The Bargain Bin #1 – Lance Armstrong

bud1The Fincastle Gym is going to continue its look at some of our online decks for the next week or two.  However, we are going to shift our focus from our “Mega Love” theme to some budget friendly decks.  The recent Sun & Moon set offered up some nice additions into this category.  Several of these deck combos are pretty obvious ideas for decks, so it is likely that you have seen a version (or versions) of these decks already.  By “budget friendly”, we mean to show you some builds that you can put together for little to no cost, as you may already have these cards set aside in a binder, tin or box of cards that you think you will never use.  This obviously means no Shaymin EX ($45-$65 at the moment) or any other card that carries with it a cost in the $20 or more range.  Does that mean these decks are not competitive?  Absolutely not.  Some of the most competitive decks over the last several seasons have been some of the most inexpensive.  Remember “Night March”?  How about Vespiquen (paired with anything from Vileplume to Yanmega to Zebstrika)?  Most of the top versions of these lists have included copies of Shaymin EX, but have functioned just as well without them.  We don’t know if any of the decks that we are presenting will see the same level of success, but we feel that they are worth a look.

shaymin-exThe strength of past decks like “Night March” and Vespiquen is the advantage those decks have in the prize trade with your opponent.  Even though the featured attackers sport low HP numbers, they are able to hit as hard as any EX or Mega while only giving up a single prize card when KO’d.  To beat these decks you often have to KO 4 to 6 pokemon, where players piloting them focus on taking 3 KO’s on EX targets to reach their 6 prize card total.  The only way to keep up with decks like these is to target their Shaymin EX.  When you chose to do this, you are leaving their big hitters alive to keep attacking you, making it a game where you are damned either way you go.  Despite the vulnerability inherent to playing multiple Shaymin EX in a deck, most players can’t resist the instant draw power it provides.

You will see in several of the next few deck articles our preferred alternative to Shaymin.  Just thinking about it always make Gym Leader Joel hungry for sushi.  Actually, thinking at all usually make Joel hungry, especially for sushi.  We are, of course, talking about Octillery (BKT 33).  The use of Octillery for draw power is no new revelation or anything, as it has found its way in and out of bud2competitive lists since its release.  The list that we are about to look at originally contained 2 Shaymin EX, as it has almost become habit to include at least 1, if not 2 Shaymin, in every list we build.  As we developed this list, we knew that a benched Shaymin would quickly become a target, as the main attacker is a huge pain in the rear do deal with.  Knowing this, we began to shuffle a few cards in and out of the original version to make room for a 2-2 line of Octillery.  What we found was that the line provided much more consistency to this deck than Shaymin EX ever did.  Let’s look at the 1st deck, dubbed “Lance Armstrong”, then we’ll get into the what-have-you’s (and be forewarned, as we are attending a Lebowski Fest in the near future, it will be difficult to resist Lebowski quotes and references).


Lance Armstrong:

  • 4 – Raikou (BKT 55)
  • 1 – Pikachu EX (XY PR 84)
  • 2 – Dratini (SUM 94)
  • 2 – Dragonair (SUM 95)
  • 2 – Remoraid (BKT 32)
  • 2 – Octillery (BKT 33)
  • 1 – Clemont
  • 1 – Fisherman
  • 1 – Lysandre
  • 2 – N
  • 3 – Professor Sycamore
  • 3 – Wally
  • 4 – Ultra Ball
  • 4 – Trainers’ Mail
  • 4 – VS Seeker
  • 3 – Fighting Fury Belt
  • 2 – Float Stone
  • 2 – Level Ball
  • 2 – Professor’s Letter
  • 1 – Super Rod
  • 3 – Rough Seas
  • 11 – Lightning Energy


bud5We went with “Lance Armstrong” for multiple reasons, the 1st being the most obvious… the name of Raikou’s attack, “Thunder Lance”.  This reiteration of Keldeo EX’s and Trevenant EX’s attacks “Sacred Sword” and “Wood Blast” has the same damage structure… 50 damage (base) plus 20 more damage for each Lightning energy attached to Raikou.  At the 3 energies required to attack, “Thunder Lance” hits for 110 damage.  The amazing aspect of all 3 pokemon’s attacks is that there is no cap to the damage total.  The only limit is the amount of energy you play in the deck (so technically, the cap in this deck would be 1190 damage, if you played 1 Raikou and a 1-1 line of Dragonair…. and nothing else, but we think you see our point).  The other reasons for the “Lance” nickname are in reference to what seems to be an overpowered, or should we say “performance-enhanced” combination and the fact that most of the pictures we found of the cyclist were of him sporting a bright yellow jersey and matching helmet… which does kinda look like Raikou… if it could ride a bike.

bud6Raikou is a card that most competitive players should be familiar with, so we won’t dwell on it very long.   Our longest running relationship with the staticky kitty cat has been in our Mega Manectric builds that we played heavily last season.  Raikou alone is nasty to deal with.  However, if you put a “Fighting Fury Belt” on it, Raikou truly becomes a beast.  The “belt” drives it HP to 160, which effectively climbs to 180 HP when coupled with its “Shining Body” ability (reduces damage done to Raikou by 20 damage).  Raikou has found a niche again recently with the speedy Raikou/Electrode lists that surfaced towards the end of 2016 (which is also a deck that easily falls into our “budget” category).  How our “Lance Armstrong” list compares is up to you to judge for yourselves.  The obvious advantage thatbud7 we see is that you are not giving up a prize card (a requirement of Electrode’s ability “Buzzap Thunder”).  The power of any Raikou-central deck is that you force your opponent to take 1 prize card at a time against a pokemon w/EX level stats.  While “Buzzap Thunder” is definitely towards the top of our favorite abilities/attacks to announce in the TCG, we think Dragonair offers something better.  Buzzap… that’s just fun to say… go on, try it… Buzzap!

Having not seen or played in any events since the release of Sun & Moon, we don’t know what the general opinion of Dragonair is at the moment.  It’s “Dragon’s Wish” attack, to us, seems ridiculously powerful.  “Dragon’s Wish” allows you, on your next turn only, to attach as many Basic energy cards as you wish from your hand, to any of your pokemon, anyway that you like.  Wow.  Now bud8while this attack seems insane when you describe it, it is not as mindlessly over-powered as past attacks in the TCG like Seismitoad EX’s “Quaking Punch”, for example.  Dragonair is a Stage 1, meaning that you have to evolve it (turn 2), get it into the Active position and use its attack, meaning that you normally cannot start the attachment bonanza until turn 3.  If you do get this far, you need to have the energy in hand on the following turn and have a target to attach them to for this attack to be effective at all.  Dragonair is only 90 HP which makes it fairly easy to KO.  It also sports a 2-energy retreat cost, which makes it harder to get out of the way when it is Active.  And then there is the supporter card, “Pokemon Ranger”.  The bonus energy attachment phase is an effect of Dragonair’s attack, which means that the effect can be cancelled on your opponent’s turn, which of course would make everything you did to build to that point all for naught.  When you look at Dragonair in this light, it seems like it is properly checked by several elements of the TCG.

That is what makes it fun for us to try.  We love the challenge of making something like that work.

With all of that being said, we hope that the strategy of “Lance Armstrong” is straight-forward by now.  Evolve Dragonair, use its attack, dig out as much energy as possible and attach it to Raikou on the following turn.  As we’ve tested this list, we have not hesitated to attach every energy we get in hand to 1 Raikou.  Once powered up, you may be able to sweep your opponent’s field with a singlebud9 Raikou if your opponent cannot weather its attack.  A “Fury Belt” and 8 energy (which we have accomplished several times in testing) allows Raikou to hit for 220 damage which dismantles almost anything in the game at the moment.  We tried to speed up the path to Dragonair by including 3 copies of the supporter card “Wally”.  “Wally” allows you to evolve a pokemon as soon as you play it, which in this deck means you can get Dragonair in play on the 1st turn and, if you go 2nd, pull off the “Dragon’s Wish” attack, setting the stage for you to get a big Raikou on turn 2.   With only 11 Lightning energy in the deck, getting a significant amount by turn 2 or 3 is not always easy.  This is where we return to that Octillery we spoke of earlier.

If you can, you want to get Octillery in play quickly, preferably on your 2nd turn.  Octillery’s ability, “Abyssal Hand” allows you to draw, once each turn, until you have 5 cards in your hand.  In concert with multiple energy attachments (allowed by Dragonair) and the playing of multiple item cards, you can often empty your hand before using the ability to draw the full 5 cards, often hitting even more energy, which you can still attach, as the effect of Dragonair’s attack does not specify that when or how you attach energy… only that it is on the turn following the use of the “Dragon’s Wish” attack.

bud10Our method for getting energy cards in play has been the subject receiving the most “tinkering” since we started messing around with the deck.  We originally had 4 copies of “Max Elixir” in the deck, but we often found those in opening hands with no Raikou in play, often meaning they were discarded during the set-up process. After a few rounds of testing, we shifted to what you see now, 1 “Clemont” and 2 “Professors Letter”.  If we ended up discarding energy during set-up (w/”Ultra Ball”, “Sycamore” or by paying retreat costs), “Fisherman” provides the same effect as “Clemont” (“Fisherman” retrieves 4 Basic energy from the Discard pile, “Clemont” searches 4 from the Deck).  Combining this with “Letter” and whatever energy you already have in your hand allows for anywhere from 4 to 8 energies or more in 1 turn.  As we said earlier, we do not hesitate to attach it all, as after an opponent KO’s your Raikou, you can use and re-use “Fisherman” (with “VS Seeker”) to get 4 back a turn and get up to 3 back into the deck with “Super Rod”.  If you are a more conservative player, it is usually just as effective to use the turn to load 2 Raikou at once.

There are no complex moves to wrap your head around in this one.  If you miss the energy you want in 1 turn, you can always attack again with Dragonair’s “Dragon’s Wish”, provided that it survives more than 1 turn.  The 2 copies of “Float Stone” are reserved for Dragonair and Octillery, to help either retreat for no cost.  In testing, “Float Stone” proved valuable to retreat Dragonair and attack on turn 2 or 3 w/Raikou, preserving that 1st Dragonair for later use.  Our original list had a 4-4 line of Dragonair, but that proved to be excessive very quickly.  We tried different counts and mixes of the Trainer cards, eventually settling on what you see above.  All of the testing of “Lance Armstrong” has been done in the PTCGO.  If there are any discrepancies in how it plays in real life versus its performance in the PTCGO, we have not had a chance to discover them.

costssWe know that this article ran a little long, but our explanation of the uses of Octillery in this deck will hopefully set-up its appearance in other lists in this series (without as much explanation).  If you bought every card in this deck, you would spend right at $100 at the moment.  However, the Pikachu EX accounts for $13 of the total and the “VS Seeker” cards are about $7.50/each ($30 total).  Replace the Pikachu EX and run more copies of the needed supporter cards (in place of the VS Seeker) and you instantly cut the cost in half.  And remember, that’s only if you bought every card on the list.  Whether you are just starting a collection or are a long time player, you likely already have the majority of these cards.  For the price, this is a very fun and competitive deck.

Simple combos like the one in “Lance Armstrong” are great introductions to the card game for players ranging from Juniors to Masters ages.  We hope that you will find this one and those that follow in this series enjoyable and that you share these with your friends, especially those looking to make that 1st deck or a fun deck to supplement their Meta deck that they are likely tired of playing over and over.  Check back in a few days for another cool, budget friendly idea.  See you at the Gym!


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