Since being introduced in Steam Siege last year, Volcanion EX and his smaller version have been the go-to-guys for competitive fire decks, and have topped several large tournaments this year, including taking 1st place at Oceania Internationals in March.
Since the launch of Guardians Rising in May, Volcanion decks saw a slight decline, partly due to the rise of Garbodor and Alolan Ninetales GX decks, but also with many more decks and seemingly stronger main attackers becoming viable, players began to consider Volcanion less and less as their first choice for tournaments.
Being the first deck I acquired and learned to play when I started competitive Pokémon TCG late last year, Volcanion has a special place in my heart. I enjoyed the simplicity and speed that the deck had, and I found quite a bit of success with it at League Cups and smaller events.
Last week two major tournaments took place in Bilbao (Spain) and Hartford (United States), and to my great surprise and joy, two Volcanion decks not only won them both, but also had several other top placings in those events, despite them being different formats!
Volcanion decks have been doing well this past year in Japan due to expanded-style format (XY sets on), so it was surprising to see that only three of them made Top 8 across the four most recent expanded Regionals in the United States.
However with the recent additions of Kiawe and Ho-Oh GX to the deck, and the rise of Golisopod GX decks, Volcanion is now considered to be one of the best decks (alongside Night March and Garbodor variants) in Expanded.
Germany's Nico Alabas took the above Volcanion EX/Turtonator GX list to 1st place at the Bilbao Special Championships last weekend, with countryman Fatih Akdemir taking the same 60-card list to 4th place in the 118-Masters event.
With three copies of supporter-searching Tapu Lele GX in the deck, more often than not you'll be able to have the explosive first-turn start of using Kiawe to attach four fire energies to an active Ho-Oh GX or Turtonator GX.
Being able to then swing for 160+ or more damage (with the help of Volcanion EX's Steam Up ability) on the next turn, and then being able to use Blacksmith to keep the energy attachments and attacks going each turn, makes it an incredibly powerful and scary deck to face.
Notably this list runs a monumental 17 fire energies, this combined with the three Scorched Earth stadiums, allows you to steam your way through your deck and keep the huge damage output up with the help of Blacksmith and multiple retreating options such as Float Stone and Guzma.
Apart from Greninja, this deck has very few obvious hard counters in expanded, and with the upcoming sets Shining Legends and Crimson Invasion having little to no notable strong water attackers, Volcanion will continue to be a powerhouse for many months to come, and would definitely be my first choice in expanded events.
This Volcanion EX-focused list that top player Igor Costa piloted to 1st place at the large standard format Hartford Regionals (751 Masters), reminds me a lot of similar Volcanion decks that did well earlier in the season.
Many thought that with the rise of Garbodor variants that punish high-item usage, that lists such as these that feature multiple Max Elixir, would see a lot less play after Guardians Rising came out.
Notably this list runs a full count of the normal Volcanion, as well as four Fighting Fury Belts and 15 Fire Energies, meaning that Igor would have been able to Steam Up easily and take multiple KO's quickly against low HP basic Pokémon such as Trubbish and Ralts on early turns, putting him ahead early on the prize trade and powering up his benched Pokémon at the same time.
This combined with two Turtonator GX's and Enhanced Hammers to help with the Gardevoir GX and Drampa GX match-ups, and seven switching cards to help deal with stalling tactics, meant this list was very well placed going in to the tournament.
If I was to play a fire deck heading in to the London International Championships next month, I would probably favour a Volcanion EX-focused build over Ho-Oh GX/Salazzle GX or similar decks, as having the extra space in this list allows for more tech options such as hammers, and doesn't have any attackers weak to lightning, which might be a problem if the new Raichu GX from Shining Legends sees play.
Going forward both in the expanded and standard formats, Volcanion definitely will remain in the Top 5 decks to consider to bring to major tournaments. With Greninja and other water variants seeing less play recently due to Tapu Bulu GX and Golisopod GX, and not many newer other strong Pokemon cards to note, Volcanion will definitely be well placed in our format for the next few months and will continue to be steaming his way up to the top tables!
If you enjoyed reading this article as much I loved writing it, please do check out my PlaySkape Games YouTube Channel where I do event reports, unboxings, PSA returns and more, as well as my Facebook Page where I post regular updates and photos from my travels, as well as the latest and exciting Pokémon TCG news! Until next time Pokémon trainers!
Stephen Kent ~ PlaySkape Games
Big thanks to Nayla Cirik for the beautiful hand-drawn Volcanion artwork at the top!
Check out her Facebook page here.