The Sideboard – Plox (2008)

Looking back on 2008 as a format, it’s very easy to see why many players weren’t (and still aren’t) the biggest fans. When Mysterious Treasures released in August, the format was actually pretty healthy and diverse. A wide variety of strategies were viable, with some (such as Infernape/Delcatty or Machamp/Lucario) carrying over from 2007, while a fair amount of new ones (like Typhlosion/Magmortar) were introduced as well. When Secret Wonders released in November, it completely swung the balance of the format.

Gardevoir/Gallade was the biggest archetype that came out of Secret Wonders, and to say that it dominated the tournament scene would be an incredible understatement. Plox won 10 out of the 15 North American Regional Championships this year, and at several of these events, took 4 or more of the top 8 spots. It also won both US Nationals and Worlds, which was a feat that would not be repeated for another 10 years. What made it so difficult to deal with? There are a number of different factors – Gardevoir was an extremely popular card (arguably the strongest Pokemon ever printed, in my opinion), and getting a partner like Gallade that partnered with it so well pushed it over the edge, but in my opinion, Plox’s greatest strength was its diversity. At Regionals, Nationals, and Worlds, there were so many different tech options at its disposal, and you could build it to cover pretty much anything. Let’s take a look at some of the many options that turned Plox from a strong Tier 1 into one of the most dominant archetypes of all time.

Contents

  • Tournament Placings and Notable Decklists
  • Skeleton Decklist
  • What the Tech?
    • Pokemon Techs
    • Trainer Techs
  • What to do with my Energy?
  • My Personal (not optimal) Plox List

Tournament Placements and Notable Decklists

Jason Klaczynski, 1st Place Worlds
PokemonTrainersEnergy
1 Gardevoir Lv.X
3 Gardevoir
2 Gallade
2 Kirlia
4 Ralts (SW)
2 Claydol
2 Baltoy
1 Dusknoir
1 Duskull
1 Chatot
1 Jirachi ex
1 Jolteon Star
4 Roseanne’s Research
4 Celio’s Network
2 Bebe’s Search
2 Steven’s Advice
2 Team Galactic’s Wager
4 Rare Candy
2 Warp Point
2 Windstorm
2 Lake Boundary
4 Call Energy
4 Double Rainbow Energy
3 Scramble Energy
3 Psychic Energy
1 Cyclone Energy

Probably the most popular and well-known version of the deck; Jason Klaczynski used this group of 60 to win the 2008 World Championships. Jason’s streamlined and consistent choices made it clear that he wanted Plox to set up and Psychic Lock people as often as possible – and in a Worlds format that would be very centered around the mirror match, making sure you could Psychic Lock while using minimal resources would be absolutely crucial. Interestingly enough, Jason opts to NOT include a copy of Night Maintenance in this deck – make sure to plan your energy attachments accordingly if you are using this decklist, as you can quickly run out of Psychic energy if you are not paying attention.

Gino Lombardi, Top 4 Worlds, 1st Place US Nationals
PokemonTrainersEnergy
1 Gardevoir Lv.X
3 Gardevoir
2 Galalde
2 Kirlia
3 Ralts (SW)
1 Ralts (DF)
2 Claydol
2 Baltoy
1 Muk
1 Grimer
1 Cresselia Lv.X
1 Cresselia
1 Phione
1 Pachirisu
1 Jirachi ex
3 Steven’s Advice
3 Roseanne’s Research
2 Celio’s Network
2 Bebe’s Search
2 Team Galactic’s Wager
4 Rare Candy
2 Phoebe’s Stadium
1 Lake Boundary
1 Night Maintenance
1 Warp Point
1 Strength Charm
5 Psychic Energy
4 Double Rainbow Energy
3 Scramble Energy
3 Call Energy

While Jason’s list opts for a more streamlined approach, favoring consistency in the face of a lock-centric format, Gino appeared to favor having more options at his disposal. The list above is Gino’s list from the World Championships, where he placed Top 4, losing to Jason in the Semifinals. It’s worth noting that it’s also only 2 cards off from his list that won the US National Chamiponships – instead of a 1-1 Muk line, Gino ran a 1-1 Breloom SW at this tournament. While Gino’s list is filled with Pokemon, and does seem like it might be more clunky in the midgame, there are some smart choices when it comes to setting up. Most notably, Phione (which evolves your benched pokemon) and Pachirisu (which can search out your basic pokemon). Both further your set up through attacks, which means if your opponent lands a quick Psychic Lock or Cessation Crystal, you can still set up your attackers with relative ease. 1 extra copy of Steven’s Advice is also nice for mid-late game, as you have an extra card to recover from Team Galactic’s Wager, or to draw you cards in the event that you can’t use Cosmic Power.

Tyson Stephan, Top 16 US Nationals
PokemonTrainersEnergy
1 Gardevoir Lv.X
3 Gardevoir
2 Galalde
2 Kirlia
2 Ralts (SW)
2 Ralts (DF)
2 Furret
3 Sentret
1 Dusknoir
1 Duskull
1 Absol ex
1 Chatot
4 Roseanne’s Research
2 Bebe’s Search
2 Celio’s Network
2 Team Galactic’s Wager
2 Steven’s Advice
1 Strength Charm
1 Night Maintenance
4 Rare Candy
2 Windstorm
2 Lake Boundary
1 Warp Point
1 Switch
4 Psychic Energy
4 Call Energy
4 Double Rainbow Energy
3 Scramble Energy

While Plox/Furret had mostly fallen by the wayside at the time of Nationals and Worlds, this was the preferred version for a lot of players during Regional Championships, and when Plox first released (prior to the release of Claydol GE). Tyson, a player from my local area in Green Bay, Wisconsin, stuck with Furret for a number of reasons. When I talked to him about his choice for nationals, he noted that the ability to use Keen Eye even while under Psychic Lock or Cessation Crystal was pretty crucial in a lot of matches, and it basically always ensured he got a strong start to the match. He also noted that searching for any 2 cards was a pretty big deal – since it basically always guaranteed that he would have the exact 2 cards he needed in any given scenario. It pressured opponents in the mirror match to spend their Team Galactic’s Wagers early, which made it much more likely that Tyson could plot out his endgame without being disrupted. While we don’t know if the above 60 was his exact list for Nationals, it was our best attempt at recreating it many years later.

Skeleton Decklist

PokemonTrainersEnergy
1 Gardevoir Lv.X
3 Gardevoir
2 Gallade
2 Kirlia
4 Ralts
4 Roseanne’s Research
2 Bebe’s Search
2 Celio’s Network
2 Steven’s Advice
2 Windstorm
2 Warp Point
4 Rare Candy
4 Double Rainbow Energy
3 Scramble Energy
3 Call Energy
3 Psychic Energy
Total: 43 Cards

What the Tech?

So normally, this section is just one section dedicated to looking at a lot of different tech options for a deck – I try not to present them as “optimal” since metagames are constantly changing, and I don’t want that to change for this deck. However, Plox placed highly at so many different events with so many different tech options, that it doesn’t feel right to me to group them all together, so this section will be split into 3-different kinds of techs:

  • Common Pokemon Techs: These will be tech pokemon that are very commonly seen among many top-placing lists, or techs that I would recommend somebody to play if the 2008 World Championships were happening tomorrow.
  • Niche Pokemon Techs: These are tech options that performed very well at one or more tournaments at the time in 2008, but might not be as common as the ones placed in the above category. This might be because they are overall “worse,” or because they countered a very specific set of decks, and were likely very strong choices in a very specific metagame.
  • Trainer Techs: Plox did also have a wide variety of trainer cards at its disposal – your tech options were certainly not limited to just pokemon!

Common Pokemon Techs

Dusknoir seems like a pretty good place to start. Dusknoir was very common as a tech every year it was legal, as pre-nerf rare candy allowed you to potentially drop Dusknoir out of nowhere, and shuffle one of your opponent’s attackers, or important support cards (ie Claydol) back into their deck. Plox loved having another controlling option as a tech card, and the potential to shuffle one of your opponent’s attackers back in while locking their use of poke-powers could make it very difficult for them to work their way back into the game. Dusknoir also wasn’t a bad attacker to close games out with – in a predominantly single-prize format, Hard Feelings would be hitting for 90 or 100 damage pretty consistently, and the fact that you are placing Damage Counters means it doesn’t get hit by Double Rainbow Energy’s damage reduction clause.

Both Absol ex and Jolteon Star saw play in Plox – both of their poke-powers are aimed at getting some extra damage down on your opponent’s side of the field. Jolteon Star’s poke-power is the more consistent one, as it gives you an extra damage counter with 0 prerequisites, and the extra 10 damage allows you to hit the ever-important 130 HP pokemon like Empoleon a lot more easily. Absol ex, however, did have more upside. While it didn’t summon an extra 10 damage out of nowhere, the potential to bump 30 damage around your opponent’s side of the field could allow you to hurdle over the higher damage required to deal with some pokemon, like Torterra, or a Leaf-Guarding Leafeon. While most versions played either one or the other, some versions, like John Kettler’s Last Chance Qualifier deck, did run both of the above pokemon.

Muk is arguably one of the strongest tech pokemon, not just in Plox, but in the entire 2008 format. Looking back, I think Muk probably could’ve been included in a lot more decks than it was. Toxic Sludge poisons your opponent’s pokemon with a Grass Energy attached to them at the end of each player’s turn. With all the special energy floating around in this format, it was VERY likely that you would be netting yourself extra damage against most decks in the format. Even more disgusting, this poke-body activates at the end of EACH player’s turn, which means Warp Point and Teleportation aren’t going to protect your opponent from the extra 10 damage between turns. The extra 10 makes it very easy to turn 3HKO’s into 2HKO’s, but it proved especially nice against tankier decks like Torterra, which could very easily end up eating an extra 30 damage.

Breloom was very popular in my local area, and was a very strong option in the mirror match. Homing Uppercut will score a KO on almost anything that has no retreat cost, and other techs in this format like Moonlight Stadium could be turned against your opponent, giving them a free retreat cost when they didn’t expect it! Breloom also doesn’t get KO’d by Gardevoir in response, so if your opponent isn’t ready to go with a Gallade, you could potentially retreat and stash Breloom on your bench for later. In addition to Gardevoir though, there were several pokemon that you could potentially take out by giving them free retreat with Moonlight Stadium, such as Cresselia Lv.X, Dusknoir, or the above-mentioned Muk.

In a format where most strategies were centralized around shutting down Poke-Powers, having consistency cards that allowed you to set up through attacking played a pretty big role in a lot of games! Chatot was the most popular of these cards. It’s a basic pokemon, so it took the least amount of effort to set up, it had free retreat, so it could easily pivot into your attacker when you were ready, and it refreshed your hand for ZERO energy, so it could be used early to set up, or late to get around Team Galactic’s Wager.

Furret could also attack for 0 energy, and was a very strong choice for setting up. In addition to using Keen Eye to grab crucial pieces for attacking, you could also search for 1-of tech cards that would be very strong in specific situations. Pachirisu was a substitute for a 4th Call Energy in a lot of lists, as Call for Family basically accomplished the same thing. Pachirisu also provides the upside of being able to potentially discard a Cessation Crystal – Pachirisu was easy to search for with Roseanne’s Research (or Call Energy) while Windstorm was not.

Jirachi is a pretty interesting choice in plox – on the surface, it seems like it would be worse than Gardevoir. It does less damage, has less HP, and gives up 2 Prize Cards instead of one. However, being a basic pokemon made it easy to set up with Roseanne’s Research, since the poke-body meant you could attack for just 1 Psychic Energy a lot of the time. Even more importantly, the 2-prize “liability” was an upside in a lot of games thanks to Scramble Energy! You could give up the prize lead early and still have responses to your opponent’s attackers pretty consistently. It was easier for you to power up your attackers with 1 attachment, and your opponents might struggle to keep up with your consistent pressure.

Tauros was less common than Pachirisu, but I still wanted to mention it in this section. Call for Family grabs 1 less pokemon than Pachirisu, but the Crush Chance poke-power was useful against a LOT of different decks. Similar to Pachirisu, this gave you a more easily searchable option to discard a Stadium from play, many of which (Crystal Beach and Lake Boundary, to name a few) could be potentially harmful to Plox in a lot of scenarios. Windstorm was an exceptional card, but the only way to get it was to draw it, and having a copy of Tauros makes it a little bit easier to remove those pesky stadiums from play.

I don’t think Ralts really counts as a “tech” card, since it’s required in order to evolve into the main attackers, but it’s worth noting that some lists played both versions of Ralts, while some lists only opted for the Secret Wonders version. The benefits of the Secret Wonders Ralts are that it has 10 extra HP, and its Weakness is only +10 damage instead of double. The Dragon Frontiers Ralts is going to be easier to KO as a result, but Hypnosis could get you out of a lot of sticky situations. In a format where we don’t have Professor’s Research or Inteleon to find the perfect card each turn, getting a switching card like Warp Point was by no means guaranteed, and it was pretty easy to steal an extra turn with this attack. (Psychic Boom could also theoretically be relevant sometimes, but 99.9% of your games this attack will not matter).

Niche Pokemon Techs

The Pokemon in this section did have solid finishes in one or more high-level tournaments. However, their use is much more niche than the ones above, and either counter a very specific metagame, or are outclassed completely by other options listed above.

On the surface, Cresselia Lv.X does seem like an exceptionally strong pick in Plox. Full Moon Dance can heal your pokemon, and a fair amount of pokemon are weak to Psychic, and you can potentially steal 2 prizes to close the game out when your opponent least expects it. However, Cresselia does get hindered by the fact that it’s a not an evolved pokemon, so it can’t make use of Double Rainbow or Scramble Energy, making it much more difficult to power up and actually attack with. Gino Lombardi did use it in both his 1st place Nationals and Top 4 Worlds decks.

Interestingly enough, some versions of Plox at the Regional-level utilized various Water-type pokemon as alternate attackers. One of the pokemon that stood up to Plox the best before Majestic Dawn’s release was Magmortar – its poke-body allowed it to heal damage and made it harder for Plox to get KOs, and it pretty easily 2HKO’d with Flame Blast. Feraligatr and Swampert both handled this with relative ease. A Lake Boundary meant both pokemon would take a KO, and they both did have situational strongpoints in other matchups too. Feraligatr’s Breaking Tail could rip crucial cards out of your opponent’s hand, which could be especially painful after a Team Galactic’s Wager. John Kettler used Feraligatr in his plox list to win the Texas State Championships, while Eric Craig won the Florida Regional Championships with a similar list. Swampert’s poke-power allowed you to bounce Double Rainbow and Scramble Energy around your side of the field, and it didn’t necessarily need Lake Boundary to score a KO on fire-types. AJ Schumacer won the Indiana Regional Championships with this Swampert.

Phione was another one that was included in Gino’s lists – Evolution Wish allowed you to evolve your pokemon early, even while locked out of poke-powers. If you started a Call Energy, this led to a pretty easy setup for Claydol, but it could also be used to search out Kirlia and Gardevoir. Roseanne’s Research also made it pretty easy to get this card into play with an Energy attached.

Mismagius, in my opinion, is probably one of the more underexplored options that Plox has. Psywave takes a pretty easy OHKO on most Gardevoir, and the fact that Mismagius is weak to Dark instead of Psychic means it’s usually pretty difficult for Plox to get a response KO (unless they attack with Gallade, in which case, you get to use Poke-Powers!) Avenge also seems pretty solid in a lot of different matchups – if you are consistently locking poke-powers, players won’t be able to put cards on the bottom of their deck with Claydol, which means hand sizes could very easily pile up throughout the game. Steven’s Advice also made it so hand sizes had the potential to be pretty high as the game progressed. Mismagius also has resistance to Blissey, which is noteworthy.

While reading Kyle “Pooka” Suchevich’s tournament report from Nationals this year, I discovered he played against a pretty wacky variant of plox that included these two cards in top 64 of the tournament! Alakazam is one of the few “instant-speed” cards Pokemon has had over the years – you can use Power Cancel on your opponent’s turn to prevent them from using a poke-power. Because this power is being used during your OPPONENT’S turn and not your own, Psychic Lock has no effect on your ability to shut down your opponent. Power Cancel also allows you to attack a little bit more liberally with your non-Gardevoir attackers – imagine a matchup where you can take a crucial KO with Gallade while STILL shutting your opponent out of their Poke-Power! Because Alakazam was yet another stage 2 to setup, Suchevich’s opponent chose to run Crawdaunt ex instead of Dusknoir – the Poke-Power is similar, and on a Stage 1 instead of a Stage 2, but bouncing back to hand is definitely weaker if you don’t have a Team Galactic’s Wager to go with the poke-power.

I ran fire Gardy ex myself at a local Spring Battle Roads 2008 – while it ABSOLUTELY is not optimal, it ended up being hilariously strong in my specific tournament metagame, which had a lot of fire-weak pokemon (Torterra, Scizor, and Leafeon, to name a few) that were aimed at countering Gardevoir. If you run this pokemon, you do have to compensate with your energy – Gardevoir ex cannot use Double Rainbow or Scramble, so you have to use something like Holon’s Castform or basic Fire energy in order to attack, but the payoff was pretty big in my very specific metagame. Like mentioned before, though, this is absolutely NOT an optimal card, and if 2008 Worlds was happening tomorrow, there is no way I would include this in my deck.

Weavile’s an interesting choice – this wasn’t super popular in 2008, but it did power up your Gardevoir without using Double Rainbow or Scramble, which made it easier to get around the harmful effects of Crystal Beach. Weavile’s ability also allowed you to change your Gardevoir’s type to Dark, which meant you could benefit from the damage boost of the Special Dark Energy, allowing you to more easily 2HKO pokemon like Empoleon or Torterra. Weavile wasn’t super popular in 2008, but it did see more play in 2009, after Double Rainbow and Scramble Energy had rotated. Weavile/Gardevoir did win the Florida Regional Championships in 2009, in the hands of Omar Izaguirre.

Jake S made Top 32 at US Nationals with an Ampharos tech in their Plox deck. While it technically isn’t specified which Ampharos they ran, it is far more likely that Ampharos SW was played, and not Ampharos Dragon Frontiers. The Secret Wonders Ampharos punished the opponent for playing a supporter card, and given Plox’s theme of finding ways to get an extra 10-20 damage in play, Jamming seems like a pretty important Poke-Body to have. Being a Lightning-type attacker, Ampharos also would give you an alternate body to hit Empoleon MD with, and Lake Boundary would potentially give you easy KOs.

Trainer Techs

While the consistency engine of Plox was pretty straightforward (Steven’s, Bebe’s, Roseanne’s, and Celio’s), the other Trainer slots could be varied pretty heavily depending on what you wanted to do with your deck. Below are some trainer options that all performed well at various events in 2008.

Just wanted to start off with the interesting case of Night Maintenance – Jason Klaczynski did not include this card in his World Championships-winning list. In theory, this does make sense, as an “ideal” game will usually involve you using 1 Jirachi ex, 3 Gardevoir, and 1 Gallade, for a total of 6 prizes. A lot of games are also going to be won by shutting down your opponent with Wager + Psychic Lock, and won’t even require you to use all 6 of your prizes. However, in the event that the game does get long and drawn out, or in the event that attackers are prized, late-game can get pretty awkward, especially the ones where you lose the ability to use Scramble Energy. The VAST majority of lists I have seen (modern or historic) use 1 copy of Night Maintenance, but it often gets overlooked because it wasn’t in the 1st place worlds list. While it certainly isn’t necessary, I do want to make people aware of the risks they take by not running one.

Stadiums! Which stadiums you use can vary depending on what other techs you are running. Lake Boundary is the most commonly seen, especially among the more streamlined plox decks that don’t run a lot of tech attackers. It allows you to hit an opposing Gardevoir for x2 weakness instead of +30, which allows you to score a KO. However, not having access to a counter-stadium can be awkward, both in the mirror, and against other decks like Eeveelutions. Moonlight Stadium and Phoebe’s Stadium are more commonly seen alongside Breloom, for easy KOs, and alongisde Cresselia Lv.X, to make it easier to level up. They can both be considered in any plox, deck, however, as an extra means to get rid of an opponent’s Lake Boundary.

Cessation Crystal was used in a lot of other decks to try and shut down poke-powers that many decks (including Plox!) relied on to get set up. Plox could also use this unique Pokemon Tool, however. Similar to how the Alakazam mentioned above functions, you can equip Cessation Crystal to one of your alternate attackers, like Gallade, and attack without losing the lock on your opponent’s poke-powers. This concept would also develop into a spinoff deck “Gallade Lock” which used Gallade’s superior damage output alongside Cessation Crystal’s disruptive capabilities. Some versions of that archetype did also include a Gardevoir or two, since Telepass could be such a strong ability.

Both of these trainer cards could also be used as an additional source of the extra 10 damage that Gardevoir wants so badly. While these cards aren’t easily searchable, like Jolteon Star and Absol ex are, they also are not poke-powers, so they don’t get shut off by Psychic Lock or Cessation Crystal. Strength Charm is the “better” copy to include as the 1st source, since it doesn’t discard until the pokemon it’s attached to attacks, but the 2nd copy can be either one of these – the benefit of playing 1 Strength Charm and 1 PlusPower is that you can play both at the same time, in case an extra 20 damage matters (although this rarely comes up.) Strength Charm can also potentially be searched through Telepass if the opponent has played a Castaway supporter card at any point during the match.

What do I do with my Energy?

Plox has a lot of different options when it comes to the counts of energy, and these will vary depending on what tech attackers you are including. More streamlined versions with less tech attackers (similar to Jason’s) will probably want higher counts of Special Energy, since they don’t need to worry as much about being able to power up their other kinds of attackers. Cyclone Energy was also a nifty inclusion in there, as a “3rd Warp Point” in a sense, which can help close out games if you aren’t worried about missing your attachments and attacks. Versions like Gino’s that run tech attackers like Cresselia will probably want a heavier count of basic energy – Cresselia does after all need 3 individual attachments, as it can’t use Double Rainbow or Scramble. Fighting Energy is less common, but Breloom variants might want to consider including a copy – that way you can search for the energy needed to use Homing Uppercut, and it also gives you an extra out to use Sonic Blade.

My Own Personal Plox List

Normally, when I write these articles, I try my hardest to avoid recommending an “optimal” version of the deck. I want people to build the deck that works best for their own personal collections, and with Plox, it’s no different. Since Plox is my favorite archetype, though, I did want to end with my own, personal version of plox. I don’t think it’s necessarily the optimal version, but it’s the version that’s most fun to me. It has techs that represent what was popular in my local area in 2008, which was my first full season of pokemon. Breloom and Absol ex were popular among my friends, and among the Masters-division players I learned from, while Jirachi ex was not. It also includes some that I didn’t know about at the time, but found in my research, like Muk, and the DF Ralts. This version, like most, has a lot of options available to it. You can make explosive plays with Absol and Breloom, or you can play patiently and methodically, with Gardevoir and Muk. For my own personal collection, it is the perfect blend of fun, competitive, and nostalgic. 2008 has always been one of my favorite retro formats, because even though the matches could sometimes snowball, it’s very apparent to me the amount of thought that went into each individual card, especially in a deck with as many options as Plox.

Thank you so much for reading about my favorite archetype – hopefully I’ll see you at the next article!

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