Plasma decks have been feared from the day of Plasma Freeze’s release, and for good reason. Deoxys and Thundurus EX, combined with Kyurem, make for a pretty terrifying experience beginning with the very first turn, and, due to Colress Machine and Raiden Knuckle, the pain train rarely stops. The deck has been public enemy number 1 for some time now, but lately, it’s had a much louder bark than a bite. The deck’s failed to place anyone in the Top 8 of the Klaczynski Open, and has pretty widely been shunned by most competitive players coming into Fall Regionals. So what’s made these people do a double take on playing Plasma?
Plasma actually has several things going against it. The most obvious issue is the ridiculous amount of Special Energy it plays. Playing cards like Blend, Plasma, Prism and sometimes even Double Colorless Energy really opens up a giant target that opponents can choose to focus on. Cards like Enhanced Hammer or Plasma Blast’s Drifblim really expose the chink in Plasma’s armor, immediately turning the tide against the deck. A single Enhanced Hammer usually won’t do much, but when you combine it with Sableye, you can realistically run your opponent completely out of Energy cards and force him to deck out to end the game! It just so happens that Sableye and Enhanced Hammer are a pretty popular combination, too, seeing as how almost every deck that plays Darkrai also plays this two card combo, which makes the matchup against Plasma very lopsided.
Plasma Blast Drifblim, with its Derail attack is also an awesome counter against Plasma. Drifblim’s 100 HP makes it somewhat difficult to Knock Out in one hit, at least early in the game before Kyurem’s Frost Spear really takes its toll on your side of the board. You can even pair the big balloon with something like Mr. Mime for even more survivability. Also, since Derail is usually free thanks to Drifblim’s Drifting Balloon ability, it becomes a great way to recover and rebuild your board while still maintaining some pressure on your opponent’s field. So, if Drifblim is good at the start of the game and mid-game thanks to the pressure it applies, does it ever actually fall off? Well, late game you can combine it with N to force your opponent to not only draw the game winning Pokémon Catcher (or whatever card/s he needs to win the game) but he’ll also need to draw one of his last remaining Energies to boot! Drifblim is not only a card advantage machine, but a huge tempo boost against Plasma as well. You will pull ahead by not only advancing your bench but stifling your opponent’s progress at the same time. The card was undoubtedly made to counter Plasma, and it does it well.
Dragons Exalted Drifblim pairs well with its Plasma Blast counterpart. I know, I know, who would have imagined, right? The truth is, as strong as Derail is, it doesn’t do the trick on its own, and it needs help sealing the deal, as 70 damage isn’t quite what it used to be anymore. Luckily, Shadow Steal can knock any Pokémon out in one hit once the game’s gone on for long enough. While both balloons are incredibly strong on their own, it takes both of them to take Plasma down. (You can find Pooka’s full thoughts on Drifblim in his Tech of the Week article, too.)
Drifblim is a heavy investment though, and I’m sure I don’t have to mention that most decks just can’t afford to invest so much of their deck’s space for just one matchup, even if that matchup happens to be Plasma. Cards like Silver Mirror, though, are a different story. It wouldn’t be difficult for most decks to fit a few Silver Mirrors in order to sway a poor matchup into a good one. Plasma decks already played Tool Scrapper before Plasma Blast’s release, and they have an even bigger incentive to do so now – but just how many Tool Scrappers can a Plasma deck fit? Can they fit more than an opponent’s number of Silver Mirrors? This turns into a small side-game, where one player tries to “lock in” the potentially game winning Tool and the other player does his best to Tool Scrapper / Pokémon Catcher his way around it. Again, on its own, it wouldn’t be a big deal and Plasma would just get over the nuisance, but hopefully I’m doing a good job of showing the bigger picture here. Just how many hurdles are too many for any one deck to clear?
Plasma struggles against most versions of Darkrai decks, in addition to decks running Drifblim or Silver Mirror. That’s already a large percentage of the field, but what about the other contender, Blastoise? Well, its Blastoise matchup is certainly better there, but is it even favorable? Plasma, like most decks, can’t really handle a constant stream of Black Ballista attacks, so it obviously wants to avoid getting to that part of the game. Squirtle’s Ability really comes in handy when it comes to surviving against early Frost Spears, but a single Blizzard Burn (with the aid of two Deoxys in play) can still knock a Blastoise out in one hit. The Plasma deck needs to be prepared to knock multiple Blastoise out if it wants to win the match, although a turn two Blastoise will almost certainly spell doom for the Plasma player, regardless of Plasma’s resilience. In essence, the matchup is close, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, although it’d be nice to have a favorable matchup in the top tier bracket.
I’ve listed several things that Plasma has going against it, so surely I believe the deck’s just going to fall by the wayside and step down, allowing for other decks to take over its popularity, right? Actually, that couldn’t be more wrong. I expect the deck to be more popular than ever, despite the fact that it failed to land a single player into the Klaczynski Open Top 8. It’s simple, really. The deck’s never been more accessible than it is now, with both Deoxys EX and Thundurus EX being tinned recently.
Don’t get me wrong, either; I haven’t forgotten how much of a punch the deck can actually pack. It might have unfavorable matchups against some of the best decks in the format, but its breakneck speed is almost unrivaled, and it can really punish some of its opponent’s slower starts. Most people really love feeling in charge and would prefer to be the aggressor putting the pressure on their opponent rather than the other way around. The deck is what I consider to be the “bad guy” of the format. It keeps other decks in line, not allowing players to get too fancy because they’ll never keep up with Plasma’s blistering speed.
There are so many ways to build a Plasma list that I guess it isn’t so surprising that there hasn’t really been a consensus “best list” for the deck yet.
When it comes to the Pokémon, for example, people obviously play the big three, Thundurus, Deoxys and Kyurem. After that, though, some people choose to add Keldeo EX for its Rush In ability, and some avoid playing it and just run a heavier Switch/Float Stone line. Players sometimes add an Absol for its damage potential at the cost of only two Energies, as well as its ability to OHKO Drifblim with ease. Lately, the promotional Landorus has been making waves as a much needed counter for Darkrai, but the community seems pretty evenly split on that one – some claiming the card is necessary, and some claiming it’s unplayable.
The differences don’t just stop with the Pokémon though, as players can’t even decide if they prefer a heavy Silver Bangle line, or would rather just stick with the old fashioned Virbank City Gym/Hypnotoxic Laser combo, adding a single Bangle for its potential to OHKO an EX out of nowhere. Cutting the Lasers is extremely dangerous against decks with non-EX attackers, such as Drifblim or even an opposing Kyurem in the mirror match. Of course, Laser doesn’t do anything against Virizion EX, which is where Silver Bangle starts to shine.
We’ve already discussed the Energy issues with the deck, but people haven’t quite solved the problem. Some people choose to replace all non-Plasma, non-Prism Energy cards with Basic Energies and others have even talked about taking it one step further and replacing even the Prism Energies. I’m not quite daring enough to take things that far, though, so my build would have to include Prism Energy or I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.
Personally, I don’t think I’ll be playing Plasma at AZ Regionals. The deck’s style doesn’t really appeal to me, and honestly, I don’t want to have to deal with all of the cards I’ve mentioned above. If I were to play the deck, though, I’m pretty sure I’d play a Pokémon line that looks something like this:
4 Deoxys EX
3 Thundurus EX
1 Mr. Mime
I’m not convinced that Keldeo EX doesn’t fit in the deck anymore, but Plasma is notoriously tight on bench space, and if I choose to play Mr. Mime, then there’s no way I can afford to play Keldeo as well. Mr. Mime is also there as a concession that I need help against Darkrai decks, and since I’m going to play a heavy Silver Bangle line, I’ll need help against the mirror, namely Kyurem.
I already said I’d rather play a heavy Silver Bangle line, but the main reason for this is the lone Landorus in the list. I realize that, in a vacuum, the card is very bad by today’s standards. You really can’t underestimate its ability to OHKO a Darkrai EX, or even Thundurus EX… as long as you can give it a little help. The 30 damage from Laser isn’t quite enough, so I think it needs to take a backseat to Silver Bangle and its potential to deal up to 60 extra damage to Darkrai. Landorus isn’t the most consistent Pokémon in the world, but it’s a gamble I’m willing to take because I feel that strongly about the matchup.
Finally, I’m fairly happy with playing 4 Prism Energy to power both Landorus and Deoxys’ attacks up, devoting the rest of my non-Plasma Energies to Basic Energy cards. I don’t think that’ll make me a favorite against Drifblim matchups, but it’d help enough to keep the games competitive, and in a tournament like Regionals, I’ll take what I can get.
I’m still favoring Darkrai/Garbodor for AZ Regionals. The 50 minute time limit scares me, especially because I’m already a very slow player. If I do convince myself to play Darkrai/Garbodor, I’ll have to do so quickly so I can focus on speeding up my play with the deck in the 2 weeks leading up to Regionals. I haven’t added anything special to the list yet, mostly because the bread and butter build for it is so strong already. Guess I’ll just have to tread carefully around Tool Scrapper!
See you guys next week!