At the 2015 Pokémon TCG US National Championships, the room was buzzing about an unusual new deck featuring Wailord-EX. A group of innovative players from Wisconsin was dominating the largest tournament of the year with a card that the community deemed unfit for competitive play. What did these players do to build a winning strategy around Wailord-EX? Nothing. And it worked.
Normally, players win Pokémon TCG games by Knocking Out an opponent's Pokémon. If you take all of your Prize cards or your opponent runs out of Pokémon, you win. However, the Wailord-EX deck tries to achieve the other win condition—run the opponent out of cards. If your opponent cannot draw a card at the beginning of his or her turn, you win. Since Lysandre's Trump Card was banned, running your opponent out of cards has become a viable strategy.
Enrique Avila made it to the Finals of US Nationals, and he did it without attacking a single time. Looking at his deck, it does not include either Energy cards or ways to deal damage. During three days of tournament play, all of Enrique's turns ended the same way—passing the turn without attacking. As counterintuitive as that may seem, he won nearly every match he played.
Waiting to Win
Instead of trying to win by attacking, this ingenious deck uses Wailord-EX as a wall to prevent the opponent from taking Prize cards. With the help of defensive cards like Hard Charm, Rough Seas, AZ, Cassius, and Max Potion, it becomes a difficult task to Knock Out even one Wailord-EX. Imagine trying to take down several of them in a game! Add Suicune and its Safeguard Ability into the mix, and decks that rely on Pokémon-EX have an even harder time taking Prize cards.
In addition to all of the defensive Trainer cards, this deck featured lots of disruptive cards to slow down the opponent. Enhanced Hammer, Xerosic, and Team Flare Grunt can discard Energy from the opponent's Pokémon to prevent attacks. Lysandre can pull a Benched Pokémon into the Active position, and if that Pokémon has no Energy attached, the opponent is forced to use more resources to either retreat or attack. With VS Seeker to reuse disruptive Supporter cards, players can completely run out of Energy against this deck.
To accelerate the process of running the opponent out of cards, the deck also uses Hugh and Trick Shovel. Hugh punishes players who try to stockpile cards in their hand, and Trick Shovel speeds up the game by discarding a card from the opponent's deck. Hugh can also force a player with an empty hand to draw five cards, and if that player's deck is already getting low, it could be enough to close out a game. Neither of these cards is seen much elsewhere in competitive play, so it's incredible that the Wailord-EX players found a use for them.
Since nobody was expecting this strategy at US Nationals, Wailord-EX caught people by surprise. But now that the secret is out, what's the best way to beat it? Let's take a look at some ways to deal with this strategy.
A large part of the Wailord-EX deck's strategy is to discard its opponent's Energy with Enhanced Hammer, Xerosic, and Team Flare Grunt. A Pokémon with the Ω Barrier Ancient Trait is a great way to shut that down. With your Energy safe from those Trainer cards, you can power up a Pokémon such as Primal Groudon-EX and start attacking. If you have enough Strong Energy and a Stadium card in play, the Gaia Volcano attack can do enough damage to Knock Out Wailord-EX in one attack.
However, Primal Groudon-EX can struggle with Suicune's Safeguard Ability, which prevents damage from Pokémon-EX. Silent Lab can help, but you'll have to discard it every time you attack with Gaia Volcano, so you could run out of them. Perhaps a better option is Regirock. It shares the Ω Barrier Ancient Trait, but it's not a Pokémon-EX, meaning it can deal with both Wailord-EX and Suicune. The Stone Edge attack won't do as much damage as Primal Groudon-EX does with Gaia Volcano, but you can afford to be patient against Wailord-EX.
The strongest solution to taking down Wailord-EX might be the simplest one—to beat a deck that wants to run you out of cards, play a card that shuffles cards back into your deck! Bunnelby can do that with its Rototiller attack, and it can attack twice thanks to its Ω Barrage Ancient Trait. Since the Wailord-EX deck doesn't do any damage, a single Bunnelby is enough to save the day. It might take a while, but your opponent will run out of cards before you do. You can even use Burrow to start discarding cards from your opponent's deck.
The Pokémon TCG is always evolving as Trainers come up with new strategies. The Wailord-EX deck was one of the most creative decks we've seen in a while, but will we see something even crazier at the World Championships? We'll have to wait and find out in Boston! And remember, you can always find the most recent strategy content at Pokemon.com/Strategy!