Dark Deck List
Here is my current list for Turbo Dark. This is an updated list from the one I used to take 2nd place at the League Challenge. I cut my 2nd Sneasel and the 3rd Sky Field for two Trainers’ Mail. I found myself dead drawing with my initial list more than I would have liked, so I made some changes to add more consistency to my list.
My list for Turbo Dark isn’t anything revolutionary as there is no reason to mess with a successful recipe. I do like playing with four copies of Professor Juniper as I think the deck is too prone to dead drawing with the typical lists that play only two Professor Juniper.
I think “Red Banquet” Guzzlord provides a lot of value in the current meta. In games that you want to use it, it’s best to put a focus on getting Weavile GX into play as this makes it easier to power it up. However, don’t just slam Weavile GX into play as early as you can, wait until the turn you are ready to attack with Guzzlord if possible, otherwise your opponent could target your Weavile GX for a knockout, netting them two prizes and also making it more difficult for you to get Guzzlord attacking.
Against non-GX decks, such as Night March, Ultra Necrozma, and Vespiquen, you can use it to take two prizes on their Pokémon. You can then use it again with Marshadow GX to take two more prize cards. If you can gust up Shaymin EX or Dedenne GX (when attacking with Marshadow GX) with Guzma you can even take three prizes with “Red Banquet”.
Against Ultra Necrozma, if you put a Fighting Fury Belt onto your Guzzlord it will have 190 HP, allowing it to survive Ultra Necrozma’s “Luster of Downfall” setting you up to possibly make a 4 for 1 trade if they can’t find a Tool removal card.
The attack has good potential to swing Turbo Dark mirror matches, which should be common at most Expanded tournaments. If you get Guzzlord into the discard pile, if you attach a Fighting Fury Belt to Marshadow GX you even hit hard enough to OHKO a Zoroark & Greninja GX.
Alternatively, if your opponent attacks with Mew FCO for a knockout in the mirror, you can go into Guzzlord itself to create a positive prize trade with the Mew.
While I don’t play Mew currently in my list, lists running it can also use “Red Banquet” with Mew as well.
“Red Banquet” won’t auto win the mirror match, but I do believe it gives you an edge.
An aside on the ADP Turbo Dark Deck
This variant aims to use Arceus & Dialga & Palkia GX’s “Altered Creation GX” attack to let it take an extra prize with every knockout. It can also use Ultimate Ray to accelerate Energy onto the field to power up the Dark attackers.
It plays Guzma & Hala to search out a Float Stone, Double Dragon Energy, and then a Stadium of the creator’s choice (I’ve seen Chaotic Swell, Silent Lab, and Sky Field in these lists) to get into ADP for the turn 1 “Altered Creation GX”.
The deck is a neat idea, but I don’t think it comes together into an effective package. In the Turbo Dark mirror, it suffers from leaving a Tag Team active without taking prizes to start the game. This can lead to it losing the game quickly if the opposing player can use Dead End GX on the ADP to start the game and then follow it up by knocking out a Zoroark & Greninja GX with Dark Pulse.
If you are playing ADP variants, I think you need to play one of Magearna GX, Comfey GRI 93, Virizion EX, or Cobalion GX to prevent your ADP from being knocked out from “Dead End GX” after you use “Altered Creation GX”.
The deck also became worse from decks adjusting to the threat of ADP in Expanded. The ADP with Double Dragon combo was one of the most hyped combos to come out of Cosmic Eclipse and as a result, players started putting Pokémon Ranger into a lot of their decks to erase the effect of “Altered Creation GX” for the rest of the game.
I would shelve the deck for the time being but keep it in mind for the future. It’s likely that people stop playing Pokémon Ranger in their decks at some point in the future and that would be the time to play an ADP deck.
Pokémon Ranger will be in decks not only because of the ADP hype, but Special Energy decks will want to play it as Noivern GX is seeing play in both Mewtwo & Mew GX decks and now in a Noivern GX/Giratina & Garchomp GX Dragon deck.
Making Ultra Necrozma Work
At the League Challenge around half the field was playing Turbo Dark, so headed into our League Cup, I knew I wanted to try to hard counter Turbo Dark if possible instead of playing it again. I started by testing out the format’s Fighting decks – Lucario GX/Octillery, HitmonWobb, BuzzGarb, and BuzzRoc, but none of these tested well.
After playing a game against a deck playing Sudowoodo and Counter Energy I thought to try adding Fighting attackers into my Ultra Necrozma/Octillery deck which was already playing a single copy of Counter Energy to give me more Energy outs and make me less reliant on Special Charge.
I didn’t think Sudowoodo was quite good enough by itself to upend the Turbo Dark matchup. It’s very good against Zoroark GX decks, but against Turbo Dark, even with a Choice Band it falls 10 damage short of a OHKO on Zoroark & Greninja GX (after they use “Dark Pulse”).
With that in mind I put in Buzzwole and Beast Energy so that I could take a guaranteed OHKO on anything Fighting weak when they go down to four prizes. Additionally, I added Nihilego into the deck to give myself a OHKO option against Mewtwo & Mew GX decks and any Psychic weak Fighting Pokemon such as Lucario GX or Buzzwole GX. While Mew & Mewtwo GX decks typically play Jirachi GX to remove Mew & Mewtwo GX’s weakness, we have four copies of Silent Lab to shutoff Jirachi GX’s “Psychic Zone” Ability.
In addition to being able to hit some of the most powerful decks for Weakness, this trio of counter attackers are solid attackers in general and help smooth the deck out by giving it more attackers to use without recovery, which I found helps it chain together attackers better than the variants relying entirely on Ultra Necrozma.
Ultra Necrozma/Octillery Deck List
This list is a card off from the list I used to win a League Cup last weekend, with the one change being to put Prism Energy into the deck in place of Rainbow Energy. It slipped my mind that Prism Energy was a card when building the deck.
If you don’t own Prism Energy, don’t worry too much about it, Rainbow works fine, but Prism Energy is definitely the correct play. A somewhat common scenario where it could matter is against Zoroark GX decks when you attack with Buzzwole. If your opponent can’t find a Sky Field to bump your Silent Lab, they will only be able to use Riotous Beating for 120 damage and you will be able to get two attacks off with a Buzzwole before it’s knocked out, which should almost guarantee you a win.
With this list, I put a heavy focus on early game consistency. Between Professor Juniper, N, and Cynthia I have 8 Supporter cards that can help me get to a stable setup on the first turn of the game. I avoided Colress to avoid losing games quickly when it’s my lone opening draw Supporter. The deck doesn’t play any ball searchable draw cards, such as Shaymin EX or Dedenne GX, so you need a lot of draw Supporters to avoid early game dead drawing.
With Marshadow SGL being banned, there isn’t a great one prize ball searchable consistency Pokemon in format. There is Oranguru, but it would make no sense in a deck like this, as it’s not super great early game and it would be locked from use whenever Silent Lab is in play.
In addition to the draw Supporters I also play search Supporters in Guzma & Hala and Teammates. Guzma & Hala is great in the deck as it is able to search out your Double Dragon Energy and Silent Lab giving you all the resources you need to power up Ultra Necrozma to attack. You can also grab a Float Stone if you need to retreat into your attacker or to grab a Choice Band to hit a necessary damage number. Don’t forget that you can also use it to search out your other Special Energy cards for your other attackers as well.
I’ve seen some lists play heavy counts of this card, which I wouldn’t recommend, as these lists tend to dead draw from a lack of draw power.
On turns after knockouts occur, Teammates can be great allowing you to grab precisely the two cards you need on that turn.
In addition to a thick Supporter line I play a 2-2 Octilley line which gives the deck a lot of draw power. When you have Octillery in play, it’s very easy to piece together the combo pieces you need for your attacks, and it also lets you utilize Pokémon Ranger and Guzma effectively.
With this list, the deck still functions, even if you can’t get Octillery into play, but when you do get an Octillery or two into play, then the deck almost never whiffs an attack.
I originally put Pokémon Ranger in the list for ADP, but it’s also very useful against decks playing cards like Noivern GX and Giratina EX that prevent you from being able to attach Special Energy.
Between Pokémon Ranger itself, Battle Compressor into VS Seeker, and Computer Search, you have three outs to get Pokémon Ranger and start using it in matchups where you need it. You also have four Trainers’ Mail to help you find one of these three cards. This gives you plenty of solid outs to find Pokémon Ranger early in the matchups that you need it.
Other Card Considerations
While the list above is my current list, here are some cards I have been mulling over as potential changes to the list if I were to play the deck again.
The first card is Faba. If the meta you’re expected to play in has a lot of decks with Chaotic Swell you will want a Faba to be able to repeatedly remove Chaotic Swell from play to allow yourself the ability to put your Silent Lab into play.
In my local meta, I have seen Chaotic Swell being played in the ADP/Dark variants, Turbo Dark with Alolan Persian GX, and with Gardevoir & Sylveon GX/Aromatisse.
The second card I am considering is Professor Kukui. This would be very strong against Zoroark GX decks, allowing you to OHKO a Zoroark GX if you have a Choice Band attached. The Zoroark GX/Garbodor matchup as currently built is mostly reliant on using Guzma to take out bench sitters or using reactive cards like Buzzwole and Sudowoodo to hit Zoroark GX for Weakness. Adding Professor Kukui would make you able to take a more proactive approach to the matchup.
The third card I would look at is Great Catcher. This allows you to gust up a Pokemon while using a draw or search Supporter on that turn. The two Guzma did feel really good throughout the tournament so I would be hesitant to cut one of them for a Great Catcher. It definitely should not be underestimate how useful being able to target non-GX Pokémon with Guzma can be.
A combo that is worth mentioning, but which I didn’t find worth playing was Naganadel & Guzzlord GX with Counter Gain. This was primarily used to use “Chaotic Order GX” to take your last two prizes, but you could also use it to attack with “Jet Pierce” if you were behind in a matchup and needed to tank a hit to make a comeback.
In testing, however, it didn’t feel like this combo changed whether or not I was winning games, as games where you don’t get going you lose, and games where the deck is running well, you will probably win anyways. I think this combo just changes the way that you win and not whether you win.
What to love about Ultra Necrozma
Ultra Necrozma variants have been divisive archetypes among the player base. The deck isn’t perfect by any means, but it does have a lot of nice things going for it. Here are the reasons why I think Ultra Necrozma is an appealing deck for Expanded tournaments.
1. It can trade favorably with GX and EX decks.
The biggest reason that this is even a deck in the first place is that it is a powerful Basic non-GX attacker that attacks for a single Energy attachment, making it fast and powerful.
It is able to OHKO many of the Basic and Stage 1 GX and EX Pokémon, either naturally or with the aid of Choice Band. Anything that it doesn’t OHKO, it hits the math for a 2HKO.
2. It can gatekeep other non-GX decks.
In Standard, we have seen Malamar act as gatekeeper for other non-GX decks by being so overwhelmingly favored in the matchups against these decks that at points in a meta when Malamar is popular, it becomes very difficult to play decks like Blacephalon/Pidgeotto because of how poor the Malamar matchup is.
While it’s difficult to see whether or not Ultra Necrozma can gain enough popularity to gatekeep other non-GX decks, I would say that it has the edge against the other non-GX decks that aim to win by taking six prize cards right now.
There are two main reasons for why Ultra Necrozma fares well against other non-GX decks.
First, it is a Basic attacker that can attack turn 1, so it can out speed decks like Vespiquen that need to wait a turn to evolve.
Second, it doesn’t play any non-GX Pokémon. Night March, for example, plays Shaymin EX and Dedenne GX as part of its consistency engine. A Night March player will almost always need to play down at least one of these Pokémon to avoid dead drawing or whiffing the resources they need to attack. Once one of these is on the board, you can use Guzma to knock them out to jump ahead in the prize trade.
3. Silent Lab can win games for you on its own power.
I think the most underrated part of this deck is Silent Lab’s ability to win games for you by itself.
Many Turbo Dark decks, for example, play low Supporter counts and rely in many games on using an Ultra Ball to search for a Shaymin EX or Dedenne GX to start drawing through their deck. If that’s all they have in hand as a draw out and you go first and have Silent Lab, then the game is pretty much over from the start if they don’t also have a Sky Field or Field Blower in hand.
In the Finals of my League Cup, I played against a Durant deck that heavily relied on using Oranguru SUM to draw through their deck as well as using Mew to copy Durant’s attack. Shutting off these Abilities gave me a massive edge in the matchup.
Mew & Mewtwo GX is a major deck archetype that Silent Lab can help you beat. This deck has lots of outs to Silent Lab with 4 Dimension Valley, 1-2 Field Blower, and possibly a Dowsing Machine, but if you are playing down Silent Lab and also putting your opponent down to 1 or 2 cards in hand with N, then sometimes you can stick a Silent Lab in play.
Silent Lab doesn’t win every game for you by itself, but there is a solid amount of games that are swung by Silent Lab being put into play and not getting bounced. A lot of players dismiss games lost to something like this from their testing results, which makes them underestimate the true winning percentage of a deck like this.
4. It has built in Energy Removal.
In addition to doing a lot of damage for a single attachment, Ultra Necroma’s “Luster of Downfall” also removes an Energy from your opponent’s Pokémon. Like Silent Lab, there are some number of games that will be swung into a win in your favor as a result of an Energy being removed from your opponent’s Pokemon and then your opponent whiffing the attachment on their next turn and having to cede a turn of attacking.
This is actually relevant in the matchup against the Giratina & Garchomp GX/Noivern GX deck. In this matchup, they use Counter Gain along with Double Dragon Energy to use Noivern GX’s “Sonic Volume” attack, which prevents you from being able to attach Special Energy to your Pokémon. When they take a knockout that pulls them even on prizes, Counter Gain no longers works, so even if you can’t get a Choice Band for the OHKO, if you remove their Double Dragon Energy and they don’t have another Energy attached, then they won’t be able to use “Sonic Volume” on their next turn.
A card like Magearna GX or “Energy Keeper” Carbink can prevent the Energy Removal effect, but these are mostly irrelevant as Silent Lab will turn off their Abilities as they’re both Basic Pokémon.
The Weaknesses of Ultra Necrozma
While there is a lot to like about the deck, it does have some noticeable weaknesses. Knowing these weaknesses is important for being able to evaluate whether the meta you are going to be playing in is too hostile for the deck to be a good play. Here are some of the things you will need to watch out for with this deck.
1. It takes a hard auto loss to Vileplume BUS.
My version of the deck uses all Basic Pokémon attackers which means the deck scoops to Vileplume BUS. You could play Stealthy Hood for this matchup, but you would probably need two to consistently win this matchup as they would most likely get two Vileplume setup and would be using Faba to put your Stealthy Hood into the Lost Zone.
I would not bother with the deck’s consistency to try to fix this matchup. The Rowlet & Alolan Exeggutor/Vileplume deck should not be very popular as it has a tough time beating Turbo Dark, which should be the most played deck.
2. It is Special Energy reliant.
The deck is reliant on using Special Energy, which makes it susceptible against strategies aiming to lock an opponent out of using Special Energy. The three I’ve seen the most of at tournaments and in testing are Noivern GX, Alolan Persian GX, and Giratina EX.
Pokémon Ranger gives you an out to both Noivern GX and Giratina EX. In my Top 4 match at my cup, I was able to successfully use Pokémon Ranger to overcome Noivern GX, but it was still a very close match, even with the Pokémon Ranger.
I don’t have a counter to Alolan Persian GX in my list, but you could play Power Plant if this becomes super popular and use Sudowoodo or Buzzwole to OHKO it.
I actually beat a Turbo Dark deck with Alolan Persian GX in Swiss by using a Guzma right away when my opponent benched Ditto Prism Star. From there, they were forced to bench too many other Pokémon that I had plenty of Guzma targets for knockouts after they attacked with “Dark Union GX” to put Alolan Persian GX back on their bench.
Honchkrow GX is another counter option, although I haven’t seen a good deck with this in it yet. With it resisting Fighting Pokémon instead of being weak to Fighting, you can’t just throw a Power Plant into the deck to counter it with your Fighting Pokemon.
If these types of cards are seeing a ton of play in your meta, it’s probably not the right time to play Ultra Necrozma, or at the very least, you should be playing a Garbodor variant to shutoff these Abilities.
3. It doesn’t OHKO everything.
While 170 damage (and 200 with Choice Band) is a lot of damage for one attachment, it still doesn’t OHKO every Pokémon. This means that decks that can take a hit from Ultra Necrozma can potentially prevent it from out trading them.
Decks with bulky Tag Team Pokémon, such as Turbo Dark or Gardevoir & Sylveon GX can use cards like Acerola, AZ, and Max Potion to heal off the damage from Ultra Necrozma.
4. The deck is Stadium reliant.
The deck is reliant on having Silent Lab in play to attack, so if your opponent can keep Silent Lab out of play, then the deck loses.
The most noticeable issue is with Chaotic Swell. This prevents you from getting your Silent Lab into play as it immediately gets discarded if you try to replace a Chaotic Swell with it. If there is a lot of Chaotic Swell in your meta then you need to play Faba, or else you will probably lose.
Attack based options, such as Giratina EX’s “Chaos Wheel” can be played around with Pokémon Ranger.
An Aside on the Garbodor Variant
Like most people, I started with the Garbodor variant and moved on from the deck. The Garbodor variant works on setting up Garbodor to shutoff Abilities, allowing you to attack with Ultra Necrozma, even without Silent Lab in play, while also disrupting Ability based decks. Not being reliant on Silent Lab makes this variant much better against decks using Chaotic Swell.
Adding Garbodor into the deck does shift the deck’s matchups spread. It makes the deck stronger against decks like Rowlet & Alolan Exeggutor/Vileplume and Gardevoir & Sylveon GX/Aromatisse, which use Abilities to gain dominant positions in the matchup against Ultra Necrozma.
It also gives you Garbodor GRI as an alternate attacker, which can be helpful against Psychic weak decks or decks that play lots of Item cards, which is most of them in Expanded.
The biggest downside to this variant of the deck is that you will be less consistent as you don’t take advantage of Ability based draw. This makes the deck a lot more susceptible to losing to N.
The Garbodor line also takes up a lot of space, so there’s not much room to add techs to deal with problem matchups without further damaging the consistency of the deck.
The Garbodor variant is also susceptible to losing to cards like Noivern GX as you don’t have the Ability based draw power that is vital in piecing together the Pokémon Ranger, Double Dragon Energy, and Choice Band combo that you need to OHKO a Noivern GX.
With the Garbodor variant, I think you have a theoretically better matchup spread, but less consistency in winning those matchups. With the Octillery variant, you’re going to have a narrower matchup spread, but be more consistent in winning the matchups you’re theoretically good in.
After having played in two tournaments in the Expanded Format I think the format is a very fun one to play in. It’s cool to see old archetypes like Durant make a comeback while cards like Noivern GX, which was never very competitive in its Standard run, start to see play.
I think the format lends itself to plenty of creativity. Even among a single archetype, such as Turbo Dark, there is a ton of variety, with some players playing a more traditional version and other players putting a twist on the deck with cards like ADP or Alolan Persian GX.
It’s still early, but the early returns make it look like banning a lot of the most powerful disruption cards in the format has helped make Expanded a healthier format that is a lot of fun to play.