The 1st of Gym Leader Joel’s counter decks that we’ll look at was not originally built as a counter to anything. When the PTCGO was still being developed and redesigned, the Fincastle Gym Leaders sat on our collection of online code cards while Pokemon worked out the bugs. We don’t remember exactly what the reason was at the time, but it seems like it had something to do with fearing that the online collections might not survive the transition from the original Beta version to the current online game. Once the online game was launched, we had a rather large collection of codes, the majority of which were from the Dark Explorers set. Gym Leaders Logan and Joel split the collection between our 2 accounts, assuming we’d both get the cards to build Darkrai EX decks (one of the best decks at the time). Logan got what he needed to build Darkrai…. Joel did not.
Along with a few random EX’s (2 Kyogre EX and a Tornadus EX), Joel pulled 3 Empoleon. Piecing together enough cards from those 1st codes, Joel built his 1st online deck around the Empoleon. The original version used the “Revenge” Bouffalant from the B&W set and the “Outrage” Kyurem from Noble Victories as alternate attackers, because, well, that was all he had to throw into the deck. Thanks to Bouffalant‘s awesome, yet fluffy, buffalo-afro, Joel dubbed the deck, the “Fluffy Penguin”.
Tracking this deck’s history from its inception to is current form would be difficult to do, as Joel can’t remember all the different changes he’s made to it. As it stands, he has currently played 85 games with the different versions of “Penguin”. As rotations occurred, back-up attackers have varied, including all of the “Outrage” dragons, “Gold Breaker” Bouffalant, “Double Draw” Virizion, Plasma Kyurem, Stunfisk and Terrakion. Joel recognized early on that this deck would be at its best without any EX Pokemon, no matter how tempting many of them were. Forcing an opponent to knock out 6 different pokemon is the strength of any Empoleon deck. 21 games ago in the PTCGO, Leafeon entered the mix and has claimed a permanent place beside the mighty penguin.
Enough history, lets look at the current list:
- 1 – Emolga (LTR RC23)
- 4 – Piplup (LTR 33)
- 3 – Prinplup (LTR 34)
- 4 – Empoleon (DEX 29, legal by reprint PLF 117)
- 3 – Eevee (FFI 80)
- 3 – Leafeon (PLF 11)
- 1 – Exeggcute (PLB 102, PLF 4)
- 1 – ACESPEC Dowsing Machine
- 2 – Battle Compressor
- 2 – Evosoda
- 3 – Rare Candy
- 2 – VS Seeker
- 1 – Energy Retrieval
- 2 – Max Potion
- 3 – Ultra Ball
- 3 – Switch
- 4 – Shauna
- 3 – N
- 1 – Pokemon Fan Club
- 2 – Lysandre
- 1 – Lysandre’s Trump Card
- 3 – Muscle Band
- 2 – Training Center
- 6 – Water
As we said, this deck was not originally built as a counter to anything. Leafeon fell into place into this deck because it can attack with a single water energy. Whether against Plasma, Yveltal, Blastoise or anything else (at the time it was added), Leafeon was always able to contribute valuable damage and KO’s while Empoleon was either getting set up or trying to find its way back out of the discard pile. As the format has shifted to its current state, Leafeon‘s value has increased, as several decks either rely on Seismitoad EX or have 1 “teched” in. The item-lock created by Seismitoad is short-lived if you can open with a Leafeon. Playing 3 copies of Prinplup allows the option of evolving into Empoleon while the lock is in place. Once the lock is broken, this deck can run wild. In matches without the awful toad, Leafeon still provides that extra damage that allows Empoleon to swoop in and clean up.
Wherever Leafeon may fall short, Empoleon can take over. The penguin can easily 1-hit both Pyroar & Donphan. In the Donphan match-up, on turns where you can’t use “Lysandre” to gust up a Donphan, Empoleon can hit through any “wall” pokemon (Sigilyph, Suicune, Wobbuffet, Trevenant, Aegislash EX) except, Latias EX, which does not seem to make many Donphan lists. Pyroar & Donphan both struggle to find a way to 1-hit an undamaged Empoleon. Against EX’s, Empoleon can usually pull off a 2-hit KO, while 1-hitting many of the water-weak ones like Landorus EX or Charizard EX.
As far as other match-ups go, they for the most part seem fairly even. Both Steel decks and Fairy decks can 1-hit Empoleon. It really is game by game, depending on who gets set up and who uses “Max Potion” at the right time. Leafeon is very good against the Fairy decks, as they get a lot of energy in play. The “Night March” match-up is a curious one. It seems to have the advantage over Empoleon. Joel’s 1st game ever against it was in the top 8 at the Greensboro City Championship. Joel won a close game 1, then lost game 2 after getting a very slow start. Game 3 went to time shortly after it began, and Joel lost by the prize count. We’d have to say that “March” is a stronger deck, in general, and Joel’s experience level, coupled with his opponent’s lack of familiarity with Joel’s deck, probably made the match seem more even than it should have been. We’d have to test against it more before we could say for sure.
About the only cards in play at the moment that wreck Empoleon are Manectric EX and its Mega EX. Thundurus EX and Raichu were problems in the past, but those cards see little play at the moment. Most of the online losses taken by “Penguin” came from older versions of the Plasma TDK decks. Against most other attackers, the “Training Center” stadium (which boosts Empoleon‘s HP to 170, Leafeon‘s to 130) and “Max Potion” combo is amazing. Space is tight in the deck and at times, 2 stadiums does not seem like enough. However, “Dowsing Machine” can save 1 of them and the “Trump” card can send them back into the deck. 4 of these stadiums could make the deck crazy if they could be added without sacrificing too much (not sure if that’s possible, as we haven’t tested it that way yet).
Emolga is a strong card in the deck, as it can help you get out of a slow start with “Call for Family”. However, its true strength is in giving the deck a free-retreat Pokemon to send up after a KO. The other life saving addition to this deck is the new supporter, “Lysandre’s Trump Card”. The “Trump”, along with the single copy of Exeggcute, allows you to freely burn through the deck by using the ability “Diving Draw”. You can seemly be on the verge of decking out, then just throw everything back in with the “Trump” card. Of note, however, make sure you use the ability “Propagation” BEFORE playing “Trump”, so that you don’t send your egg back into the deck. This smooth card recycling engine often enables you to use valuable cards like “Dowsing Machine”, “Max Potion” and the stadiums multiple times in one game.
Outside of adding more of the stadiums, there is one card not in this deck that should probably find its way in. We’re sure that it is a card than few even recognize. That card is Chatot (PLB 77). Most players scanning the list surely ask, where is the “Startling Megaphone”? Garbodor does not kill the strength of Empoleon‘s & Leafeon‘s attacks, but the loss of the “Fluffy’s” abilities is a pain. Since Garbodor seems to usually accompany Seismitoad lately, “Megaphone” is a dead card in this deck. However, those who know Empoleon, know how he loves extra friends on the bench. If you are patient and allow the “Toad” player to drop multiple tools down (thinking they are safe behind their item-lock), then Chatot can enter the game and wipe them all out at once. After that, he can be sacrificed for a meaningless KO or can retreat to the bench to help strengthen “Attack Command”.
Since its beginning, Joel had played the deck 85 times online, netting 57 wins. Since switching to this above list, Joel has won 17 of 21 games online. One thing Joel had definitely seen, is that options for Empoleon decks are wide open. We know that most players have not looked at the card outside of the Empoleon/Miltank/Dusknoir lists that were floating around last year, and that’s OK. That’s why we write these articles, to help you look a little further into your binder. Is this a top deck? Probably not. Can it be better? Sure it can. Like many decks at the moment, its success likely depends on the meta-game in each area. If you play in an area where “Fluffy” can exploit some weaknesses, then give it a whirl.
We at the Gym hope you enjoyed looking at this deck Check back in a few days and we’ll look at a more defensive deck, the “Evil Bastille”. Until then, see you at the Gym!