Pokemon Expanded 101

By Leonora Tomlinson-Bennett


With Expanded becoming ever more popular in Europe, and a booming format in the US, more and more players are starting to turn their attentions to this exciting format in the hopes of chasing a coveted Worlds invite. However, Expanded can seem daunting with over 30 sets currently legal and a host of new decks, strategies and cards that a player must quickly become familiar with in order to play. No fear, here’s the 101 on the Expanded Format so you’ll be playing like a pro and declaring Night March, Quacking Punch and more all day long!

Essential Cards to look out for

No matter how daunting this list may look, always remember there is normally a close Standard equivalent. The Expanded format is all about speed and big big knockouts, so lots of decks run big basics with the goal of drawing as many cards in the early turns to swing for crazy damage. Decks like Night March often draw through as much as ¾ of the deck TURN 1 in order to set up, a feat helped by some of the following:

Tricky Trainers

  • Professor Juniper (Supporter): Think Professor Sycamore – same card, different name. You cant have both in a deck, choose one or the other!
  • Lysandre (Supporter): Think Guzma, except you don’t have to switch your active.
  • AZ (Supporter): Think Acerola, except you don’t have to have damage counters on the Pokemon, and you also discard all cards attached.
  • Xerosic (Supporter): This is a more versatile card, with the option of removing a Special Energy, or a pesky tool. You might be thinking, hello field blower?, but this card is a Supporter so can easily be recovered with a VS Seeker (see below) making it possible to remove a special energy 4 times with only one copy! It also bypasses some of the popular control decks in Expanded, notable item-lock decks such as Trevanant and Seismitoad.
  • Teammates (Supporter): This card is amazing, and is seeing an increased use in decks such as Night March. It reads ‘You can play this card only if 1 of your Pokémon was Knocked Out during your opponent’s last turn. Search your deck for up to 2 cards and put them into your hand. Shuffle your deck afterward’. As a Supporter card, it can be recycled easily with VS Seeker and adds huge consistency to decks with low HP Pokemon, a must!
  • Blacksmith (Supporter): If you’re running fire, this is an absolute must. No questions asked.
  • Ghetsis (Supporter): ‘Your opponent reveals his or her hand and shuffles all Item cards found there into his or her deck. Then, draw a number of cards equal to the number of Item cards your opponent shuffled into his or her deck. ‘Considered almost broken, this card seems to have a fair bit of love-hate and can end games before they’ve even started. Not only can you disrupt your opponents hand to almost unplayable, you also get the added benefit of drawing for as many cards as you removed. You can safely assume that most control decks will run at least one copy, and many players will splash a copy in just to potentially flip the game in their favour. With the addition of cards like Tapu Lele GX in the format, a Ghetis before you’ve even taken your first turn can be a very scary threat.
  • Hex Maniac (Supporter). Think Garbotoxin, as a Supporter, and for one turn. This card can be useful against decks such as Trevenant, but is seeing less play currently.
  • VS Seeker (Item): Probably one, if not the most powerful card in the Expanded format. Give you access to any supporter in your discard pile at any time. Game changing.
  • Battle Compressor (Item): Combined with cards like VS Seeker, Night March Pokemon and Exeggcute, this card is up there with VS Seeker as one of the most powerful in the game. Whether you are discarding a Supporter to use with VS Seeker, thinning a deck, increasing damage output by discarding Pokemon or simply discarding cards you don’t want to draw, this card is brilliant both in the early game and in the late game. Decks like Night March will almost always run 4, making it a must have if you are looking to break into the Expanded format.
  • Muscle Band (Item): Think Choice Band, but +20 damage and doesn’t discriminate between regular Pokemon and EX and GX.
  • Dark Patch (Item): Think Aqua Patch, but for Dark Energy.
  • Trainer’s Mail (Item): Look at your top 4 cards, pick a trainer. Simple, consistent and a way to accelerate through your deck. Be wary of Trashalanche though.
  • Hypnotoxic Laser (Item): A card which instantly poisons your opponent, with a coin flip for sleep. Paired with disruption decks, this card is crazy good.
  • Skyfield (Stadium): Almost the opposite of Parallel City, this stadium increases both players bench size, perfect for Zoroark and Rayquaza decks, although vulnerable to Field Blower.
  • Dimension Valley (Stadium): This stadium reduces the attack cost of Psychic Pokemon by a single colourless energy, meaning cards like Oricorio can attack for free…..Busted yet brilliant.
  • Virbank City Gym (Stadium): In combination with Hypnotoxic laser, this card is just downright mean. You can safely assume most Seismitoad decks run multiple copies, and combined with Pokemon such Serviper, can create difficult situations for you if you’re not careful!

Pesky Pokemon

  • Shaymin EX: Perhaps the defining Pokemon of the Expanded Format, Shaymin allows massive draw potential using the ‘Set Up’ Ability without using a Supporter for turn. Potentially  drawing 6 cards every time you bench it, combined with Ultra Balls etc, Shaymin allows the acceleration through the deck that the Expanded format relies on. Most decks will run at least 2, with some Night March decks running 4!
  • Trevenant: In a few words Trevanant can lock your opponent from the game before they even get a turn, abuse the new counter energy to take multiple prizes, and win the game all in one turn with the right set up. With a weakness to Dark, this formidable tree is scared of Zoroark GX and Darkrai EX if it cant lock them successfully out of setting up.
  • Darkrai EX: Giving free retreat to anything with dark energy on it is just awesome. Combined with the Standard-legal Darkrai EX (BreakPoint), Max Elixir and Dark Patch, this card just makes dark decks a formidable force.
  • Seismitoad EX: For just a Double Colourless, Seismitoad can shut off item use for your opponent, combined with disruption cards like Enhanced Hammer, Team Flare Grunt, Hynotoxic Laser etc, this big basic can lock your opponent out of the game completely, whiel depleting them of valuable resources! If you’re playing Night March, be very afraid!
  • Night Marchers (Joltik, Pumpkaboo and Lampent): An archetype in itself, the Night Marchers are very low HP with tremendous damage potential. Night March remains one of the most aggressive (and in my opinion, best) decks in the Expanded format. Its strategy is simple: Get Pokemon in the discard with the Night March attack, and hit for huge OHKO’s on big GXs and EXs. The downside of such an aggressive deck is clear, Joltik and Pumpkaboo have 30 and 60HP respectively. This means players must not over extend and keep the attackers flowing!

Now that you’re familiar with some of the key cards in the Expanded Format, hop on in and get playing, you never know quite what you will face in the fast paced, aggressive Expanded Format!

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