What’s up? It’s Nick and we’re going to skip the introduction and get to the part where I tell really bad bee jokes, you ready?
Bee aware, because Vespiquen is a very powerful deck.
When you flip over a Combee and an Unown, your opponent will bee shivering in fear.
We’re going to bee talking about a brief history of Vespiquen as a deck.
I can hear the cringing from my house, which means that’s enough stupid bee jokes for now. As you may recall from my first article, (If you haven’t read my first article, it’s right here. You should totally check it out) I entered the metagame about the time BREAKthrough was released. This was on the heels of the Lysandre’s Trump Card ban and players were figuring out how powerful Night March and Vespiquen were without the important discard pile disruption that LTC provided. However, the story actually begins in 2013.
When Plasma Freeze first dropped, players experimented with Flareon. Battle Compressor hadn’t been printed yet, so the only reliable method of discarding Pokemon was Juniper, Ultra Ball, and this guy:
The deck remained mostly a rogue concept until Worlds 2013, when Dylan Bryan piloted a variant to Top 16. Instead of trying to throw as many Pokemon in the discard as possible, he played a variety of tech attackers that would pressure his opponent into knocking them out. Flareon would play clean up once the tech attackers were discarded. This innovation stuck around for the next year, and even though it put up an impressive finish at Worlds, the deck was still largely considered rogue.
The deck needed (*cue thick French accent*) a pièce de résistance, and that came in the form of Battle Compressor. With the ability to essentially add 30 damage for free, the deck finally got what it needed to really enter the meta and compete with the big basics decks of the time. One other card that made Flareon more of a contender was Archie’s Ace in the Hole (printed in PRC). It allowed fairly easy access to Empoleon PLF’s Diving Draw ability, which let the pilot discard Pokemon and draw cards even when under item lock.
All was well for Flareon. It had carved out a niche for itself in the meta, it had taken down a Regionals and placed well at several States. Then the Trump Card ban was announced. Nearly everyone thought that Night March would be the BDIF. In the madness of trying to stop Night March, Flareon, which had a similar strategy and execution as Night March, fell into the meta’s crosshairs. The deck didn’t make any top appearances at Worlds in 2015 and didn’t survive rotation. Flareon was dead.
Or so we thought, but Pokemon Card Laboratories wasn’t done with Flareon, or at least its selling points. Flareon had proven to be a good card. However, it needed refinement. There were some missing elements in the original formula. So it got some major upgrades:
- Vespiquen’s first attack can be clutch in some games; Flareon’s other attack was almost never used or considered.
- Vespiquen can be found with Level Ball and Flareon couldn’t.
- Vespiquen has free retreat. The increased mobility puts the odds of attacking with a tech Pokemon more in your favor, and frees up deck space from switching cards.
- Combee’s grass typing meant that Vespiquen had synergy with Forest of Giant Plants and allowed for strong attacks on turn 1, with the possibility of donking lone big basics.
- Unown was printed alongside Vespiquen, which was an obvious combination.
While being a better version of Flareon, Vespiquen still had problems. It could be hard to stream attackers because of energy issues. Early Vespiquen variants played Bronzong or Flareon AOR/Blacksmith to keep the energy flowing, but they were a little clunky and evolving into Stage 1s meant there were fewer Pokémon in the discard pile.
A solution to this was found in darkness, like usual. Yveltal XY’s ability to accelerate a single energy and put some chip damage on a beefy Pokémon was found to be optimal for a while. If Yveltal was knocked out your opponent just added 10 damage to your output, if they Lysandred your Vespiquen, they added 20 damage and you can still refuel with Yveltal. In many ways it was a win-win.
Then, Night March began its ultimate rise to power, taking several States wins in one week. Players knew that they needed to counter it if they wanted a chance to succeed at the next week’s States. Thus began the upward trend in turn one item lock decks, including Vespiquen/Vileplume. The deck didn’t dominate the metagame, and the Yveltal variant was still played, but VV–as it was commonly referred to–was something to worry about. The idea behind it was to stop your opponent from playing the game from the beginning by not allowing them access to their items and constantly swinging hard with Vespiquen. When it succeeded, the deck worked on two fronts, pressuring an opponent to remove the item lock and take care of your swarm of bees. However, missing the turn one lock meant that your chances of losing the game went up exponentially. For this reason, the deck was considered a gamble by many.
Another variant worth mentioning is Vespiquen/Night March, the first deck I ever played in 2015 and also the deck that eventually won Nationals in 2016, piloted by Nick Robinson. The deck worked because Vespiquen covered Night March’s weakness to Waterbox by hitting most water attackers for weakness (and OHKOing the ones it didn’t). Night March was so inherently consistent that having a 3-3 line of Vespiquen didn’t clunk the deck up too much and covered its bad match ups.
Worlds came and Vespiquen came in 3rd place, piloted by Ross Cawthon. Steam Siege gave the set a few new toys in Klefki and Special Charge. Vespiquen didn’t need a form of Pokémon energy acceleration as badly anymore because Special Charge gave you more energy to work with. However, Cawthon decided to play Yveltal in his deck anyways.
Also played at Worlds 2016 was Vespiquen/Yanmega. Yanmega allowed you to conserve energy, because, with only four cards in hand, you could attack for free. Jesper Eriksen piloted his list to first place in the Senior Division.
With Worlds over and M Audino winning (not even Nostradamus saw that one coming), rotation happened. Vespiquen lost Battle Compressor and nearly everyone thought the deck was dead. Except Andrew Wamboldt. He crafted a list that harkened back to the beginnings of Flareon: using alternate attackers and sweeping with Vespiquen during the endgame.
Once Yveltal became the driving force of the metagame in PRC-EVO, Vespiquen lists took on a different form. Instead of playing Zoroark as a secondary attacker, the deck began playing Zebstrika BKP. The electric type attacker could KO Yveltals that had Fighting Fury Belt attached, which disrupted Yveltal’s game plan of building a big, untouchable Yveltal that swept the rest of the game. But, because it was a counter deck, Vespiquen/Zebras faded from existence once every last Yveltal was hunted down and killed.
Vespiquen had little impact on the PRC-SUM metagame: the Decidueye storm made playing the deck somewhat of a risky choice. Those that ventured to try it used the AOR Eeveelutions to change Vespiquen’s type and make it more effective versus a meta filled with Decidueye and Decidueye counter decks.
Now, in the PRC-GRI metagame, Vespiquen has stormed Madison’s Top 8 and taken down that regional. Vespiquen and Zoroark have proven to be best buddies and work together to combat different metagame threats. Zoroark brutally bashes the heavy hitters like Tapu Bulu while Vespiquen plays clean up. Many choose to throw Eeveelutions in their decks to feed Bee Revenge and hit a variety of the metagame for weakness.
What does the future hold for Vespiquen? Well, it’s very likely on the chopping block for rotation, but if it stays for whatever reason it’ll have some new toys to play with come Burning Shadows.
Huge shout outs to Rahul Reddy of the Chaos Gym and Kyle Theaker for lending their expertise and memory when it came to Vespiquen. Without them, much of this article wouldn’t have been possible.
*Note: This article was updated as of 12/29/2017 to correct a misspelled name.