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Themed Thursday: Imperial Command

Welcome back to Themed Thursday! This is a series of articles dedicated to the Theme format, where we discuss and analyze all of the Theme Decks in Pokémon every Thursday! That’s right, all of them!* From your favorite powerhouses to the worst of the worst in Base HeartGold & SoulSilver, we’ll discuss what cards are good, how to effectively pilot the deck, and how to beat it. We even end with how to upgrade the deck to play in other formats!

For those of you that don’t play Pokémon TCG Online, the Theme format is a simple format for players to pick a Theme Deck and play against each other, both decks unchanged. It’s great for newer players that don’t have a collection to build a deck yet, are bored of Standard or Expanded, or just to enjoy a deck with their favorite Pokémon! Theme is also great for getting rewards from the Versus Ladder and Tournaments to get locked packs to open and unlocked packs to trade off and further boost your collection!

*That can be used on Pokémon TCG Online, since the only Theme Decks legal for the format reach back to Base HeartGold & SoulSilver.

We're going back to Standard Theme Decks this week with Imperial Command! Imperial Command is the other Theme Deck, released alongside Mach Strike, featuring Empoleon and a bunch of other Water-Type Pokémon! Here's the decklist:

The Deck

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As stated earlier, the featured Pokémon of Imperial Command is Empoleon UPR 34! With 160 HP and an extremely powerful attack for only 2 Energy, Empoleon can rush down most of the competition with repeated 100+ damage attacks.

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That's not the only great thing about Imperial Command! Abomasnow UPR 38 is a great accelerator with its Ability, Blessings of the Frost, and can also deal 80 damage with the nasty Sleep Special Condition. Floatzel UPR 36 deals 80 damage for only 2 Energy, and combos with Abomasnow's Ability! Agility is also a great attack that can stall out a turn or two, and in a format where Guzma and other Gust effects are nonexistent, can be pretty devastating to your opponent.

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Probably the biggest boon to playing Imperial Command right now is the surge of Blazing Volcano players on the Theme ladder and tournaments. Nearly everything in that deck has a Water-Type Weakness, so Imperial Command, with a 100% Water-Type Pokémon list, can abuse the stuffing out of it! It's probably a 70/30 in Imperial Command's favor, since even Floatzel can one shot anything in the deck with Aqua Blast.

Playing Imperial Command

Imperial Command revolves a little bit around Stage 2 Pokémon, since Empoleon does the most amount of damage in the deck, and can repeatedly chain knockouts. Once you get Empoleon on the field, you're near unstoppable! So, how do we set up with this deck?

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Alolan Sandslash GRI 20 has an amazing Ability in the form of Slush Rush. In the games, Slush Rush boosted Alolan Sandslash's Speed in the hail, but in the TCG, you can use it to draw an extra card once per turn. Since you have two Alolan Sandslash, you can draw 2 extra cards per turn without using a Supporter!

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Speaking of Supporters, you have a ton of options to draw cards in Imperial Command. Sophocles can discard Water Energy for Abomasnow and draw you 4 cards, Lillie draws you up to 6 or 8 if you're lucky to have it in your opening hand, and Hau is the classic unconditional draw 3. That's 5 cards that draw you cards, and that's just the pure draw Supporters!

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As usual, Professor Kukui lets us hit the numbers that we need by adding 20 damage to our next attack. If Empoleon is missing 20 damage on Total Command, then it's time to use Professor Kukui to swing the game in our favor. Pokemon Fan Club accelerates our Bench by letting us throw down Basic Pokémon to evolve on the next turn. That's an additional 4 great Supporter cards in Imperial Command!

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Generally, our game plan is to set up evolutions and eventually overwhelm them with Empoleon. So, you generally want to start attacking with Manaphy UPR 42 to put our opponent's Active Pokémon to Sleep (also the art is really great on that card), or Corsola SUM 36 to Call for Family to help our future evolutions out.

Tips & Tricks

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  • Piplup UPR 31's Splatter attack is very solid early on, especially in the Blazing Volcano matchup. However, a common mistake that newer players make is attacking the Bench instead of the Active when they have the knockout thanks to Weakness. You can only use the opponent's Weakness if you're attacking the Active Pokémon, so pay attention!
  • You also don't want to burn your Piplup early. Imperial Command only runs a single Rescue Stretcher to shuffle back in early losses, so you should be careful with losing your pre-evolutions.
  • Snover UPR 37's Ice Shard does extra damage to Fighting-Type Pokémon. If your opponent is playing Mach Strike or Twilight Rouge, use that to your advantage early on! With 80 HP that can still evolve to Abomasnow, Snover is nothing to scoff at!
  • Aqua Patch can only attach Water Energy to your Benched Pokémon. Remember that, since new players might think that they can attach it to their Active Pokémon, screwing up the rest of their turn.
  • Escape Board returns in Imperial Command with a vengeance! If your Active Pokémon is Asleep, retreat it with Escape Board, or even Escape Rope! Don't use those cards until you really need it, though, since they're essentially single use.

Beating Imperial Command

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Chances are, if you're reading this section, you're playing Blazing Volcano and you want to know how to win the matchup. Even Blazing Volcano's second type, Grass, doesn't do much against Imperial Command, since most of the threatening Pokémon in there are weak to Lightning! So, my best advice is to focus more on using Houndoom LOT 46's Attack Operation to deal damage, rather than Entei LOT 47's Eruption, since Entei's real use is one shoting Empoleon. Guzma helps out a lot in the matchup as well, but since you only run one, it's going to be quite the hassle to win this one.

So, what beats Imperial Command? Well, this is Pokémon, right? So, let's run Weaknesses!

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Storm Caller has a great matchup against Imperial Command, as it's simply the best Lightning Theme Deck out there right now. Raikou LOT 79 and Ampharos LOT 78 can tear through Imperial Command, and can even set up future attacks through Naganadel LOT 108's Ability, Charging Up. Storm Caller is very much a sleeper pick, since Blazing Volcano has better matchups across the board, but Storm Caller can still be quite the menace against anti-meta decks like Imperial Command.

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Leaf Charge also is excellent against Imperial Command. Sceptile CES 10 is similar to Empoleon in the sense that you're unstoppable if you can get Sceptile rolling, but where the matchup really shines is in Manectric CES 52. Not only does Manectric let you accelerate the Bench, but it's also Lightning-Type! Manectric's Double Charge attack one-shots Piplup and leaves Prinplup at 10 HP, perfect for Sceptile to swoop in later and take a clean knockout.

Playing Imperial Command in Standard

As usual, the Standard deck that we'll create will consist of mashing two Imperial Command decks together! Here it is:

As a Stage 2 deck without Rare Candy, it's going to be a little rough in the big world of hard hitters like Blacephalon-GX and Zoroark-GX. That's why we're running two Manaphy and a 3-3 line of Alolan Sandslash to speed through our deck while stalling out with Manaphy to get to our Empoleon fast!

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Can't get enough of Empoleon and want to upgrade the deck? One of the absolute best ways to upgrade is throwing in Alolan Vulpix GRI 21, Alolan Ninetales-GX LOT 132, and even Alolan Ninetales BUS 28. Alolan Vulpix's Beacon attack is still one of the best attacks in the game, especially since it combos with itself by searching up Alolan Ninetales-GX. With Mysterious Guidance, you can then search up Ultra Ball and Rare Candy for a clean turn 2 Stage 2 evolution! I mentioned baby Alolan Ninetales here since we're running Water Energy already, and a lot of decks don't have a real answer against Luminous Barrier, since Ability shutdown is really limited to Alolan Muk SUM 58, which only targets Basic Pokémon.

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Cynthia and Professor Elm's Lecture are also great additions. Cynthia is pretty self explanatory, but Professor Elm's Lecture searches up Piplup and more! Brooklet Hill is also great, since it lets you set up even further by throwing Basic Water Pokémon right onto the Bench.

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Of course, I can't mention Empoleon without going into the super Stage 2 rouge deck that ran around before Lost Thunder came out. Swampert CES 35 and Super Boost Energy Prism Star UPR 136, combined with Rare Candy, can draw you a ton of cards and deal surprising burst damage!


And that’s it for Themed Thursday! What do you like about Imperial Command? What do you absolutely despise about it? What Theme Deck would you like to see me cover in the future? Is there anything that I missed covering that you would like to see? Leave a comment down below or let me know at my Twitter @adischordintime! Don't forget to tune in next week for another Themed Thursday!

~ Kobe "Dischord" Phan

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