TAndrewTesting: EX Tanking with QuadGroudon, and Her Cheaper, Easier Sister

by TAndrewT ~ May 9th, 2012.

Carly Rae and Iz: Musicians I'd like to get wet with. Well okay, maybe one more than the other.

By now we’ve all attended pre-releases for Dark Explorers, the second set in the Black-and-White series to contain EX cards. I hope you all pulled what you hoped for! I can’t say that I was praying for two copies of Glaceon, or to have to run 5 Chanseys in my 40-card deck, or to not pull any Pokémon EX across two pre-releases, but I guess that’s what happens sometimes. (Fortunately for me, my son Paul did a little better.) The release of those Pokémon EX in the Next Destinies set definitely changed the metagame, and I have no doubt that the EX’s in Dark Explorers will change it again. I don’t know if you OHKO’ers have noticed, but these shiny new EX’s are freakin’ BIG. No, I don’t mean virally-famous, Carly-Rae-Jepsen-style big. I mean BIG. More like Iz Kamakawiwo’ole big. Sporting 170 or 180 HP—except for Shaymin EX—it almost seems like the new EX Pokémon would be impossible to knock out in one hit. Okay, many of the EX’s have weakness to commonly used types in the current format, like Tornadus EX’s weakness to Lightning, or Mewtwo EX’s weakness to…well, Mewtwo. Play these Pokémon, and you really do have to watch out for your opponent’s one-hit KO. But a few of the EX’s are weak to uncommon types, and you would expect that these big boys could hold their own in the active spot for quite a while, taking hit after hit without being knocked out. Putting one of these Pokémon EX active is sort of like driving a tank—not very nimble, but definitely powerful.

So, in PokéSpeak, “tanking” has come to mean focusing a deck’s strategy around one or two Pokémon with extremely high HP, and working hard to make sure that those Pokémon can stay in the active position, dealing damage, without getting knocked out by an opponent’s attacks. Tank decks are almost as old as the game itself (I’m told), but the most recent example of a successful tank was probably Ross Cawthon’s “Truth”, which Ross piloted to 2nd place at Worlds 2011. That deck used Donphan Prime HS as the tank, and benched Vileplume UD and Reuniclus BW as a way of keeping him active (by preventing Trainer-Items like Pokémon Catcher) and removing damage from Donphan (via Reuniclus’ Damage Swap). All of Ross’ cards are still format-legal, so I suppose players could still play that deck today. But the current format allows Basic attackers to be set up so quickly that decks like Truth, with their multiple evolution lines, just can’t keep up. Thankfully, the new EX’s are so massive that they don’t need the support Pokémon that Donphan did. Simply park that EX active, add some Energy, and you have the start of a recipé for a successful tank.

Right now, the Pokémon that most players are looking to tank with is Groudon EX DEX. As coolestman22 wrote a couple of days ago in his Battle Roads preview, Groudon EX has 180 HP, and a weakness to Water, so it isn’t vulnerable to being OHKO’d by any of the most common Pokémon in the format. Groudon also resists Lightning, which is an added bonus against Eelektrik-based decks. Groudon’s main attack, Giant Claw, costs [F][F][C] and does 80 damage to the opponent’s active Pokémon, or does 120 damage if the opponent’s Pokémon has 20 or more damage on it already. If you only attack with Giant Claw, Groudon will 2HKO most opposing Pokémon. Groudon’s other attack, Tromp, costs [F][C] and does 20 damage to your opponent’s active Pokémon and 10 damage to each of your opponent’s benched Pokémon. I think this attack was probably designed to set up Giant Claw, by delivering the 20 damage needed to activate Giant Claw’s bonus damage. However, many of your opponents will have Eviolite attached to their defending Pokémon (and probably some of their benched ones too), which will limit how much you can accomplish with Tromp. Overall, Groudon’s attacks are okay, but not extraordinary, especially compared to the triple-digit damage that’s common to the other EX’s in the format. And because there are not many convenient ways to accelerate Fighting Energy onto the board, you’ll only be able to use these attacks after multiple turns of single energy attachments. Groudon does have type advantage against many of the format’s popular attackers, including Lightning- and Dark-type opponents. But against others, Groudon’s mediocre damage output makes it a pretty slow attacker.

You can't see from this angle, but in his left hand, Angelo Moore's holding Toxicroak G.

So, one viable strategy for using Groudon EX is defensively—to keep the active Groudon alive as long as you can, so that eventually its mediocre attacks add up to critical KO’s. To do this, you can use defensive Trainer-Item cards that either prevent damage (Eviolite, Defender) or heal damage after its been delivered (Potion, Max Potion, Life Herb, Moomoo Milk). “But TAndrewT!”, you might exclaim, “I traded away all 15 of my Moomoo Milks for a stick of Juicy Fruit at Poképalooza back in 2010! I mean, I wouldn’t have traded that sweaty mosh-pit of a weekend for anything in the world, but I sure wish I hadn’t traded those Moomoo Milks!” It’s true—in EX tank decks, cards that collected dust in your binder have become useful again.

The List

If you’re successful in keeping damage off of Groudon, then Groudon might very well be the only attacker you’ll need in your deck. And that’s the idea behind “QuadGroudon”, a deck centered around four copies of Groudon EX, and almost nobody else. Here’s a defense-oriented oriented list I’ve been testing recently:

Pokémon — 5
4 Groudon EX DEX
1 Terrakion NVI

Trainers — 44
3 Professor Juniper
2 N
2 Copycat
4 Heavy Ball
4 Eviolite
4 Potion
3 Moomoo Milk
3 Junk Arm
3 Switch
3 Random Receiver
3 Lost Remover
2 Crushing Hammer
1 PlusPower
1 Pokémon Catcher
1 EXP Share
1 Energy Retrieval
1 Ruins of Alph

Energy — 11
11 Fighting Energy

There is actually a lot of flexibility in how players construct and play a tank deck like this, and the numbers and types of different cards used vary. Some explanations of the choices I’ve made:

4 Groudon EX DEX. The focus of the deck. Because you only run these four and maybe one more Basic Pokémon, you’ll be mulliganing a lot at the beginning of the game. If you’re lucky, you might be able to take advantage of this by Copycatting your opponent’s giant hand, or you might N your opponent back down to 6 cards on the first turn. Even though the deck runs 4 copies of Groudon, you won’t really want to have more than two or three on the field at any one time; the more Groudons you bench, the more opportunity you give your opponent to Catcher one up with no energy attached, and to keep you from attacking. Of course, your opponent will try to do this no matter how many Groudon are on the field, which is why the deck includes a high Switch count.

1 Terrakion NVI. Your opponent will need to take 6 prizes to win the game (unless their strategy is to donk or deck you), which is exactly equal to three KO’d Groudons. That’s awfully convenient math for them. One way to inconvenience your opponent is to force them to take a “seventh” prize—to organize your play such that your opponent is forced to knock out a one-prize Pokémon in addition to the six prizes worth of EX’s. At some point in the game I’ll typically put my one Terrakion on the bench, attach my single copy of EXP Share to it, and when my active Groudon is KO’d, bring Terrakion active to Retaliate for 90. Once you’ve done that, your opponent is forced to either spend resources attacking a benched Groudon, or wasting time KOing Terrakion.

10 Shuffle Supporters, 3 Random Receiver. All of these cards trade your current hand for a new one, or in the case of Random Receiver, get you a Supporter that will. The deck doesn’t use any “combination” cards—cards like Pokémon Communication or Rare Candy, that must be played in tandem with another card in your hand. As a result, I don’t play any draw supporters (like Cheren, Bianca, or Sage’s Training), that would otherwise allow me to connect cards in my hand with new cards I draw. I play more copies of Random Receiver than others do, and fewer Supporters, for a couple of reasons. Lots of decks now run Smeargle UD, and limiting the number of Supporters in your hand will frustrate your opponents’ efforts to use Smeargle’s Portrait. And Trainer-Item-lock is less popular than ever, which eliminates the downside of playing Random Receiver.

4 Heavy Ball. This can search out all 5 Pokémon in your deck, because they all have heavy retreat costs, and it can be retrieved from the discard pile with Junk Arm. If you choose to include a tech that has a lower retreat cost, you’ll need to exchange these for the more-flippy Dual Balls.

4 Potion, 3 Moomoo Milk. You’ll use these cards strategically, discriminately, to convert your opponent’s 2HKOs into 3HKOs. Guess how much damage your opponent will be able to deliver next turn, and use these cards to put your Pokémon just beyond that range. I’ve seen builds that include Shaymin UL and Max Potion as a more powerful healing engine, but Shaymin is very donkable if you start with him, so I’ve avoided this.

4 Eviolite, 1 EXP Share. There are a lot of great Pokémon Tools in the format right now, and many of them pair well with Groudon. Because mine is a defense-oriented build, my strategy has been to max out Eviolite. But more offense-oriented builds might instead focus on EXP Share to keep energy on the board, or on Rocky Helmet to put more damage on the opponent. Coolestman22 included Defender in his list for added defense; you could also give this a try.

3 Lost Remover, 2 Crushing Hammer. These cards disrupt your opponent’s setup by robbing it of energy. They are pretty critical against Celebi/Mewtwo/Tornadus (CMT) and Darkrai decks, because both decks depend heavily on Special Energy cards, and because Tornadus’ resistance to Fighting types makes him difficult for Groudon to fight head-on. If you can bleed that Tornadus of energy, you can eliminate him as a threat without even having to KO him.

1 PlusPower, 1 Pokémon Catcher, 1 Ruins of Alph. These are cards that Groudon can use on offense. PlusPower helps Groudon OHKO fighting-weak EX’s, Catcher brings them and others up from the bench, and Ruins of Alph eliminates Tornadus’ resistance to Fighting types (but also eliminates Groudon’s resistance to Lightning, so use carefully). Some defensive builds I’ve seen eliminate these cards entirely, but I find they are useful against ZekEels players who hide behind an active Tornadus, or players who bench Darkrai for his free-retreat (Dark Cloak) Ability. Naturally, once these cards have been used once, they can be retrieved with Junk Arm and used again if necessary.


This decks matchups depend almost entirely on the choices you’ve made for the deck’s Trainer-Items. For example:

ZekEeels: You would think that, because nearly all of ZekEels is weak to Fighting types, and because Groudon resists Lightning, QuadGroudon would walk all over ZekEels. But ZekEel players do play Pokémon that are not Fighting-weak (like Mewtwo EX and Tornadus EX), and if the QuadGroudon player has no way of attacking around these Pokémon, games turn sour pretty quickly. If you are in a ZekEels-heavy meta, you might want to increase the number of offense cards (esp. Catcher), eliminate Crushing Hammer, and cut back on healing.

CMT: A super-tough matchup, especially if your opponent understands that they don’t need to bench Celebi. Here, your best shot is to focus on energy denial; if your meta is CMT-heavy, increase the number of Crushing Hammers and Lost Removers, and get rid of Catcher and maybe Terrakion. (They play enough Catchers themselves to foil your 7-prize strategy.)

Groudon on Groudon. Zzzzzz

Darkrai: Roughly even, mainly because your opponent will avoid benching Darkrai and focus on Eviolited Tornadus. Energy denial works again here, but so does outlasting your opponent with healing—if you can manage to discard/Lost Remover 6-7 special energy cards, your healing should let you ride out the match to the end.

Mirror: The most boring Pokémon match you’ve ever played in your life. Like Muhammed Ali vs. Joe Frazier, but wearing those silly sumo suits. Trickery might actually work better than brawn in this matchup, so if your meta is Groudon heavy—God help you—max out Catcher and maybe play a Seeker or two to force your opponent to pick up a fully loaded Groudon (and thus rid his field of energy).

Kyurem EX Tanking: A Cheaper Alternative

I am co-League Leader of a Pokémon League at Source Comics and Games in St. Paul, MN, and one of my ongoing projects is to try to encourage younger players to participate in Competitive Play. There are a number of reasons why some kids at league don’t play in tournaments. Some just don’t want to. Among those who do, many don’t have enough cards in the current format to build a 60-card deck. Still others—especially those who have purchased theme decks at the Source or elsewhere—have format-legal cards, but don’t have enough to construct decks with a consistent strategy. In the past, I’ve donated cards to players to fill this gap. But even after they get cards from me, too many of our young league members are left with decks that are just not competitive in the current, speedy format. In fact, because their decks are typically based on evolved Pokémon with low-HP Basics, their games against EX-deck opponents rarely last more than a couple of turns. I think they find this pretty discouraging.

In principle, EX Tank decks offer a solution to this problem because most of the cards are inexpensive Commons and Uncommons, which many of the kids either already have, can readily trade for, or can get from me. In fact, the only hard-to-get cards in an EX Tank deck are the Pokémon. Pokémon EX are usually very expensive, but a few have recently been released as tin Promos, and can be purchased on EBay or from online resellers at very reasonable prices. One such EX—Kyurem EX (Promo BW37)—is currently selling for under $3, probably the cheapest of the EX’s. Kyurem EX has 180 HP, and is weak to Metal types—a pretty unusual type in the current format. These stats definitely qualify Kyurem EX to serve as a tank. Kyurem EX’s first attack, Frozen Wings, costs [W][C][C], does 60 damage, and discards a Special Energy card attached to the defending Pokemon. Although 60 damage is not a lot, the energy discard could be very effective against the DCE and Special Darkness Energy cards used in a lot of current decks. Kyurem’s second attack, Hail Blizzard, costs a hefty [W][W][C][C] and does 120 damage, but can’t be used the following turn. Again, not an amazing attack, but still a strong one.

Given these stats, I hoped to design a Kyurem EX tank deck that would not only put up a fight against the meta’s best, but would also use the cheapest cards I could find. Here’s what I came up with:

Card Price (ea)
Pokémon — 7
3 Kyurem EX NDE $2.99
1 Kyogre EX DEX ?
3 Lapras NDE 25 $0.25
Trainers — 39
4 Professor Juniper $0.49
4 N $0.49
4 Bianca $0.25
3 Copycat $0.15
4 Heavy Ball $0.25
4 Switch $0.15
4 EXP Share $0.25
4 Super Scoop Up $0.15
4 Potion $0.15
4 Crushing Hammer $0.39
Energy — 14
10 Water Energy $0.06
3 Double Colorless Energy $0.59
1 Rescue Energy $0.49

Next to each card, I’ve listed the lowest per-card price I found for that card among five online resellers—you may be able to do better. Trying to keep the price low led me to substitute for a number of cards I listed in QuadGroudon, including Pokémon Catcher ($8.99), Junk Arm ($3.99), Eviolite ($1.49), Lost Remover ($1.49), PONT ($0.99), and Random Receiver (DEX, $2.49 pre-order). Any of these cards could improve this deck. Rocky Helmet ($0.25) might also be a good substitution for EXP Share, although I like the deck’s focus on keeping Water Energy on the board. I optimistically included Kyogre EX DEX in this list, in the hopes that I or the kids in league might be able to get one cheaply. Kyogre EX is a truly terrible card, the worst EX so far. But Kyogre gives this deck some flexibility, can hit the bench, and makes a fine tank as long as it’s not facing ZekEels (because Kyogre is weak to Lightning types). I also included Lapras NDE 25 as the deck’s “7th prize”, and as a non-donkable 100 HP starter that could get another Pokémon onto the bench with its Call for Family attack.

All totaled, this Kyurem EX tank deck would cost an estimated $26.98 if all 60 cards were purchased online today (and assuming $2.99 for Kyogre—unrealistic, but I’ll try). That’s certainly more expensive than a theme deck, but together with donated cards, it’s within reach of some of our youngest players. So if you are in the Twin Cities area, and would like to donate some cards to this effort, I hope you’ll look me up! Or, if you pulled a Kyogre EX at the last pre-release, and you’ve been wondering who on earth might be interested in trading for it, I might be that guy. I’m also very interested in ideas you all have for making these decks better—be sure to comment below! Most importantly, I hope this article has given you the sense that EX tanks have great potential in the upcoming Battle Roads tournaments, and will be an important counterweight to the speedy decks that have dominated the discussion so far.

Best of luck to you all at Battle Roads!

Category: Deck Discussion | Tags: , ,