RowEggs in Expanded Deep Dive

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Expanded Decks

RowEggs in Expanded Deep Dive

RowEggs is a truly unique deck. Based around multiple stage two pokémon and playing almost no items this deck is fundamentally different to every other deck in Expanded. Join me for a deep dive as I take a look at what makes this deck tick. It’s a very powerful deck but be warned! It usually wins by locking your opponent out of the game so your friends might not appreciate you picking up this deck.

There are a lot of different cards you can play in this deck and I will try to cover as many as I can. Here is an example of a list from Pumpkaamy who won a Dice Town League Expanded tournament with it in January. This list might be over a year old, but RowEggs hasn’t really changed during 2022 and I consider this a good example of the strategy.

4 Oddish UNB 6
3 Gloom UNB 7
2 Vileplume AOR 3
1 Vileplume BUS 6
1 Vileplume-GX CEC 4
4 Rowlet & Alolan Exeggutor-GX UNM 1
2 Rowlet CEC 18
2 Dartrix SHF 7
2 Decidueye SHF 8

2 Lusamine CIN 96
2 Steven’s Resolve CES 145
2 Cynthia & Caitlin CEC 189
2 Acerola BUS 112
2 Cynthia UPR 119
2 Faba LOT 173
1 Mallow & Lana CEC 198
1 Tate & Liza CES 148
1 Guzma BUS 115
1 Klara CRE 145
1 Brock’s Grit HIF 53
1 Team Flare Grunt GEN 73
1 N FCO 105
1 Sonia CPA 65
1 Guzma & Hala CEC 193
1 Team Skull Grunt SUM 133
2 Net Ball LOT 187
2 Tag Call CEC 206
1 Stealthy Hood UNB 186
3 Path to the Peak CRE 148

4 Capture Energy RCL 171
4 Grass Energy 1
1 Aromatic Grass Energy VIV 162

Star Pokémon

The star of the show is Rowlet and Alolan Exeggutor-GX and its Super Growth attack. Stage 2 pokémon are usually unplayable in the Expanded format because they are usually too slow and too inconsistent to set up. Super Growth is the reason this deck is able to play multiple stage 2 lines, something that would be unthinkable otherwise. The fact that this attack doesn’t even require any energy makes it even more reliable at getting Stage 2 pokémon into play ahead of schedule. The rest of the attacks make it a reasonable attacker, although the risk of giving up three prizes is something to watch out for. When combined with other sources of healing and the 270 HP, Calming Hurricane can cause real problems. This is especially true when the rest of your deck is focused on being very disruptive and preventing your opponent getting their deck’s main game-plan up and running.

What can we evolve into with super growth? Our first option is the Vileplume from Ancient Origins. It’s hard to overstate how good the Irritating Pollen ability is in the Expanded format. An average deck probably plays at least twenty-five item cards and they all become useless as soon as this Vileplume enters play. This includes cards like Battle Compressor that are central to many deck’s game-plan but also the glue cards like Ultra Ball that help most decks function smoothly. It’s much harder to find the resources you need to get set up if items don’t work. As the RowEggs player you can avoid putting many items in your deck and build a deck that is designed to function without items, but almost every other deck in Expanded is heavily reliant on items. Just getting a Vileplume into play can give you a big advantage.

If you thought Irritating Pollen was going to annoy your opponents, wait until your opponents can’t attack. The Vileplume from Burning Shadows is essentially immune to basic pokémon whilst Decidueye from Shining Fates is immune to pokémon Vs and GXs. There are a lot of different decks in Expanded but most of the pokémon that are strong enough to see play will be blanked by one or both of these pokémon. If you can keep the right pokémon in the active position, your opponent will have very limited options when it comes to attacking. These abilities are both very strong and are mainly balanced by being on stage two pokémon. Being able to get them into play extremely fast with Super Growth is a game changer. Even if you spend one turn getting the item lock Vileplume into play your opponent won’t have enough turns to win the game before you get one of these roadblocks into play. They then need to find an appropriate attacker, the energy required and a switching effect. That would likely take a turn or two even if item cards could be played but with item lock in place this task becomes even harder and your opponent may just concede at this point.

Other Options

With item lock in place, your opponent’s supporters become even more important and turning those off makes it so that most cards in their deck are unusable. Supporters are the cards most likely to rescue your opponent once you have control of the game so I can understand wanting to play the Exeggutor from Plasma Freeze. My main concern with this plan is that because Exeggutor needs to be in the active position it competes with Decidueye and Vileplume which are already excellent at shutting down your opponent. Note that many decks cut down the number of supporters they play and use the item VS Seeker to play supporters from the discard pile. This means item lock already helps hinder your opponent’s use of supporters.

One advantage though of playing Exeggutor is that you then play the Exeggute from Plasma Freeze which you can just pick up from your discard pile. This can be discarded by other cards like Computer Search or Guzma & Hala and then picked straight back up to nullify the discard effect. This isn’t as important in RowEggs as in other decks because it doesn’t play many classic discard effects like Quick Ball or Ultra Ball but this is still a nice bonus for a pre-evolution.

Vilepume GX is very easy to include as a third possible Super Growth target for all your Oddishes. This deck typically plays healing effects as another way of slowing your opponent down so adding the Fragrant Flower Garden ability makes it even harder to knock out pokémon. Combining multiple sources of healing makes it so that most of the damage your opponent does is cancelled out on your turn. This works from your bench every turn, effects all of your pokémon, has an attack that can do 180 damage for two energy and only takes up one slot in your deck because you already run Oddish and Gloom. However the other Vileplumes are generally more important to your strategy and once you have them set up you might not have many pre-evolution pokémon left to play a third Vileplume.

In theory you can play any powerful stage two pokémon you want. Rillaboom is an interesting choice because it offers incredible energy search and acceleration. You have several pokémon that require three energy to attack which is much easier to do with Rillaboom in play. However this deck doesn’t need energy acceleration as much as other decks. If you shut down your opponent’s deck, you can be patient and wait a few turns to get the energy you need. Because you have to play Grookey and Thwackey in addition to Rillaboom this package isn’t included in most deck-lists.

Evolution Fodder

These pokémon exist only to evolve into Vileplume. I doubt it ever matters which Oddish or Gloom you pick. Of course you can still optimise marginal decisions like this. I would always choose an Oddish with sixty HP whilst the Gloom from Unbroken Bonds does have a useful ability. The main thing is to have plenty of both to ensure you can Super Growth both Vileplume into play reliably.

The same can be said about Rowlet and Dartrix which are only here to evolve into Decidueye. Since you only need one Decidueye in play, two copies of each is sufficient.

Searching for Key Cards

The RowEggs game-plan revolves so much around activating super growth as early as possible that the search effects in this deck are usually geared to finding the namesake pokémon as well as any Oddishes or Rowlets you need as the starting point for your evolution chain. Because these cards are intended to be used before you have established an item lock, cards like Tag Call and Net Ball are great options. Net Ball is the perhaps the simplest option because it can find any of the pokémon you need to search for, or it can find an energy card if you need that instead.

However the most common option is to run four of copies of Tag Call which lets you find the most essential card Rowlet & Alolan-Exeggutor whilst also finding a Tag Team supporter at the same time.

The most important Tag Team supporter is Guzma & Hala because it can find a combination of key cards that other search effects often can’t find. I’ll talk about the stadiums later, but given how powerful stadiums are in Expanded this is always valuable part of Guzma & Hala. The third card you can search for is a special energy. Getting a special energy with Guzma & Hala is great because we can get Capture Energy which then finds a basic pokémon for you. This means one Tag Call finds both pokémon you need to get a Vileplume or Decidueye into play. Lastly finding a tool is the least useful part of Guzma & Hala because Item Lock renders tools useless but there are still some tools that are useful and it’s easy to run one copy of a tool to get maximum value from your Guzma & Hala.

The targets that Sonia finds line up perfectly for this deck. It searches up any of Oddish, Rowlet and Rowlet & Alolan-Exeggutor GX which together with your starting pokémon usually means you have all of the basic pokémon you need. It also finds two grass energy which you will need to dealing damage. Once you are set up Sonia loses her utility but this card is fantastic early in the game.

You can’t talk about search effects in Expanded without mentioning Computer Search. Like Tag Call this is so good at finding the cards you need that RowEggs players can consider running it despite it being an item that is turned off by Vileplume. It sees play in some lists but is far from essential because being an item is such a big drawback.

Steven’s Resolve is a very strong search effect in the right deck. For the price of missing out on one attack you guarantee that your next turn will be excellent because you have access to anything in your deck. In a controlling deck like RowEggs where you aren’t racing to take prizes, ending your turn isn’t a big problem. Because RowEggs plays one copy of many different cards, being able to search for absolutely anything means you can usually find the answer to any problem.

Misty’s Favor also sees play here, and is a similar effect. It doesn’t end your turn but can only find supporters. It’s a good card in this deck for the same reasons as Steven’s Resolve but I personally value being able to find anything over being able to continue your turn. You can’t play two supporters in a turn so you still have to wait to play to play any of the cards you find.

Teammates sees play in some lists as a good play when your plan isn’t working. If you don’t have control of the game, your opponent is likely to be taking knock-outs and this card will get whatever you need to make a come back. If you are playing Teammates for situations where your item lock Vileplume is knocked out, Rare Candy is a useful item to search up as a quick way to evolve into Vileplume again. This is situational but these types of plays can turn defeats into victories.

Additional Disruption

Even with both Vileplumes and a Decideye in play the game isn’t over for your opponent. Turning off the searching effects offered by many items makes it harder to find the resources needed, but given enough time they can find the cards they need to evolve a pokémon and attack. You can slow your opponent down even further by playing energy removal. There are a lot of different energy removal cards in Expanded and they all have different advantages and disadvantages. Faba is probably the best option because it’s very flexible and puts the energy into the Lost Zone instead of the discard pile where it might get returned.

The biggest problem with Faba is that it only works on special energy. Team Flare Grunt on the other hand can discard any type of energy, but only when attached to the active pokémon. Both of these cards are great options and compliment each other.

Plumeria is very similar to Team Flare Grunt except it can target the bench as well but it has the drawback that you need to discard two cards to do so. Instead of discarding energy in play you can discard energy in your opponent’s hand with Team Skull Grunt. Taking two resources instead of one is obviously great and it can also prevent attacks because it takes away the option of attacking in the same turn as attaching energy. Team Skull Grunt is powerful but doesn’t affect energy that is in play so it works well along-side other forms of energy removal.

Marnie and N are very popular in Expanded, combining card draw with taking resources away from your opponent’s hand. Marnie is more consistent in what it does, but N is more explosive. It will draw you one extra card in the early stages of the game and as prizes get taken you can give your opponent a hand of just one card. N has the higher upside as a powerful tool to play or search up in the right situation so it sees more play than Marnie in RowEggs. Some lists play two copies of this effect with one N and one Marnie for the flexibility.

Tapu Lele-GX, Dedenne-GX and Crobat V are some of the most played pokémon in Expanded because they can be played in almost any deck to find key cards or to just draw lots more cards. If you are trying to deny your opponent resources you need a way to shut off these abilities. Stadiums are a great way of doing this because they can be found with Guzma & Hala and playing stadiums of your own is a way to nullify your opponent’s stadiums. There are lots of strong stadiums in Expanded that can be key to a deck’s game-plan so playing stadiums is desirable anyway.

Path to the Peak is the most popular choice because it covers so many popular pokémon. This hits things like Eternatus VMAX and Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX that can ignore something like Silent Lab. Lists often play three copies of this stadium because it affects pokémon EX, pokémon GX and pokémon V which are typically the most powerful pokémon in Expanded. There are still some strong abilities on basic pokémon with no rule-box so you can consider including one copy of Silent Lab. In general though I think Path to the Peak is far superior. Part of the reason for this is that it hurts Shadow Rider which is probably the strongest deck in Expanded.

Switching Effects

Guzma is one of the most played cards in Expanded. It lets you switch your pokémon whilst also targeting a weak pokémon on the bench. Since RowEggs doesn’t play float stone to switch pokémon, Guzma is a great way to get your attacker into the action. Of course if you already have the right pokémon as your attacker, then you would prefer to have Boss’s Orders instead when trying to target one of your opponent’s pokémon.

With Tag Call in your deck, there is always an incentive to include more tag team supporters. Mallow & Lana combines a switching effect you can search for with an extra source of healing. Another useful switching effect is Tate & Liza which is much more flexible than the other switching effects. Since switching effects are only situationally useful and not great in multiples, having an alternative use for your switching cards is great.

Card Draw and Prize Card Manipulation

Players always want to draw more cards or at least see more cards. Peonia gives you access to some of your prize cards which is great for a deck that plays only plays one copy of many powerful cards. If a situational card would be really powerful in the current match-up, getting it prized is frustrating. Therefore Peonia is frequently included in RowEggs.

Raw card draw on the other hand is less common because every thing this deck needs to get set up is easily searched for. N and Marnie are usually played instead of cards like Cynthia because you get the additional hand disruption. Of course even if you don’t need a card draw effect like Cynthia, it is never a bad card. Unlike cards like Professor’s Research, Cynthia doesn’t discard cards so you the cards you shuffle away are available to search up later. This is important if they aren’t needed immediately but could be useful later. It also removes fewer cards from your library so decking out is less of a threat.

Healing and Defense

Healing pokémon isn’t usually a winning strategy, especially in the Expanded format. If you simply knock-out pokémon in one hit, there isn’t any damage to heal and the healing cards become useless. Even when you have an opportunity to use healing cards, there’s no guarantee that it changes the number of turns needed to take a knock-out. RowEggs is one of the places where healing shines. Sometimes your big and bulky tag-team pokémon is too big to knock out in one go. Sometimes your opponent is forced to use much weaker attackers than normal because of Decidueye or Vileplume. Or perhaps all your energy denial has forced them to use weak attacks that only require one energy. Suddenly healing becomes a way to undo all your opponent’s hard work and put them behind in the race to six prizes.

Two supporters that provide healing are Cheryl and Cook. Cheryl has the highest upside as it can heal all damage from multiple pokémon but it doesn’t work on the bulky Rowlet and Alolan Exeggutor-GX. Cook on the other hand doesn’t look like a card that would see in competitive pokémon formats, but this gives you the biggest amount of HP you can restore without any restrictions or drawbacks.

Of course you don’t need to play supporters to heal your pokémon. One big advantage of these cards is that they can be searched up using Guzma & Hala. Herbal Energy provides a small one-time burst of healing whilst powering up your attacks. The amount of healing it provides is minimal but I do like that it makes Guzma & Hala stronger by letting it search for grass energy as well as Capture Energy. Life Forest is a great stadium for this deck. By healing sixty damage every turn you can turn your active pokémon into a wall that shuts down small attacks until your opponent can remove Life Forest.

One of the most powerful ways to heal your pokémon is to take them out of harm’s way entirely. Cards like AZ and Acerola are stronger than they look. They are secretly a switching effect and by picking up your tag-team pokémon you stop your opponent taking three prizes with one knock-out. AZ has the advantage that it can be used pro-actively against opponents that can deliver one-hit knock-outs whilst Acerola has the advantage of not discarding attached cards. I like having one of these effects in your deck because removing damage, switching and taking a three-prizer out of danger is a valuable combination of effects.

Finally another way to defend your pokémon is to make them immune to the effects of attacks and abilities using tools. Attacks that deal damage by placing damage counters instead of direct damage can still knock-out your Decidueye. Putting a Big Parasol on your Decidueye when it is active makes your entire team immune to these pesky effects. This has the advantage of extending protection to your item lock Vileplume, which you usually need to keep safe. An alternative to Big Parasol is Bent Spoon which has a similar effect. Whilst it only affects one pokémon, it doesn’t have to be attached to the active pokémon.

One way your opponents can counter the powerful abilities your pokémon have is to play a pokémon that shuts down abilities. For example Garbodor from Breakpoint has the Garbotoxin ability which turns off abilities on other pokémon. Since your abilities are so important to the deck, Stealthy Hood is a popular inclusion. Notably you can play this proactively before the Garbodor’s ability becomes active so that your ability is active at all times.

Obviously both of these are items and therefore can’t be used once you have a Irritating Pollen Vileplume in play. However these can be played whilst you set up to shut down common counter-plays. Whether you play any of these tools will depend heavily on the meta-game and the pokémon being played to fight against RowEggs. Playing items that are likely to be dead cards is awkward, but proactively ensuring that item lock is kept up at all times stops your opponent from making a come back when you are in control of a game.

Recovery

RowEggs plays so many singleton supporters which all have match-ups and situations where they shine. Many supporters become far more powerful when played over and over again. Your opponent might be able to find one extra energy to combat a Faba, but having to do it multiple times in a row becomes impossible. The usual way to reuse supporters in Expanded is using VS Seeker, but since that is an item, RowEggs has use other cards.

The best supporters for doing this are Lusamine and Cynthia & Caitlin. Both have their advantages. Getting two supporters with Lusamine is very strong and by putting at least two copies in your deck you can generate loops where you use Lusamine to return the other copy of Lusamine along with another supporter. Cynthia & Caitlin on the other hand provides more immediate card advantage with the second mode and can be searched for with Tag Call. Reusing supporters is so important to a deck that thrives on long drawn out games that you typically see multiple copies of both of these supporters in RowEggs.

Rounding out the supporter suite in most decks is some way to return basic pokémon and energy from your discard pile. If the game is going according to plan these aren’t needed but both of these can be very powerful in the right situation. Klara gives you a way to get Rowlet & Alolan Exeggutor-GX back if it is knocked out whilst Brock’s Grit puts up to six cards back in your library which gives you an answer to decking out. Many decks will play one copy of Klara or one copy of Brock’s Grit as a back-up strategy.

Grass Energy

Whilst Super Growth doesn’t require any energy, all of your other attacks require grass energy. Usually this comes in the form of basic grass energy but since you can search out special energy with Guzma & Hala, you have the option of running more special energies. I talked about Herbal Energy earlier but Aromatic Grass Energy is another option. Special conditions aren’t a huge threat in Expanded but being able to find a grass energy with Guzma & Hala is definitely useful. However being a special energy does come with drawbacks so a mix of basic grass energy and capture energy is a fine choice too.

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