Going to Anaheim’s Regional Championship and struggling to choose a deck? In this concise but hopefully illuminating read, we’re going to go through what I consider to be the four best overall choices for the upcoming Standard format Regional in Anaheim, California.

First, some housekeeping:

1. This is not a top X list, and I will not be ranking the decks in comparison to each other. I'm going to be unconventional because in this instance, I believe any one of the below deck choices has a great chance of winning on any given day. I even think a couple decks not included are also capable of pulling off the win, but in my mind these four are on a tier of their own.

2. To keep you guys from overthinking or feeling like you have to “read between the lines,” I’ve organized the decks in ABC order, based on the most prominent letter in their traditionally-recognized name. (E.G., Yveltal goes to the bottom; Grass goes closer to the top.)

3. Since this is a step beyond the typical "top X" list, I've given a four-star rating to each deck in numerous categories. Such categories include:

o   Safety: How likely is this deck going to yield you a good day? I define a “good day” here in generalized terms, e.g., if you’ll end up getting a cash prize.

o   Ease of use: Some decks are easier to play than others. And in a big Regional Championship with hundreds of opponents, misplays matter. I'm a big advocate of being prudent in your deck choice, and so whether you're newer, younger, or just really busy and haven't had time to learn this new set, I wanted to give you some recommendations on what might be the better play for you.

o   Personal preference: To make this blog the best it can be, we need to give you reliable, premium-quality content. But in order to do that, I need you to trust what I’m saying, and the best way to earn that trust is by sharing my exact feelings about all four decks listed. I have a clear favorite, a fallback, a deck I'd only use in specific circumstances, and a deck I won't even touch.

 

…And now, the choices!

Turbo Darkrai


Simple and safe

Why it's good: Although some decks explode, other decks explode consistently. Darkrai falls comfortably into category two, as it's an all-Basic deck capable of hitting amazingly efficient Damage counts in record time. EXP Share also does an incredible job at maintaing your momentum throughout the whole game, and never having to attach more than two Energy to an attacker is a huge advantage.

Safety: 3/4. It’s still very much a proven, powerful deck, and is still fresh off a great Regionals win. It’s also got several great matchups. Don’t ignore the bad matchups though, and virtually every new GX should be a cause for concern – yes, Incineroar GX included! Still, I think if you’re good enough and are ready to play up to 27 games in a single day, this’ll work fine for you.

Ease of use: 4/4. Darkrai is one of my biggest motivations for writing this article the way that I did. As with every deck, you need to make optimal plays with your Trainers, Darkrai is mostly a linear deck with linear choices. It’s great for a new or younger player, and it’s especially good for a semi-retired old school great. This is one of the main decks in Standard where you’re less concerned with perfect play, and more concerned with avoiding terrible misplays.

Personal preference: 1/4. Despite all its positive attributes, it’s not personally appealing to me at all. This is partially because it’s behind the curve on the metagame, but especially because ­it’s so linear. One of the most valuable ways to outplay someone is to have something unpredictable up your sleeve, and Darkrai just doesn’t scratch that itch.

(Also, since the very last thing I wrote before finishing this article was the "why it's good" section for Darkrai, I'm convinced I have som sort of inherent bias against the deck.)

Decidueye

Believe me, there are a LOT of other directions you can take this list! (...Also, why is Tauros a regular art now?)

Why it's good: Sun and Moon changed the game with its new-but-not-so-new choice to make both Basic and Evolution GX Pokemon. Chief among these absurdly powerful cards is Decidueye GX, a card I feel has gotten an insane amount of disrespect leading up to this tournament. First and foremost, this is my favorite Sun and Moon card! I’m a bit biased here, but I believe it’s for good reason. First, its Ability is the most efficient “free damage” in the Standard format: The longer a game draws out, the more devastating two to three Feather Arrows can be. Second, it’s beefy as sin, which is a rare trait to have for a Grass type. Third, its options for locking and/or teching Attackers supplies ample opportunities to handle its number one threat, Garbodor’s Ability-locking Garbotoxin. Finally, its GX Attack is hands-down the best resource recovery available in Standard.

(Want some last-minute ideas for your Decidueye list? Check out my Quick Search entry on Decidueye!)

Safety: 2/4. What comes with the territory of being a new card is the risk that you will collapse. It can hit some bad matchups, and needs a bunch of cards to set up in every variant.

Ease of use: 1/4. In principle this deck should be very easy: get a bunch of Owls into play and smash in your opponent’s face. However, it’s much more complicated than that, particularly because each of those Feather Arrows you announce is game-changing. Conversely, a single wrong Feather Arrow could lose you the game, and a poorly-played or poorly-timed Hollow Hunt GX Attack will stick out like a sore thumb. Finally, you need a great plan for best two out of three match play, or else you’ll be drawing and losing matches you should’ve won otherwise.

Personal preference: 4/4. Despite the risks and the difficulties, I’m absolutely in love with this card and its way to sweep games completely and utterly. It does have some glaring issues and matchups, but they’re mostly just players not settling on all the right list choices – myself included. Multiple Feather Arrows in play is format-changing: it can and will dominate games that should be completely unwinnable on paper. We haven’t seen something capable of such tempo manipulation in years, and so it definitely has a home in any format it’s legal in. I'm currently leaning towards a version of the above list with Vileplume, but I'm also enamored with the way the pictured list deals out, too.

Mega Mewtwo/Garbodor

Wait, isn't this just Igor Costa's list with the wrong Tauros?

Why it's good: It’s got incredible firepower, healing, and Ability lock! Mega Mewtwo’s always been good, but at every turn, Weakness has held it down badly. Be it due to Night March or Mega Gardevoir, this deck has struggled to take down anything sizeable in this Standard or the last. However, headed into Anaheim, all the hype is surrounding cards which conveniently don’t pose any imminent auto-win threat against Mewtwo. Furthermore, the counters to these decks (e.g., Volcanion) suffer against Mega Mewtwo because they can’t handle the strength of Psychic Infinity.

I think if any time is the best time for Mewtwo to take down a Regional, it’s Anaheim. It has hard losses Yveltal EX/Garbodor will never be exposed to (see below), but in many ways it’s a stronger version of Yveltal. So assuming we see a lot of players swarm to Yveltal as the “safe” play, Mewtwo may be a great meta call.

Safety: 3/4. See above reasons. It’s got some pretty incredible matchups and doesn’t fare poorly against the new Sun and Moon cards, but will always have glaring weaknesses to be exploited. 

Ease of us: 3/4. In my experience, Mega Mewtwo has a rhythm – that is, a set of very normal, scripted plays that hardly ever deviate. It’s also pretty simple to know where to attach, when to use what attack, and so on. Where it does deviate, however, is in how elite players handle bad matchups, or sticky situations. Whereas a Mega Gardevoir player who’s equally as talented as a Mega Mewtwo player will win most of their games, a skill discrepancy could easily expose the weaker Gardevoir player to a Mewtwo player, who by virtue of the deck will be very aggressive in seizing on those mistakes.

Personal preference: 3/4.  In investing, there are high risk investments, medium risk investments, and low risk investments. In other words, the greater the risk, the more money you’ll make. Now imagine the three decks I want to play as investments. Playing Decidueye can result in either an incredible tournament-tearing day or a crash-and-burn day – I see little in between. Playing Yveltal (discussed below) will probably result in a perfectly fine day one, but will undoubtedly result in a lot of grindy day two games that could easily be broken by a rough hand or two.

Then there’s Mewtwo, the medium risk guy that “may” have some solvency issues, but is still totally capable of making me a good chunk of change. This is where really knowing the California metagame would really help in making a decision, as it could help predict just how big your “risk” truly is.

Yveltal EX/Garbodor/Tauros GX

Okay, now we're just getting ridiculous with this whole wrong Tauros thing.

Why it's good: Except for a select few niche attackers, Yveltal has no bad matchups – none! Everything in the metagame is 100% workable, and even against those bad matchups, Yveltal’s unholy combination of versatility, power, and disruption makes even those bad matchups entirely winnable. Furthermore, Tauros GX closes up a lot of the holes the deck had previously, and supplies a ferocious attacker to handle formerly horrible matchups.

Safety: 4/4. If you’re a good player and have a good list, you have a great chance of walking away with some money, and there’s no way I imagine you finishing with a negative record.

Ease of use: 2/4. The first-level plays aren’t hard at all, but if you don’t have the skills to handle all of its intricate matchup interactions, then don’t play it.
Personal preference: 3/4. I have a long history of using Yveltal EX, trust its consistency and other positive aspects, and am open-minded about using it in a state I don’t play in. There’s a good chance I may fall back on this in case I suffer a crisis of faith in Decidueye.

 A Few Words for the Fallen

I said "fallen," not "Knocked Over"!

Of course, there are several decks not featured on my list. Chief among them is Mega Rayquaza, the high-sailing dragon God that deals untold amounts of damage to every EX south of 250 HP. I think common wisdom would take Decidueye off my elite four and replace it with Mega Rayquaza, but many of the metagame threats meant to target these new Sun and Moon Ability decks will inevitably hurt Rayquaza, too. Chief among them being sticking Garbodor in literally everything – who ever thought garbage could be so popular? Also, considering how common Parallel City is, it’s tough to see Rayquaza actually win the whole tournament.

For Greninja and Volcanion, I see it being much worse. Although in theory Volcanion should benefit from all the new, good Grass decks, it’s one of the worst decks to deal with Ability lock, which a plurality of decks will be packing. Greninja is even worse in coping with it, and now suffers the added “bonus” of having to contend with viable Grass decks.

Lurantis is a good card, but in testing it’s revealed itself to be fairly overrated. Chloroscythe GX is an incredible GX move though, and lists aren’t incapable of running a few surprises, so its time may come yet.

While I didn’t put it on my list, Vespiquen is a highly capable threat. Contrary to other premium article writers, I don’t think Sun and Moon added enough to change its composition too dramatically. However, it’s still great – just perhaps not safe the way the four listed decks are.

Finally, I think Water Box’s fate is pretty much left up in the hands of the meta. While a heavy-hitting Lapras GX is stellar against much of the “old” metagame, Water Box takes hard losses to every single Grass deck out there. And since Grass is monopolizing the hype, it’ll be a super-risky choice for Anaheim.

Conclusion

There are several decks I trust to be very good choices, but ultimately only four I identify as having a good enough chance of taking the whole thing. As with any deck choice, remember that it's a personal decision: You may want a surprise factor, something easy, or maybe something that'll just get you to day two easily. Whatever you do though, and whatever your goals may be, be sure it's a good choice for you!