Fire has long been a forgotten type of Gym Leader Challenge. Fire has long sat at the bottom of tier rankings, tournament win rates and general sentiment from players all over the world. The rare tournament successes came from just a few players over the last year and a half. Zeno, Sarmachus and Tankmin were the only online players to play Fire to a 1st place finish. Even so, those are some of the most skilled players in all of GLC - so what does that say about fire?
Enter the new hotness, Obsidian Flames Entei. Entei has a hydro pump style attack that does 60 damage + 20 extra damage for each fire energy attached to Entei. Combined with Charizard, this attack does 180 damage for just 3 fire energy! On top of that, Entei is quite beefy, with one of the best abilities in all of GLC which reduces attacks of the opponent’s active Pokemon by 20 damage. Without a bench barrier, fire was previously somewhat vulnerable to spread decks like Lightning, Water, and others, but with Entei, you can strategically determine when the spread damage is coming and reduce it across the board.
After Entei’s release, we have seen a flurry of new fire GLC decks popping up in online tournaments. Babautette (JeoshuaObladi) was the first to claim a tournament victory with Fire after its release with a crazy Amazing Reshiram build. StrawBerry and Watto each have introduced their own variations on Fire with the new Entei and are seeing success of their own.
It’s fair to say that Entei elevated fire from the depths to a more formidable placement in the tier rankings. The last thing standing in Fire’s way is a method to combat the ever-present Water decks that flood GLC tournament metas.
With the history of Fire in Gym Leader Challenge out of the way, I’m happy to introduce my own variation on Fire, Extreme Speed!
I am fond of the current trend of deck building where players have begun playing very focused lists with smaller amounts of Pokemon, less Supporters, and more item cards to help make accurate and precise plays while usually having fewer cards in hand. This strategy reduces fluff in the deck and focuses on using only the most important Supporters for turn with hugely powerful and synergistic Pokemon lineups. A few examples of this style are Babautette’s Coal Madness fighting deck, Rodger’s Archeops Buster metal deck, and now my own Extreme Speed fire list.
The overall strategy of the deck is to hit hard and fast using Fire’s powerful energy acceleration tools to be swinging for big damage turn 2 (and very rarely turn 1). Prioritizing going second is important in this deck, as you want to start off with a turn 1 Flare Starter (Volcanion) or Stoke (Growlithe). Getting energy out of the deck on turn 1 improves future draws and enables powerful turn 2 attacks with Volcanion hitting for 110 damage and Arcanine hitting up to 190 damage.
Once the energy is in play, we want to do our best to keep it in play with Wishful Baton, or get it back into play quickly by using Arcanine’s Grand Flame, Raihan or Blacksmith. It is not uncommon while playing Extreme Speed to have 6 energy cards in play at a time. If your opponent cannot find Field Blower in time to play around Wishful Baton, they are going to be in a world of hurt as you stream powerful attackers. Passing 3 energy onto an Entei or Heatmor on your bench spells big trouble for your opponent.
An important tactic in this deck is knowing all of your outs for either putting more energy into play, or retrieving it from the discard pile. Only playing 8 energy leaves plenty of room for overattaching, or putting energy in the wrong spot with no way to fix it, so focus on what the next best attacker is given the board state and likely plays from your opponent.
It’s hard to overstate just how hard this deck can hit. Each of the attackers above can hit for 170+ damage for only two energy cards with Charizard in play. With the aforementioned methods for maintaining your energy on the board, you are free to stream powerful attackers and close down games quickly.
One of the other benefits of playing Fire is that the tanky types in the format, Grass and Metal, are both weak to your attackers. Copperajah, Torterra, Zamazenta and Cape/FFB Zarude stand no chance against your attackers. Water is the last generally tanky type, but it is usually a loss anyways, so we don’t need to be too concerned with Wailord. Fortunately, if you are in a tight spot, a 5 energy Entei can one-shot the Wailord with Charizard on the bench.
That said, the big hitters above can take down pretty much any threat from the opposition with attention paid to timings, resources left in the deck and potential threats.
Magcargo is the engine of Extreme Speed. Using a draw forward item build with Magcargo lets you plan out plays in advance and pull the exact card you need each turn. If you have one of the many draw items or supporters available with Magcargo on the bench, you can pull that Rare Candy for Charizard, the Muscle Band for knockout, Blacksmith for energy acceleration, or so many more of the options available to you. Extreme Speed doesn’t need the shuffle draw supporters of old when instead, it can make specific and exacting plays based on the board at hand.
Setting up your two support Pokemon, Charizard and Magcargo is hugely important. It almost feels like cheating when you can tutor any card in your deck each turn while having double energy in play. In fact, it is almost cheating when you can drop Heatmor from hand, Magma Basin to it and Blacksmith for 3 total energy and a double KO to close out the game. Heatmor is your main comeback tactic for games where you lose out in the early prize trade. Earlier in the game however, if you can, crush your opponent’s main support Pokemon with Heatmor if you get the chance.
Another of the win conditions is sitting Entei in the active hitting for huge damage with 190 effective HP. Many decks struggle to respond if you can set up a fast Entei and take knockouts from turn 2. A timely Wishful Baton from Entei onto your next attacker is sure to give you a huge momentum swing.
I know many people are uncomfortable playing Pokestop builds because of the volatility of potentially discarding 3 important cards, but when you build around the concept of Pokestop, it’s really more like Pokego.
Discarding energy and supporters can often be of benefit to you by improving future draws. There are many ways to recycle your supporters with Pal Pad and VS Seeker. Energy hitting the discard pile is actually incredibly important early game because it enables Arcanine plays that blow up your board with energy while taking knockouts. One of the only problems I run into, other than Water, is that I am often attacking with Arcanine early game and I wish I had more energy in the discard pile. Pokestop helps put the energy there for the Arcanine and Blacksmith synergy.
Discarding Pokemon is not of huge concern when you have multiple ways of putting Pokemon directly into your hand. Klara and Rescue Stretcher can retrieve that Charizard you just yeeted to the discard pile to evolve and set up your board state. And while discarding all your Pokemon would be bad, it nearly never happens, and this deck is totally fine not recycling attackers much. You have 6 attackers, and one that takes multiple prizes, so recycling a single attacker is often all that is needed.
In a world where I could play every card I wanted, I would definitely add a few to the list to help with minor hiccups that occur here and there. Battle Compressor helps with the previously mentioned synergy between Arcanine, Magma Basin, Raihan and Blacksmith having energy in the discard pile. An early battle compressor could put an energy or two in the discard pile, as well as cards you’ve calculated you no longer need thus improving future draws.
A 9th fire energy is on the wishlist due to the very occasional lack of drawing into an energy turn one when starting Volcanion or Growlithe. Missing an energy turn one almost never happens due to 8 energy + Professor’s Letter + Giant Hearth, but when it does happen it hurts.
Xtransceiver is a great card in an item build to help you find the key supporter you need for your turn. Grabbing welder while you have Professor’s Letter in hand, Blacksmith when you need an emergency knockout or any of the many other potential scenarios make Xtransceiver a hard to cut card.
I have tried this build with Delphox, and it sure provides huge late game power. The Wishful Baton synergy is there with Entei, as you can pass tons of energy from one hydropump attacker to the next. In addition, an early Delphox can help swing games as you can very quickly cycle through your entire deck. However, I found Delphox tended to clog up hands when drawing many evolution Pokemon early, and I ended up preferring a lighter and more focused build. Those that want to try out Salazzle or Delphox, more power to you!
Huge thanks to all those who helped me build this list. I was so glad to win a tournament with fire, and it’s all thanks to those in the CardBoard Warriors discord and the new Obsidian Flames Entei.
Special shoutout to Tony, Rodger and Zeno for your input!