Sableye/Garb Won A Regional!

Kaleb Sommers managed to win in the SM5 Expanded format with Sableye/Garbodor.Junk Hunt Sableye

The list is :

Pokemon – 13
4 Sableye DEX 62
3 Trubbish NVI 48
2 Garbodor DRX 54
1 Garbodor GRI 51
2 Shaymin-EX ROS 77
1 Tapu Lele-GX GRI 60

Trainer – 41
4 Professor Sycamore BKP 107
1 N FCO 105
1 Ghetsis PLF 101
1 Delinquent BKP 98
1 Guzma BUS 115
1 Team Flare Grunt GEN 73
1 Team Skull Grunt SUM 133
1 Gladion CIN 95
4 Trainer’s Mail ROS 92
4 Ultra Ball SUM 135
3 VS Seeker PHF 109
3 Puzzle of Time BKP 109
2 Trick Shovel FLF 98
2 Enhanced Hammer GRI 124
2 Crushing Hammer SUM 115
1 Super Rod BKT 149
1 Battle Compressor PHF 92
1 Counter Catcher CIN 91
1 Field Blower GRI 125
1 Red Card GEN 71
3 Float Stone BKT 137
1 Life Dew PLF 107
1 Parallel City BKT 145

Energy – 6
3 Blend Energy GRPD DRX 117
3 Darkness Energy 7

At least I know what my ‘pimped out’ Sableye deck is going to look like, there’s nothing we haven’t seen before but this list certainly looks more flexible with multiple outs when it comes to things like bad prizing. Although I have yet to watch the streams I will be very interested to take this to a local League Challenge and see how well I can do with it!

Bad Meta Forecast

I know this isn’t a news blog, but when I find that I’ve not got any major insights to offer or recent competitive goings on, I usually find that it’s about time to look forward and see what’s coming next. I tend to avoid ‘newsy’ stuff and predictions because i) other website do it better; ii) it’s a constant thing not a weekly thing; and iii) this isn’t a news site and I hate baseless speculation. (Also in pre-release 2 Buzzwole and 36 energy is broken apparently!)

Predicting the Usual Predictions

Prediction Pokémaniac
I predict… a NEW SET!

Also, as a rule I generally hate the ‘predictions discussion’ EG: “oh but in next block X will be good (and then I’ll beat you!)”. While these are popular online and at most casual meetups, I don’t think that I’m alone in this view.  Don’t get me wrong – looking to see what is coming is fun, even exciting and it can help inform you of what potential decks you might need to get components for via trades etc. My faith in humanity is that I have to believe that’s where these people are coming from, love of the game, just at a different angle.

Prediction Type Chart
My crude type chart. (Yellow = resistance)

It’s just that if you’re looking at building competitive decks, unless you literally have the cards in your deck sleeves ready to roll, it’s almost all hypotheticals so the speculation and predictions don’t really help develop the metagame.

An example is a statement such as: ‘In the next set Psychic will get a boost, therefore Buzzwole is dead LOL RIP, it’s not worth playing Buzzwole now’. When laid out like that it seems rather illogical. In the future the deck will be bad, therefore don’t play it now? I understand that if you don’t have the cards to make the deck it might not be worth trying to get them if you think the next set will render that deck useless. That’s sensible, but invalidating a proven archetype on baseless speculation is a little premature.

The Predictions Loop

While  I’m sure my Buzzwole deck will loose to a strong Psychic deck, the new stuff in Forbidden Light but it doesn’t worry me. Principally because the above belief is fundamentally wrong on many levels. Firstly Psychic might be a non-starter. Case in point you can still play a decent psychic deck and do well as of SM5, but people aren’t really. Unless the impact of the new cards has been tested (as opposed to just speculated about) we don’t know for certain.

Beast Ring TLATEFor example I also know that Fighting is getting a boost as are Ultra Beasts, that’s 2 distinct factors from the ‘Psychic boost’ factor. And so the Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock cycle continues. The reason simply is that until the meta gets settled, everything is conjecture and as a scientist person (though without the love of Magnemites), I generally believe that speculation doesn’t lead to productive predictions! A good example is the Magnemite + Dusk Mane Necrozma-GX deck which was overhyped but by the time it came to being played the reason for playing it (Gardevoir) was dying off. The deck suffers from consistency issues and the payoff – steel type damage and OHKOs, isn’t worth it compared to a similar deck in a different colour such as Vika-Bulu where the type sometimes is relevant in the meta.

Below I try to dissect the above statement about the Psychic buff. I believe that it is a more likely outcome (I’m not giving a guarantee!), but a bit more complicated. I’m going to assume that you’re an intelligent person, but as a species we tend to prefer, and therefore believe, simpler explanations. Couple this with the internet and we encounter trouble dissecting nuanced arguments.

I think this is a rational approach, but I know that I’m not in full control of all of the facts, and additionally there may be random confounding elements (such as all the top worlds players go crazy and use quad bidoof so it appears as if it is a good deck!) that cloud the ability to make predictions. So in case I’ve not made this clear – this isn’t science, but it helps to approach it logically and methodically when at least attempting to make basic predictions of the meta.

Ultra Beast Energy TLATESo let’s take the above predictions about Psychic becoming dominant due to Buzzwole and the new stuff from Forbidden Light. Let’s then look at the knock on effect: Say Psychic does do well,  initially religating Buzzwole to meme tier (RIP Superfly), then Dark stays popular since it resists Psychic giving it back an edge it didn’t have before, and in some cases has type advantage.

But then Fairy (which resists dark and loves all the energy that Psychic types need to attack) pops back. Steel still sucks so now Fairy just rampages all over the place like around SM3+. Consequently people play less psychic. In the two weeks of chaos Buzzwole players discover Beast Energy, Beast Ring, Beast Ball and Diancie Prism Star meaning that Superfly is back!!

Unfortunately I’m not a seer, nor is anyone I’ve met to date, so until it hits and we’ve got a couple of tournaments we just don’t know. Our predictions are imperfect, so I would caution you against believing anyone who claims to know otherwise.

And there is the crux of this article: those 4 words are probably the scariest in the English language. If you said ‘Doctor will I recover from being Snorlaxed?’ and she said ‘we just don’t know’ that’s BAD. It’s fear inducing. The expert doesn’t know – PANIC! If she said ‘you’ll be dead tomorrow’ well it’s bad but at least you’ll know. Again it’s that in a game where we try to control and predict outcomes, unknowns are out of our control and thus ‘scary’. It’s the same with why I think meta-predictions aren’t fruitful.

Concluding Predictions

I don’t like attempting to give predictions about the impact of new sets because the reality is that no one person has all of the required information. As such I find predictions fun, but unhelpful at best. Some predictions may be insightful but on the whole I’d hold off until the set actually hits!

Finally to wrap up in future I want to do another ‘best in class’ check list such as the ‘Top 10 to watch‘ and an updated ‘Viable EX/GX‘ list. I also want to revisit my own predictions to see how accurate I’ve been (if at all!).

Oricorio Tech for Buzzwole

Oricorio Tech for Buzzwole-GX

In this post I’m going to cover the counter-tech that the latest iterations of Buzzwole/Lycanroc seems to be running and it is a good thing.

Counter Buzzwole Tech

Versatile Mew EXSo the latest tournament results are showing some interesting outcomes. Buzzwole is doing well – presumably beating down a lot of Zoroark-GX. However Zoroark has been fielding Mew-EX or (less-so recently) generations Mewtwo in order to hard counter Buzzwole. Mew-EX can use Riotous Beating hitting for weakness (240) for 1 DCE attachment, or alternatively it can also use First Impression from Golisopod-GX for 1 Grass, again hitting for 240 assuming it switched in.

Generations Mewtwo has more HP than Mew-EX but it’s attack is more dependant on them overloading their Buzzwole with energy. A Buzzwole with the full 3 energy will still only take 160 from Mewtwo (20+(20*3)) so you need a Choice Band or another damage buff (Kukui?) to ensure a knockout. A major benefit of Mewtwo is that it’s hard for Buzzwole to OHKO and that it only yields one prize, turning it into a 7 prize game.

The Answer

OricorioSo what is the solution to all of this Psychic Bugspray?  The unlikeliest of candidates seems to be Oricorio (Supernatural Dance).

Firstly it’s Psychic type so strong against Buzzwole, but cruically not weak to other Psychic types (by virtue of being a ghost type) – though ironically a Zoroark will destroy it easily.

While Supernatural Dance is used to counter Night March decks, for anti-Mew/two duty, Revelation Dance and a Choice Band are what we need. Since Buzzwole runs Brooklet Hill and other decks are sporting Parallel City, the stadium requirement is usually moot. 1 Energy is an irrelevance in a 13 energy deck so the only real ask is the Choice Band. I run 4 choice bands and 3 Float Stones although the winning deck run 3 Choice Bands and 4 Float Stones.

As well as anti-Mew/two duty, Oricorio is great against the mirror – in that it also counters Buzzwole – it has type advantage, low attack requirements, enough hitpoints that it can’t easily be OHKOed and vitally – it resists Fighting. Where a ‘baby’ Mew (50HP) gets OHKO by a Buzzwole with a single strong energy, Oricorio only takes 30 damage, dealing 60+ in return. As well as this it only yields one prize enabling you to play a 7 prize game.

Conclusion

I certainly prefer the Oricorio option to mimic Sudowodo – better energy requirements and Oricorio pulls double duty against the mirror march. It’s going to be an include for my Superfly deck going forward. My only dilemma now is – Multi-Switch or Energy Switch?-I’d love to hear your thoughts for each (or neither!)

 

Viable Pokémon EX/GX In Standard Format SM5+

Hello again! Today’s article has revisited the older Viable Pokémon EX / GX  (SM4+) in the Standard format. Expanded has several gems that shine but they are usually quite niche within their own deck types. These will be noted as they arise, but this focuses mostly on the Standard format.

Of particular note is the full coverage of Shining Legends, the SM5/6 Ultra Beasts and the new Necrozma variants. In terms of Pokémon we only have Ultra Sun/Moon UBs such as Blacephalon, Stakataka and Ultra Necrozma left to get cards & we know Ultra Necrozma will be in SM6.

This post idea was partially inspired by a reddit post on r/pkmntcg where some newbies seemed to think that all GX/EX were good.

As always feedback, comments and criticism are welcome and encouraged.

Viable Pokémon EX:

As per the heading, viable Pokémon EX that are from before the Sun & Moon sets.

Regirock-EX FCO – Used on the bench to add +10 damage. However Fighting isn’t featuring heavily at the moment and even then there’s usually better ways to get more damage that doesn’t rely on an ability in a Garbotoxin meta. It will be replaced by Diancie from SM6 in May.

Volcanion-EX STS – Volcanion is a whole archetype by itself. Heavily used for the ‘Steam Up’ ability in Volcanion/Turtonator but also in Ho-Oh/Salazzle for the added damage.

Darkrai-EX BKP – Rarely used in standard at the moment but still a key component of a Darkrai based deck.

Espeon-EX BKP – Used as a 1 of tech in certain decks (Espeon-GX/Garb or Drampa-GX/Garb) for the devolving attack. Often seen in decks with Po Town since re-evolving means another round of damage counters.

Pokémon-GX that ‘never’ see competitive play:

Never is a strong word but at the moment it seems correct! This may change in the future of course, but for the moment these aren’t seen as competitivly viable Pokémon.

Alolan Golem – Electric just hasn’t got the love. While pairing it with electric Magnezone might help improve things, running 2 sets of stage 2 Pokémon is probably asking for trouble. Another casual/meme level deck.

NihilegoGXNihilego – Although the ability is interesting, a fragile 180HP and the PPP requirement means that unless something radically shifts, this isn’t going to see a lot of play outside casual or meme decks.

Gyarados – The energy investment is just too high. I do have to wonder if after rotation high energy cost will be the norm, making a lot of previously ‘unplayable’ Pokémon marginally viable.

GuzzlordGXGuzzlord – Despite having a lot of HP the high energy requirement and weakness to Fighting bump this down to unplayable outside of fun or joke decks. I’ve seen people combine it with Dragonair and other energy acceleration options but once it’s KOed all of that energy goes. Fun, but not competitive by a long stretch!

Kommo-o is possibly the only truly ‘non-viable’ card on the list due to lack of Double Dragon Energy but the rest are not very competitive or are relatively lack lustre in the current state of the game. Arguably ‘counter energy’ from Crimson Invasion works as DDE although it’s a bit more conditional than the traditional DDE. The Prism Quad Energy might also work but is still a corner case.

Incineroar GXCharizard, Machamp, Lunala, Incineroar, Tsareena, Primarina, Snorlax & Beware – just don’t really bring enough awesomeness to the table to justify their inclusion compared to other GX’s out there.

Toxapex – people want it to work but it is rather clunky and the 3 Psychic attack cost is prohibitive.

Umbreon – a tricksy card with some interesting effects on its attacks. However sadly it loses out on raw power compared to other ‘mons and also on utility compared to Sylveon or Espeon. The low damage output for the energy investment leaves Umbreon a relatively uncompetitive choice outside of a dedicated energy denial deck.

Noivern GXNoivern – I want to like this card since it is Seismitoad 2.0 but lack of DDE and odd colour requirements (Psychic and Dark) means that for the moment it’s relegated to the sidelines. I did end up facing a Noivern/Zoroark deck at a League Challenge which was interesting. Weakness to Fairy does hurt if Gardevoir is knocking around. If we get DDE in SM6 then we might see this in a hammers/wall type lock deck.

Off-meta/Rogue Pokémon-GX:

These are semi- viable Pokémon-GX that are not terrible, but not particularly strong either, or only feature as an option in some main decks, or feature as a counter to certain other decks.

Dawn Wings Necrozma-GXDawn Wings Necrozma – Much hyped along with Dusk Mane Necrozma however like poor Nihilego the PPP requirement in a format without Psychic acceleration leaves much to be desired. The mediocre 180HP as well as being OHKO by Zoroark-GX with 1 attachment means that in the current Zoroark heavy Standard format this otherwise funky Pokémon isn’t really viable at a competitive level.

Glaceon – Much hyped yet, if the recent regionals are to judge by, overhyped. The ability to stop opponents’ GX/EX abilities if active is good but conditional. Paired with a weakness to Metal and a mediocre attack the deck struggles to close out the game once an opponent has adapted to the ability lock.

Pheromosa GX

Pheromosa– Like several of the Ultra Beasts this was first released in a boxed set before being given a full art release in SM5. Similar to Buzzwole, Celesteela and Xurkitree it’s GX ability involves prize manipulation.

As a card it struggles to find a niche since Golisopod is a better Grass type. The first attack is only relevant 50% of the time and the low hitpoints combined with weakness to fire doesn’t really make it a card that brings anything new to the game. The only use I can see is as a 1-of for Beauty GX as a catch-up tech in grass decks.

Alolan Exeggutor – A funny card that I have seen people combine with the Shining Legends Venusaur to exploit the double energy ability.  Like Goodra it can target specific Pokémon but also like goodra it’s a Dragon type -weak to Fairy and overall a lacklustre card. There is a baby version which enables all of your Eggxecutes to evolve which helps the deck to function. It certainly has fun/meme potential but is in no way competitively viable.

mew2

Mewtwo – A poormans Gardevoir (30x energy on your Mewtwo) but does have type advantage over Buzzwole. However that niche can be fulfilled by Mew, Mew-EX or Generations Mewtwo.

Wishiwashi – A high HP Pokémon, similar to Wailord in that it is used to stall/wall in decks that aim to deck out your opponent.

Marshadow – Although low HP for a basic GX (150HP) it can use any attacks from basics in the discard changing them into the fighting type. With little relevant weakness to fighting (Drampa?) it doesn’t see much play in Standard. In Expanded has a place where it can be a more viable.

LaprasLapras GXCan be the centre of a deck based on water toolbox, stall/wall or other variants. Drawing 3 is nice, and Ice Beam GX has paralysis which is usually hard to access. However only 190HP and weakness to grass make it a liability in a Golisopod heavy environment.

Raichu – People are trying to make it work and it is a Stage 1 compared to Gardevoir-GX being a stage 2. The Ultra Prism electric Magnezone could help attach lots of energy but I’ve yet to see this in practice. Also in those kind of decks

Gumshoos – counters Gardevoir-GX and was included in some finalists decks recently for that very reason.

Alolan Muk – Needs a deck built around its conditions and a way to capitalise on them. Could pair well with Raticate BREAK.

Darkrai – Part of the low tier Standard Darkrai deck, also works in expanded since it comes back with energy.

Solgaleo – not in the ‘never’ pile because it counters Gardevoir and has a decent ability and GX attack. Still quite niche, paired with Metagross or SM5 Magnetic Circuit Magnezone.

Vikivolt – can be included in Vikivolt/Bulu as a backup attacker.

Supporting Pokémon-GX:

Thoroughly Viable Pokémon that are included in some deck types as a 1 or 2 count as tech, support or counter.

Dialga & Palkia – While no Top Cut deck has featured either Dialga or Palkia yet, their unique GX abilities and mono-energy requirements on a Dragon type make these both interesting Pokémon.

Dialga has a draw attack which isn’t bad if you’re starting off, but the shred of 80 damage for 2 attachments [MCC] isn’t terrible, it’s just that there’s usually better options. Of course the insane GX that gives you an *extra turn* (and deals 150 damage!) is unique in the game and certainly offers a lot of strategic options. The high cost is a downside but the havoc that you could cause by having 2 turns in a row cannot be understated. Hopefully we’ll see Double Dragon Energy in the next set, making this attack only need 3 attachments. (DCE, DDE, M)

Palkia isn’t as awesome sounding as it’s temporal counterpart, this spacial Pokémon offers a lot in the way of energy manipulation. One attack lets you move as much energy onto it as you want while it’s main attack does more damage for each [W] energy.

Again the GX attack on this beast is crazy – 150 damage and they shuffle all of their energy attached to the Pokémon into their deck. While recycling energy isn’t great it can clog up an opponents deck and severely disrupt their tempo. I suspect that after rotation when attacks will cost a bit more that these huge attacks won’t seem that expensive and will actually be somewhat viable.

Leafeon – I’ve categorised this as slightly better than Glaceon because it’s GX attack will allow for a lot more consistent Grass shenanigans. However it’s not a card to build a deck around but rather a support type Pokémon. The ability to heal 50 is interesting but requires Leafeon to be active which is a bit of an ask.

Xurkitree – Everyone’s favourite Christmas tree Pokémon! Immune to almost anything with special energy attached this is a strange creature! The attack is poorly costed and of limited damaged although the discard 1 card effect fits with some specific ‘mill’ deck archetypes. The Lighting-GX *adds* a card to from your opponent’s hand to their prizes. Could be useful to get rid of a Prism Star card or just to slow them down.

Vulnerable to fighting makes it a niche choice outside of dedicated denial/wall/mill decks, however I do know that some Tapu Bulu/Vikavolt decks are running a 1-of in order to buy themselves more time to get set up. Steel resistance is a nice perk too. In a format where every deck except Volcanion and VikaBulu run special energy I feel that we will see a bit more of this popping up in the future.

Celesteela GX FACelesteela – Bulky, resists popular fighting and weak to unpopular lightening (and more importantly not weak to fire!) this is a useful 1-of or 2-of addition to any Metal deck. The energy requirements are quite high although the GX ability gives you a free Town-Map type ability combined with good damage. I don’t think any serious metal deck should be without at least one of these Ultra Beasts.

Kartana – The Slice Off ability is a free Enhanced Hammer, the attack allowing you to shuffle it back in means you can do it again and recycle the effect. The GX is simply ‘get a prize’ which, as someone who often manages to get 4-5 prizes and then struggle to take the remainder, really appeals to me. Similar to Celesteela it’s not a main attacker to build your deck around but is certainly a useful inclusion in any serious metal deck.

Tapu FiniTapu Fini GX – a vicious GX attack and colourless main attack make this a useful tech in decks that run rainbow energy such as GoliGarb or Drampa/Garb.

Espeon – combine with Garb for a Psychic shenanigans deck. Turn 1 Eevee to Espeon and hit with the Confuse Ray is a solid play.

Tapu Koko – fits into Vikivolt/Bulu or some people replace the Bulu all together. Can jump in late game, steal all the energy and hit you when you least expect it. Like most of the Tapu-GXs it has no weakness.

Necrozma Necrozma GX Burning Shadows– Included for Black Ray GX – if you think its worth 3 energy. Cat sticks this in Golisopod to put pretty much everything in One Hit KO range. Also good in expanded thanks to Dimension Valley reducing the cost of it’s attacks.

Decidueye – fallen out of favour but still viable, especially in baby Alolan Ninetales decks. 99% of the time its for Feather Arrow.

Lurantis – used to be combined with Golisopod, though still out of favour at the moment. It pairs well with Shining Legends Venusaur thanks to the Jungle Totem ability. Certainly not one to overlook.

Tauros – features more in Expanded I think, but some decks include it for its versatility of 3 different attacks for a DCE. Gets stronger as it gets injured which is nice too!

Ninetales – another 210 hp stage 1 with decent attacks. The support that water has is really good with aqua patch so it can power up quickly. The Ice Path GX damage swap can also help keep you going. Usually includes a baby Alolan Ninetales to help against EX/GX decks. Needs to watch out for metal.

Sylveon – although a decktype by itself (Quad Sylveon Box), it used to feature heavily in Gardevoir decks. The Energy Eeveelution ability and Magical Ribbon ability for 1 Fairy energy makes this a great Turn 1 play (especially if you go 2nd!)

Metagross – It hard-counters Gardevoir although it’s not guaranteed since Gardevoir is more consistent. It can be clunky and brick up if things go wrong. The max 180 damage cap is also quite painful although this is easier to swallow with 250hp and Max Potions. Includes lots of switcheroos to get rid of the ‘can’t attack next turn’ penalty. Less of an archetype since practice and experience has shown it to be unable to match the Tier 1 decks.

Drampa – Has seen a fall in popularity and likely to remain there due to the prevalence of Lycanroc-GX and Buzzwole-GX.  A good early game GX attack to net you 10 cards is helpful and it has a variety of partners in the game. Drampa can also be splashed as a tech in quite a few decks and can be quite threatening as a result.

Archetype Defining Pokémon-GX:

These aren’t just Viable Pokémon, these GX’s are so good that they have a whole deck archetype centred around them!

Zoroark – Entire essays could be written about this Pokémon alone. Stage 1, 210 HP, resists Psychic and weak to Fighting. The GX is interesting but hardly anyone uses it. The Riotous Beating deals 20x damage for each of your Pokémon in play – without Sky Field that’s 120 for a DCE/1 attachment which doesn’t have a condition like Golisopod’s First Impression.

What kicks this card up a gear is it’s ability –Trade. Trade lets you discard a card to draw 2. You can do this for each instance of Trade you have in play. The massive draw potential enables strategies that would previously be considered inconsistent. Almost every top deck runs Zoroark with the exception of those explicitly built to counter it (Buzzwole & Lycanroc variants). It’s been combined with Gardevoir, Golisopod, Lycanroc and many others.

Even with no ability or with the ability but a worse attack, this Pokémon would have been playable. The combination of a solid attack and brilliant ability makes it probably the best card in the format at the moment in terms of it’s versatility.

Tapu Bulu – (Vikivolt/Bulu) Extremely consistent damage and setup with some built in resilience in the form of a healing GX attack. Probably the lower end of the top tier but one you have to be able to beat. Still suffers from ‘bulu hands’ and if it bricks for a turn a good opponent won’t let you recover.

Gardevoir – Still strong and  versatile in terms of the ability and the option to include the Zoroark-slaying Gallade. Has optional techs to improve consistency (Sylveon, Octillery) and hits for ‘bigger-numbers-that-you’ almost all of the time. However it is still beatable, being a stage 2 deck it can struggle to set up.

It looses to Buzzwole who can KO it’s bench before it can set up but is surprisingly alright against metal decks due to their reliance on a lot of energy. The main issue is that the deck can run out of steam. If the opponent is running Max Potion or Acerola the deck can flatline about 3/4 of the way into the round and struggle to recover momentum.

Before SM5 Tord Reklev used Zoroark and Gardevoir to great effect.

Golisopod Golisopod GX– relatively tough stage 1 that has several attack options. Most of the time it’s hitting for 120 for 1 Grass which is excellent value for energy. One option requires the deck built around supporting it but still has room for things like Garbodor and even promo Tapu Koko for free retreating shenanigans.

The other option is to run it as a secondary attacker – for example combined with Zoroark which did quite well in some of the first SM5+ Regionals (Malmó & Collinsville). OHKOing Lycanroc for G is extremely strong.

Lycanroc – The only card since last time to jump from ‘maybe as random tech’ to ‘archetype defining’! Bloodthirsty Eyes is a free Lysandre effect while the GX attack can punish an unaware opponent. This card has become hugely popular as a partner to Zoroark-GX as it also counters enemy Zoroarks. Weakness to grass lets Golisopod-GX OHKO it although you just have to avoid playing it in that case. Also seen partnered with Buzzwole. The other consideration is what Rockruff to use – the promo Rockruff can attack for 1 energy and so is worth considering.

Turtonator /Ho-Oh/Salazzle Ho Oh Gx Burning Shadows– A variety of the fire archetypes, usually includes some Volcanion-EX to help with the damage output. Turtonator vs Ho-Oh is more of a meta call, there’s almost no electric in the format (yet) but Ho-Oh does need 4 energy to properly attack compared to Turtonators 3, AND Ho-Oh can’t use the big attack next turn. Salazzle an option for late game KOs when you get down to your last couple of prizes and need to pull ahead.

The 99%:

3 Lele Expanded

It’s worth mentioning in an article about Viable Pokémon GX the most viable Pokémon in the format – Tapu Lele-GX

Almost all competitive decks have 2-4 (usually 3) copies of Tapu Lele-GX because it’s that good. Literally its only flaw is its’ 170HP. It has no weakness and an excellent retreat cost of 1.

The Power Drive attack only requires 1 DCE and in a format where a lot of energy is required it can really punish an opponent. Especially against things like Gardevoir GX or Fire decks. I have ‘donked’ several opponents who have played a 60hp Pokémon (eg Alolan Vulpix) attached an energy. My turn I attach a DCE and then hit for 60 for KO. Not a common occurrence, but still occasional enough that even starting with it isn’t the end of the world.

The Wonder Tag ability alone enables several strategies involving things like Kiawe for fire types or Bridgette for decks that require a rapid set up. As long as you have access to a Tapu Lele-GX (or the means to get one via an Ultra Ball for example) then you can get established quickly.

The only real downside is the financial cost, however this is beginning to drop as it’s hitting saturation point. Since it can be used in almost all of your decks it’s worth investing in a couple if you play  at all competitively.

 

Meta Monday – Ultra Prism Decks

I have to admit, I’m not nearly as hyped about Ultra Prism as I think a lot of people have been. It’s a bit like Crimson Invasion – a few good cards, one or two really great cards and then a lot of chaff. However with the 2 recent regionals it’s time for Speculation & Conjecture time!

The Ultra Prism Champ

Weavile Ultra PrismThe stand out card, judging from recent tournaments, has really been….. Weavile!

 

Case in point Evil Admonition stands in good stead against the dearth of Tapu Lele-GX, Zoroark-GX and others. Even with Garbotoxin, Pokémon still have abilities (even if they don’t do anything) so Evil Admonition still works!

Being in-type with Zoroark-GX only helps and running Dark energy might even give Zoroark a chance for a GX attack.

However the weakness to Fighting is still a liability in a Buzzwole heavy meta. That being said, it didn’t feature heavily, was more of a tech option in a 2-1 or 2-2 line along with Zoroark.

Ultra Prism Damp Squibs

Glaceon Ultra PrismGlaceon-GX – Much hype surrounded this Eevolution because of it’s ability to lock down the abilities of your opponents GX/EX Pokémon.

However it must be active for the ability to function. Couple this with a lacklustre 90+30 attack for WCC and a mediocre GX attack leaves you wanting more. Finally add in the weakness to Metal, which is only going to get more popular, and you can probably realise that Glaceon-GX is okay, it’s just not great.

Obvious Ultra Prism Decks

So here’s the ‘new’ decks that have emerged with the release of Ultra Prism. However none have been seriously featured in the 2 tournaments. This could be due to players being unwilling to try untested decks, or the fact that actually none of these are strictly better than existing proven archetypes.

Dusk Mane Necrozma-GX Ultra PrismMetal – Metagross-GX or Magnezone + Solgaleo Prism Star + Dusk Mane Necrozma

The Metal acceleration deck is a pretty obvious play given the hype that metal has had in this set. Yet since each variant runs Stage 2 Pokémon you’ll need to dedicate about 12 slots to it before generating a way to retrieve/attach the energy.

Also Dusk Mane Necrozma is making people have conniptions about Fairies, however the 220 (+choice) or GX on a Dusk Mane would knock out a Gardevoir-GX even without weakness so it really little to no difference! There’s also very few Pokémon with more than 220 HP anyway so it does seem like a strong play irrespective of the format. It’s just that it needs the correct support.

Right now it stands as a clunkier, less reliable version of VikaBulu that hits Gardevoir for weakness – although Dusk Mane Necrozma would OHKO most things anyway. Like VikaBulu, highly vulnerable to disruption or ability lock. It will get better with SM6 where the Supporter ‘Lady’ will let you search out 4 energy so I would say sit on this for the moment.

Cynthia Ultra PrismGarchomp / Lucario – This is essentially a theme deck – ‘Cynthia’s Champion‘ – but up-rated to include the proper amount of trainers, energy and so on.

The fundamental strategy is to use Cynthia, enabling Garchomp to hit for 200 (+choice band) and using Lucario’s ability to search out cards to keep up the momentum. That being said, it again is a stage 2 deck, needs 2 energy attachments and you must use Cynthia which means no Guzma or N to mess with your opponents plans.

At 150 HP it dies really easily though and then you have the problem of having to recycle a stage 2 Pokémon and recover the energy. Hopefully card advantage established by Lucario is so strong much advantage that they can keep sustaining indefinitely but the reality is that an unlucky set of prizes or not having puzzles of time or a special charge to get back energy can cause it to slip and fall hard.

Needless to say this didn’t make any top cuts because it just isn’t that good. The fighting version of Garchomp might make it a little better (Strong Energy, lack of Fairy weakness) but it will still suffer from being extremely obvious in it’s approach.

Empoleon Ultra Prism Empoleon/Zoroark – both exploit bench space to do damage.

Both Zoroark and Empoleon rely on the amount Pokémon in play to deal their damage. Zoroark-GX is 20x # of your Pokémon in play (so 6×20=120 without Sky Field) . Empoleon counts both your and your opponents benched Pokémon for a maximum of (20x(5+5)=200) 200 damage without Sky Field.

The main issue again is that Empoleon is a Stage 2, the weakness isn’t too big of a factor and 160HP is a fair amount for a non EX/GX Stage 2.

Empoleon is an interesting card, although might be better in Expanded via Archie’s Ace in the Hole and some Sky Field Shenanigans.

Other random decks might be Metagross with Dawn Wings Necrozma. Both of the Necrozma variants have great ‘catch up’ GX attacks with tie in with the cards like counter catcher and counter energy that are starting to see more play.

Concluding Thoughts on Ultra Prism

Recently, there’s been some Paw Patrols as well Zoroark with Gardevoir/Gallade doing the rounds but they’ve been played by some top players, in a developed meta. What’s been great in the SM4 Standard is that with each major competition the meta has evolved and changed but not massively. More recently we’ve had Buzzwole/Lycanroc, Buzzwole/Garbodor and Golisopod/Zoroark do quite well in Regionals.

Crimson Invasion and Ultra Prism honestly haven’t been the biggest sets in terms of shakeup. Aside from Tapu Lele-GX in SM2 and Gardevoir-GX in SM3, the biggest meta change has been Zoroark-GX in Shining Legends. In truth I wanted Ultra Prism to shake things up a bit more radically but I don’t feel that it really has. I am glad to see that the Prism Star mechanic will persist in the next set too unlike previous mechanics which only last for a set.

Buzzwole-GX
We still love you Superfly!

I still quite like Buzzwole and I think it is in a strong position despite not gaining much from Ultra Prism. It still punches face efficiently and you can get multiple KOs via the spread damage. The GX attack is also strong – it allows you to jump ahead quickly – 240 for 3 energy is good value.

Cynthia is also a good shout in a lot of decks instead of Sycamore, especially  for decks with Trade.  When you don’t necessarily want something now, but might want it later on it’s a better option than discarding. Games don’t really go on long enough to see much of Pal Pad although that might change if there’s going to be more 1-of Supporters as techs seeing play. Cynthia is a card that everyone will need a playset of so is probably the card of the set.

 

 

Cup Aftermath: Buzzwole ‘Superfly’ Thoughts

Tweaking ‘Superfly’Buzzwole-GX

Before last week where I came 2nd at a League Cup with Buzzwole,  I was half on the fence on whether or not to play (there was a waiting list so it could have been filled easily) and just to judge but in hindsight I’m really glad that I did play and do well! (#NotCrap!)

I will probably drop the Zygarde-EX as it has the same weakness as Lycanroc-GX and doesn’t particularly add anything novel aside from a lack of weakness to Psychic (but the same could be said of Lycanroc-GX)

The Regirock-EX is also a liability, has grass weakness and only adds +10 damage – the new Diancie Prism Star will grant +20 damage, yields only 1 prize and is still searchable by Brooklet Hill so simply just a much better replacement. Regirock just seems to take up space where an extra choice band would be more useful more of the time.

Information is still coming in from the 2 big regionals but there have been several Buzzwole/Lycanroc as well as a Buzzwole/Garbodor deck featured in top cuts.

Buzzwole’s Jet Punch is 30 damage base +30 Choice Band +20 Strong Energy = 80 damage, even with Regirock (+10) bringing it to 90, it doesn’t OHKO a  Zoroark-GX unless said Zoroark has been softened by an earlier Jet Punch – and with the prevalence of Zoroark in EVERY FORMAT it is worth considering, but I struggle to see the benefit of more than one Regirock, and especially struggle to see it’s value when facing non-Weak opponents with one exception.

The only real argument for Regirock-EX in the Buzzwole deck is that Jet Punch 30 + Strong Energy 20 + Regirock 10 = 60 which is enough to hit most of the basics involved in an evolutionary chain and to KO Tapu Koko promo too. Lycanrocks, Ralts, Remoraids, Bulbasaurs etc all get squished at 60 damage. The scarier things like Volcanion will survive but they would anyway so 10 damage is less of a factor.

That argument is only valid for a few months though, as once Diancie  hits I’m sure that Regirock-EX will not see play except for that one guy who will put both in a list.

For those non-literate in Japanese (myself included!) :

Diancie – HP: 120

Ability: Princess Veil, if this Pokémon is on the Bench, your Fighting Type Pokémon does 20 more damage to your opponent’s Active Pokémon.

[F][F][F] Diamond Rain  :90 damage – heal 30 damage from each of your Benched Pokémon.

Diancie will also help secure the Buzzwole deck archetype as one that is going to be supported and so worth being able to build! So my advice would be that in the meantime don’t run Zygarde-EX and think about Regirock-EX – it’s not a requirement but it can help round out numbers for early KOs which is where the deck excels, but I wouldn’t have more than 1 Regirock-EX in a deck.

Running Buzzwole

Anyway, apparently the deck (Deck List) is easy to pilot (thanks Reddit!) you attach energy and hit stuff which could really be said of most decks so isn’t exactly helpful advice.

The main advantage is that there are only two 2-2 evolution lines which are not essential to your Buzzwole being able to function efficiently, and that searching up Pokemon doesn’t require the resources to invest in finding and playing Brigette thus leaving you free to use Guzma or N early (Hi Tapu Bulu!). This makes the deck very streamlined and efficient.

Another aspect of Buzzwole is the ability to rapidly increase your tempo by attaching an energy to bench using max elixir, attach by hand, then guzma or floatstone so you now have a new Pokémon with 2 energy that literally had none on it the turn before. Or use the spicy Max elixir + Multi-switch to get that extra energy onto your active. Avoidance of over-committing is key I think.

Finally the mini-Guzma (or Lysandre effect) from Lycanroc-GX cannot be understated. It took me quite some time to get anywhere decent enough at using this. People will often target the Rockruff before you can evolve – which is fine because it means they’re not hitting the Buzzwole – but also means that it’s not easy to rely on several turns down the road. The ability to control what Pokémon is active is extremely strong, even with Guzma so prevalent in the format. The Rogue-GX attack on Lycanrock is  a 2 attachment attack usually doing between 150-250 damage and so is an effective way of hitting a knock out. Even with only 3 benched Pokémon, Choice Band, Regirock or Strong Energy can pump up 150 damage into 200 easily.

Additional Thoughts

I’m still concerned with the level of (dis)organisation in our community. I want things to be better and to encourage a greater community to grow in our area. I don’t want it to be defined by the current Pokémon League or any one other League that may emerge but rather by the calibre of player – and not just in terms of how many CP/how competitive they are, but by their character.

Thankfully after participating in a cup a lot of the more competitively minded local players have expressed interest in spreading their wings a bit and hitting some other Cups.  I’ll be heading to Eastbourne (approx 15 masters) in early April and hopefully Portsmouth too. Additionally I’m hoping that our friends over at Bag of Holding in Bournemouth will be running a cup of their own soon as well.

Southampton League Cup

Southampton League Cup

The venue for the League Cup was our local League’s Nerd World- Southampton’s only independent nerd store and first time running a Cup last Saturday, the 10th Feb. As usual, Ace Trainer Sarah did much better than me too!

There were 23 masters and 7 Juniors/Seniors too. Quite a few locals, some from Team PoTown and a couple of outsiders who had travelled quite far.

Buzzwole-GX
We Love You Superfly!

For my 3nd League Cup I was still running Buzzwole/Lycanroc (aka ‘Superfly’) with lessons learned from Reading – this time  the deck was more streamlined and included a one of Zygarde-EX to help against any Mew/Mewtwo/Mew-EX counter-tech’s that seemed highly popular. (You can grab a text file of the decklist here)

I brought Buzzwole because I didn’t have practice with anything else. Ace Trainer Sarah was also running the deck (I was using her list) since we both practice together and the only difference was that she had a Lillie and I had a Zygarde-EX – to counter against any sort of Mew/Mewtwo tech that crucified me at Reading.

Overall the list was similar to Reading except streamlined to be slightly more consistent version with less, crazy techs. The exception being Zygarde because I used to run a Zygarde/Lucario list before rotation and it so was a comfortable inclusion. The deck rotation with really aggressive very similarly played anyway so that’s what brought.

As before with very little Psychic in the format and quite a bit of Zoroark (who’s weak to Fighting) it is a good deck to run. Aggressive and relatively simple to handle. Having been violently ill most of this past week I didn’t get any testing done aside from a half-dozen games online (which went well) and I was almost considering not going to the event since I haven’t been sleeping well as a result of illness. However, in the end I decided to stick with it and I’m glad I did go – read on to find out why!

League Cup – Swiss Rounds

Round 1 – Volcanion (Jacob)

So we kicked off the first Southampton Pokémon League Cup on time. We got going and I was on T13 against a guy from Cardiff. Adjacent to me on T14 was Sarah against his friend who I’d seen at Reading – they travel quite a bit and were clearly competent players.

Game 1 – My opponent was playing Volcanion with no Kiawe. I got rapidly set up and took four prizes, then he caught up by a bit but then I hit into my Guzmas and managed to finished him off.

I used the usual sort of approach like pulling in targets with Lycanroc to get the KOs. The Max Elixir and Multi-Switch spicy tech is good for breaking up expectations in the tempo too.- Win

Game 2 – I managed to win the second game with time to spare which was good considering that the rounds were 45 minute best of 3 –Win

Round 2 – Zoroark/Lycanrock/Tech (Tyler)zoroark gx

This round was against Tyler who is a local, but new to our league. I haven’t played him before so was unaware of what he was running or quite how good he was until we started playing. Turns out he’s very good!

Game 1 – A Benchbarrier Mr Mime was among the first things found by Brigette but there was no Mewtwo – it was stuck in prizes! (And it turned out to be the last prize too!) Aside from the minor annoyance of Juggle Boy, the game went relatively smoothly and I was able to build on 4 early prizes to power up a buzzwole for a final KO – Win

Game 2 -Somehow, again, the Mewtwo was prized and wasn’t drawn during the game and it went similar to the first one. I was able to do my usual technique of rushing ahead but thankfully my deck is now consistent enough that I can then recover to claim the last prizes. – Win

Round 3 – VikaBulu (Craig)tapu bulu

Craig is another local who is quite good competitively. I have beaten him in a Volcanion Mirror to win a Challenge and similarly have been beaten by him in a Nightmarch Mirror for him to win! So I wasn’t going to be complacent in this League Cup!

Game 1 – I opened with an N to disrupt his hand while chipping away at a Bulu. Despite his attempts to set up I Leled for another N to keep the disruption going and was even able to take a cheeky KO on a benched Grubbin with Jet Punch. Having been beaten soundly by Bulu at Reading, and having studied and played it extensively I knew that the trick is to prevent their setup at any cost. By the time a Vikavolt was online I was just able to Rogue-GX the Bulu for game – Win

Game 2 – We had plenty of time left for game 2 and it started quite similarly although this time Craig had a curse of the dreaded ‘bulu-hands’. I’m not even use he got a Vikavolt online although he managed to attack with one which had gotten 3 manual energy attachments! His spicy baby Mew tech couldn’t really work without the energy from Vikavolt and his Tapu Koko was weak to Buzzwole meaning that I secured game 2, thanks in large part to his terrible luck – Win

During lunch, prior to Round 4 I had been approached by a random player (also on 3 wins, but as it turns out I wasn’t paired against him) who asked for an ID if we were to play and to be honest I would rather have played to ensure that there was no way someone could get 4 wins and out-score me. Although it would still mean Top 8 I guess. Either way my actual Round 4 opponent needed a win to Top 8 and I was keen to play so we cracked on!

Round 4 – Sylveon/Gardevoir (Tony)

This opponent was from Po Town, although I only vaguely recognised him but the day was getting on. He seemed nice and informed me that I had the favourable match up which I must admit I was skeptical of since I know how brutal Garde can be!

Game 1 – I unapologetically went for the Remoraids and made fish fingers out of them. I know that Garde needs to draw cards to get the energy and by sabotaging this early I would be able to win a war of attrition. Being able to hit the bench allowed me to soften up any Ralts/Kirlias before they evolved into Gardevoirs putting them in a OHKO range. He also had a spicy Mewtwo tech but it was prized in this game.- Win

Game 2 – Similar to the first although although much closer. He managed to get a couple of Gardes up and running, Mewtwo came out but Gallade was prized which didn’t help him and quite like the first and again I hunted the draw support. Although it got recycled his tempo was disrupted by my playing of N and my deck was just more consistently able to keep dishing out damage. When I got Lycanrock-GX online he played a clever Parallel City targeting himself to shrink his bench putting me out of OHKO range with Rogue-GX!  There was a point where he went Sycamore fishing for a DCE but with 2 in the discard and 1 on the field it didn’t happen. I N-ed away his DCE during time so avoided the OHKO on my Buzzwole – Win

The deck was regular Gardie and with no crazy techs so it was a case of just punch the little guys and keep knocking things out.

Of note was also the pair on table 1 beside us who IDed and one sat there literally studying my deck as I played it. It seemed a little gamey but on the other hand I was glad that I was considered a substantial threat!

Round 5 – ID

I don’t even know what my opponent was playing but we Intentionally Drew meaning that we each got a point, got into top 8 and more importantly got a 45 minute break. It was nice to get a break, taking paracetamol for a headache and get some food  to keep my sugar level sustained for the Top 8. Getting to use the loo was good too!

Swiss result: 4-0-1 (13) = #1 seed! I was quite happy with that result and to achieve my goal of making the Top 8 cut. Interestingly, my first 2 opponents also made top 8 as did Sarah (seed #7)

League Cup – Single Elimination

So I’d managed to make the Top 8 and hadn’t lost a round during the Swiss either 🙂

#1 – Buzzwole/Lycanroc (Me) vs #8 – Volcanion
#2 – Gardevoir vs #7 – Buzzwole/Lycanroc (Sarah)
#3 – Vika Bulu vs #6 – Vika Bulu
#4 – Gardevoir/Zoroark vs #5 – Zoroark/Lycanroc (Tyler)

Overall there was a good standard of skilled players present as well as a few ‘known names’ from around. (Although the biggest were probably abroad in Austraila!) Three locals making Top 8 was also pretty good showing that we didn’t get stomped.

The second games against my first two opponents were more difficult – they clearly learned more about my than I had learned about them and it was tougher although I guess I was confident since I’d already beaten them before.

Top 8  – Volcanion (again!)

Game 1/2 -I was paired against Volcanion again and hit no max elixirs and started to brick loosing game 1 relatively quickly. In game 2 I stupidly put down a Remoraid and meant to play a Rockfuff (to Lycanroc next turn) but my finger was off it (apparently that’s a thing, like in chess) However I drew into an Octillery which gave me the recover power I needed. Karma’s a bitch! -Loss/Win

Game 3 went to time and we couldn’t finish so with 1 win each, we went to Sudden Death. I had to take a 2 hit KO and take a risk – he needed 3 steam ups on his baby Volcanion and used Sycamore, only hitting 2. He possibly could have powered up a Volcanion-EX but I think he missed that option thankfully. It was the biggest gamble of the day but my only option to win so I had to take it.  Sudden Death is a bit scary as it can be highly luck dependant, however I felt that my hyper-aggressive deck had the edge here.

Top 4 – Zoroark/Lycanroc/Tech (again!!)Mewtwo Generations

Game 1 – This time Tyler had a mewtwo and it was one of the first pieces fetched by Brigette. It made my life difficult hitting for 120-ish damage while only yielding 1 prize for me. The problem was compounded by it being recycled with a Super Rod, however I managed to make the deck work consistently and take knockouts on his 1-of Buzzwole-GX and Lycanroc-GX. Certainly a lot tougher than the first time around! – Win

Game 2 -Again Mewtwo was back with a vengeance! We went to time with my Regirock just having being pulled out via Guzma. But with 1 prize to take, 11 cards in my deck -which I knew contained the 2 each of the Float Stone and Choice Band I needed to win – I evolved Lycanroc to pull in a Zoroark, Ultra-Balled for a Remoraid to get my deck down to 10 cards and then used Prof. Sycamore. Even my luck isn’t that bad so when I’m drawing 7/10 and only need a pair of cards I managed to retreat the Regirock and hit for weakness with a Choice Band on Lycanroc for game. A lot closer than the first set of games! – Win

This also meant I was onto the final!

Top 2 – 59 Card Mirror – Sarah

Buzzwole-GX

We sort of had a suspicion we’d have to face each other at some point in the day, but I don’t think either of us imagined it would be in the final playoff of the League Cup.

Beforehand we agreed to split the prizes (booster box + ETB = 22 boosters each, she got dice & I got sleeves) so would be playing for the 50CP, Playmat and the Glory! I did have a suspicion that Sarah’s deck tweak would prove superior in the mirror  and I know she’s practiced a lot more than me!

Since I was facing a friend at this point we didn’t really matter what happened – one of us would win and the other would still get 40CP and we were both really happy with hitting Top 8, let alone the final! Me especially since my abysmal Reading performances and I know Sarah was gutted to miss her ‘win & in’ last time.

So as mentioned Sarah and I had 59 card identical decks except my Zygarde-EX instead of her Lillie.

Game 1 – I started with Zygarde  and Sarah managed a turn 1 Lillie. I did play Brooklet Hill to increase the Zygarde damage and KO a Remoraid but it also helps my opponent prevent me donking them. However that extra Lilly consistency and my inability to find a single Guzma meant that Sarah took game 1.- Loss!

Game 2 – I started a lot better and Sarah’s deck basically bricked, I didn’t have a swimming start but managed to recover and get so far ahead that she scooped to get the full time in game 3 (none of us wanted sudden death!)- Win!

Game 3 – This game was obviously quite intense (in a good way) and my tempo was a bit behind my opponents.  The crux came when there was a point where I could have possibly used Rogue-GX for a KO but I didn’t because I would have been beaten next turn. So I focused on staying alive and used Guzma to buy time, but Sarah already had a counter-Guzma in hand as well as a back up attacker anyway. So with that she took the final KO and became the Southampton Cup Champion. I thus emerged 2nd with 40CP!

I am also thrilled to have been the top seed with 13 points and no losses. By contrast our Champion had 2 early draws and no losses which got her 7th seed.

I came away with 22 UPR boosters and the ETB sleeves which was good since I haven’t opened much UPR (7 packs from pre-release). Overall it was a tough day, a bit stressful at times and quite long – my timing/pace of play was good (lots of people’s games went to time, but most of mine didn’t).
I’m not half as disappointed at not winning (I hesitate to call winning all but one match loosing!) as I should probably be, but it’s easy to be happy at 2nd place when you know that it is a friend and extremely strong player who beat you. I knew that she’d play tested a lot more than I had and knew the deck a lot better than me so am really happy for my friend. Additionally I’d also been quite ill the preceding week and consequently had little opportunity for playtesting so was a bit surprised to do as well as I had done!

Organisationjudge

I’m sorry to say that could have been better. At times it was hard to hear the TO especially when things like Time was called. In addition the Seniors/Juniors were on the higher tables which were seated for adults, pushing adults down to the smaller chaired and more cramped tables.

In game 2 the constant warbling of 2 kids who kept interrupting my game and the games behind them caused me to call a judge to get them to shut up. I get that focus for kids is difficult, but don’t interrupt other peoples games because that’s just rude. In game 4 a local just walked in (which is fine) but again I’m in a game I don’t want people hovering near me when I’m trying to concentrate.

Lack of Match slips caused numerous re-pairs (3 or 4) and the reason given was that the shop didn’t want to waste paper which I think is a pretty pathetic excuse. I wouldn’t mind but I actually offered to bring a printer along or print blank match slips for the event before hand (since I already do the table numbers) so there was literally no excuse. Planning didn’t happen =(

I managed to convince the TO to print out the pairings so that he wouldn’t have to attempt to call out the pairings and have a load of people unsure as to where they needed to be. Printing them out and sticking them up proved to be the correct approach.

I’m biased towards the assistant judge since she’s my beloved but her judge calls on the day were correct, and despite subsequent discussion, still proved to be correct. She however has been put off from judging due to the event and the subsequent reactions of the TO. Her only mistake was mishearing a result which forced a repair and she was annoyed about it (and is now getting a hearing test as a result!). But if there were match slips it wouldn’t have been an issue in the first place. I don’t think it’s fair to force your assistant judges into positions where mistakes like this can happen when there are systems in place to prevent mistakes from happening. To further go and undermine them by then double checking everything they’ve already done, (while the TO has made 2 mis-pairs themselves) is means that there won’t be a second judge for the next League Cup. Additionally doing 9 hours of judging at a League Cup and giving up your Saturday to receive: a foil counter catcher.. doesn’t seem right.

The judge calls made on the day were accurate although the TO almost caused a double game loss by misinforming a Senior who was in time. The Senior asked if he could win the game since they were in time and was down a game and was told that he couldn’t and was about to scoop!! I took a risk to intervene and explain that if he won then they’d have won 1 each so the round would have been a draw.

23 masters and 7 kids meant that people had Byes, and with only 3 rounds for kids it meant that 3 of them only got 2 rounds. I would have ensured that there were even numbers (say 22/8) to allow for better pairing and more rounds.

Prizing was a bit odd, while I’m not complaining to have gotten the better end of the deal in some respects I think that they are heavily balanced towards 1st and 2nd place. I would rather spread out the boosters a bit more since the CP are the goal and ensure that everyone who made Top 8 got  at least something. With 7 Junior/Seniors 6 of them got prizes which again was odd.

However that all being said, this was the first League Cup and I hope that by cataloging these failings and addressing them at the next planning meeting that we can move forward and that the next one will be a lot better and more smoothly run. I hope that anyone who has opinions or feedback gives it as it’s very difficult to get the TO to change his mind about anything.

Cup Considerations

So in 2 weeks time we are hosting our first ever League Cup in Southampton Pokémon League. In a departure from our regularly scheduled madness, it is going to be in Standard format.

The last Standard event (barring pre-release on the 27th, where I was judging anyway) I attended was Reading League Cup. As you can see here, didn’t go too well!

There’s only 5 decks I’m considering unless something amazing comes out of the woodwork

1) Gardevoir-GX

 

Aka ‘Brokenvoir’ – Gardevoir with Max Potions. For some reason this has fallen out of favour despite no actual prevalence of metal in the format. However it does suffer from a lack of consistency, and an inability to hit for big numbers (Zoroark’s or Golisopod’s 210, even Buzzwole’s 190) without investing a lot of energy.

On the plus side it can have Gallade which greatly helps against the aforementioned Zoroarks and generally works by having a more efficient Energy:Damage ratio (1 energy for 30 damage is good, 1 energy for 30 damage + 30 for each of your opponents energy is much better). Additionally Gardevoir is resistant to Dark making Zoroark need a 3 hit KO without a Choice Band. There’s a lot of psychic tech too though which hurts Gallade

I find that the deck can stall out if you loose an overinvested Gardevoir and then fail to recover due to the lack of energy. It is not a deck I would like to play against, and due to the lack of meta prevalence, I’ve not really played against it a lot except at Bournemouth’s League Challenge.

2) Buzzwole-GXBuzzwole-GX

I want to like Superfly. 30+30 to the bench for Fighting Energy is pretty strong, but the Fighting EnergyFighting EnergyFighting Energy requirement for anything else hinders reliable escalation.  I don’t know if it needs mixing with Po Town, Tapu Koko Promo and Espeon-EX to run in a separate kind of spread deck, rather than the current partnership with Midnight Lycanroc-GX. Online and further afield some strong players do highly rate this deck but I’m not those players and I cannot necessarily replicate their success with this deck in a different meta.

Accordingly, I am going to test it out in the next few weeks and I really, really want it to work – I’m just not sure what to couple it with – Lycanroc is a liability to Golisopod and the deck rarely hits for max damage even when Bloodthirsty Eyes pulls in a victim to get those OHKOs. Garbotoxin might help shut down opponents, and Espeon-EX starts making it into a spread deck. Zoroark might make it a more efficient version of Pawpatrol (Fly-snapper?) although the energy types don’t really synergise.

3) Tapu Bulu-GXtapu bulu

My Po Town amigo Michael Feeney put me onto this deck well before Christmas and I have been trading for the parts to give myself the option. This has been around since the last rotation thanks to Vikavolt and is consistently able to hit for 120 base +60 (Discard Energy) +30 (Choice Band) +20 (Prof. Kukui) knocking out any format-relevant threat.

 

Having been beaten by it at Reading in round 4 and having faced against it early in the meta (Cat plays this deck) I know how vicious it can be. However it does suffer from bricking like any comb0-based deck, affectionately termed ‘Bulu hands’. The key with Michael’s variant is to improve consistency by having multiple outs via Skyla et al.

However I’m still not sure that anything is more consistent than TordPod (Zoroark / Golisopod with loads of trade and setup cards)

4) TordPodGolisopod GX

This deck rarely hits for more than 120 , but is extremely consistent and requires only 1 attachment to do 120 damage. 4 Brigette, 4 Puzzle of Time and lots of Trade abilities makes the deck highly efficient. A couple of hammers can hinder Paw-patrol or Buzzroc variants. The low energy investment allows for the option of Max Potions and techs like Mewtwo – as used by Joe Bernard (Omnipoke) to win both Cardiff and Reading League Cups.

 

Xurkitree GX5) Anti-Meta Troll Deck

With the exception of Bulu and Volcanion, every standard deck runs DCE, fighting decks have strong energy. Some run only DCE. To this end Xurkitree and Stardust Jirachi can cause severe problems. Couple with the fact that every deck except Greninja uses either EX or GX Pokémon too, baby Hoopa can indefinitely wall. Combine with hammers, team flare grunts, and other trolling cards, there’s probably a very Yoshi style deck that could do well if piloted by a capable player.

A part of me would like to make this deck but I don’t feel that I have the time needed to learn (or contempt for my fellow players) to play this deck well!

Conclusion

Unless something really goes crazy I’m probably going to look at TordPod or Bulu. Grass is a good matchup in terms of type advantage, although each has weakness (Pod to volcanion, Vikavolt and Zoroark to fighting). I need a deck that can carry most of the weight since I cannot rely on statistical outcome of things like elixirs or even finding energy.

Reading January League Cup

Reading League CupReading League Cup

As before the venue for the League Cup was Eclectic games – Readings one stop board game/nerd store and just like before, Ace Trainer Sarah did much better than me too!

There was approximately 50 masters and about 12 Juniors/Seniors too. Only one Po Towner but I saw some other players local to reading whom I recognised including a Southampton local. ( Jake – who has a YT channel and does streams – check it out/subscribe/stalk etc)

BuzzwoleGXFor my 2nd League Cup I was running Buzzwole/Lycanroc with 2 Parallel City and 2 Octillery. It should have good matchups against Zoro/Roc and reasonable match-ups against most things with Zoroark on a general level. It doesn’t have good match-ups against Golisopod or Bulu though. I didn’t get enough testing due to spending my Christmas time practicing Expanded for a League Challenge which turns out I was too ill to attend in the end!

As an aside, I am starting to get frustrated that our league is ‘Expanded’ despite the fact that no one brings competitive decks for Expanded. The greater accessibility argument is invalid since most of the cards are not in rotation or on sale in the store that hosts us and Expanded is a more complicated beast. /rant

My other option to play would have been Gardevoir which in hindsight would probably have been the smarter play. Oh well live and learn!

R1: Zoro/PodGolisopod GX

Kicking off this League Cup, I faced Joe (from Omnipoke) who was running ZoroPod on Table 26. Starting out I had to mulligan to begin with a Remoraid and needed to use Lele to get an N to try and get set up.  Then I tried to established a Buzzwole with Strong Energy and even managed to pull the Elixir + Multi Switch trick to get some knock outs.

However I made a couple of mistakes including forgetting to check my deck off an Ultra Ball although it really didn’t matter since, Joe’s formidable skills coupled with a razor sharp deck hitting Lycanroc for weakness meant that I lost Game 1, although it did take 5 prizes in game 1.

Game 2 went terribly for me; – this time there were Max Potions as well as a Mewtwo (EVO) which made short work of my Buzzwole. As it turns out Joe had recently won Cardiff’s League Cup and would go on to win this League Cup at the end although, obviously I didn’t know this at the time! He absolutely crucified my deck and I know Sarah played him later as well and did the same to her deck!

0-1-0

R2: Genesect/Venusaur/Lurantis-GX 

Game 2 was also on Table 26 so I didn’t have far to move. My opponent Jack was nervous and it didn’t help when I had to call a judge because he mulliganed without showing his hand. Thankfully the judge was OK with it and we proceeded.

I opened with a Buzzwole-GX and was able to take simultaneous KOs on a Formantis and a Bulbasaur, preventing the deck from setting up.

Game 2 saw both Venusaur’s being prized so despite starting with Remoraid I was able to get established and take the critical knockouts on Pheremosa and Lurantis-GX to win.

1-1-0

R3: Xerneas BREAK

XerneasWith a win I managed to move up in the League Cup world to Table 18 and faced Harvey from Sheffield running Xerneas BREAK. My deck packed parallel cities which didn’t make an appearance in game one. I managed to rush ahead but struggled to take the last prize. None of my Max Elixirs had hit either which was highly frustrating since I had only seen literally two energy cards.

Game two was no better, I managed to attach a whole four out of thirteen energy, no parallel city, no octillery. In short my deck bricked and yet despite this I again got down to 1 prize, needing my opponent to whiff one of his max elixirs – of course he didn’t and I lost game two.

My opponent was lovely, but I was feeling quite despondent at this point and losing by 1 prize is the same as losing by 6!

1-2-0

R4: Bulu/Vikavolttapu bulu

My Round 4 opponent was William running Tapu-Bulu and we were relegated to table 25. He managed to get set up rapidly and KO while powering up his benched Bulu’s put me in a loose/loose situation. I could have pulled ahead by taking a KO but despite 3 Choice Bands in deck I didn’t manage to fish one out and lost.

Game two was almost pointless. I started with a Regirock-GX and no outs (Lele, Sycamore, N or Ultra Ball) – it took 3 turns before I could get a Buzzwole into active by which point William had 2 Tapu Bulu’s powered up and I couldn’t survive them both.

To compound the issue I literally saw three energy all game which made me feel rather annoyed because despite playing well, my deck didn’t pull it’s weight.

1-3-0

R5: Zoro/RocZoroarkGX

Round 5 pitted me against Adrian running Zoroark/Lycanroc and lo and behold we were on table 25! I didn’t really have to move much during this League Cup! He went first and only had a Zorua, I managed to deploy a Buzzwole and donked it to cheekily take game 1.

Game 2 was more evenly matched and partially due to the fact that I saw a whole five energy I lost, although I had taken 4 prizes.

Game 3 saw me start with Remoraid, which I Guzma-ed to Buzzwole which was then Guzma-ed back to Remoraid in an attempt to buy time. This time the deck worked as intended, and although I didn’t get Octillery out I managed to pull ahead and we went to time with Adrian being Turn 0. I was holding a Lele for my last Guzma which I knew was in deck and despite trying to retreat and change around I determined that I was safe. He did 150 damage with Lycanroc, failing to find a Choice Band which still wouldn’t have KOed the Buzzwole. In my turn I drew the Guzma and pulled in the damaged Zoroark and my own Float Stoned Regirock to switch back to Buzzwole and KO Zoroark for a match win.

2-3-0

R6: Greninja // Turbo-GuzzlordShadow Stitching

My opponent for round 6 (Bolly) decided to drop/concede, so at the start of the round we handed in the slip for table 17. I know he was playing Greninja which I feel would have been relatively favourable for my deck. More importantly Ace Trainer Sarah, was playing her Win & In round so I was prepared to wait and cheer on if she’d gotten into top cut.

While I waited, Jake (EagleEye1995)’s opponent had also dropped so we had a friendly game. He was running a unique Turbo-Guzzlord deck featuring Dragonair, however I managed to beat it twice thanks to weakness. It emerged that despite a close game Sarah was defeated and so didn’t make Top Cut. With that the three of us headed back to Hampshire.

Final Standings: 3-3-0 24th (9 points)
Post Cup Analysis
Buzzwole-GX
It’s OK Super-Fly, I still like you!

Sarah had a 58/60 card similar deck, and faced 3 of the same opponents as me, beating Bulu, drawing with Xerneas and loosing to Zoro/Pod, so unsurprisingly she did a lot better and is a stronger player than me. It was great to see a friend do really well and almost taste that Top Cut!

The frustrations: the Bulu and Xerneas games were pretty tough in terms of deck performance. The lack of elixir hits or ability to draw energy from a deck that’s over 20% energy was quite irritating.  In the 2 games where the deck worked 1 didn’t matter (meme-tier Venusaur) although the other was a solid and fair win. The slow start ruined me against Bulu, Zoro/Pod generally beats the deck, especially with Mew/Mewtwo and the Xerneas  game was extremely close each time. Frustraitingly so.

My primary excuse is still that locally we don’t have a competitive meta. We’ve had good players but they’ve gone afar and locals don’t turn up to the casual events so finding good players to test against is difficult. It’s starting to annoy me since it limits the opportunities for testing and practice. There’s still PTCGO which is a godsend. It does seem that I haven’t managed to practice or change my list the night before the cup due to nerves (Thanks Anxiety!) But the next cup is on home turf and I now have time to prepare.

I wanted to do better than last time, and I just about managed that going from 9 to 10 points, even if one was a bye/concession. (That being said there was a guy with a theme deck who got a bye and then his opponent didn’t show so that could be someone in round 3 with max points…playing a theme deck…). I should probably be more grateful for that fact! The next goal is 3 wins + a draw (10 points) or better.

That being said I would have obviously preferred to do better than I managed and I feel most annoyed about losing to Xerneas BREAK despite having 2 Parallel City in my deck. I feel that my deck wasn’t massively consistent and is relatively fragile/prone to bricking. More draw support outside of 2-2 Octillery is needed.  Out of the 11 games I’d played there were at least 4 where I drew 4 or fewer energys despite the 13 in the deck and using Max Elixirs which is insane. Factor in the fact that I drew prizes meant that it wasn’t a shuffling ‘glitch’ or prizing fluke.

I am going to keep tinkering with it as I don’t want to just jump onto the Zoro/Pod bandwagon. I can beat Zoro/Pod with Gardevoir so I’d prefer to play that instead if I can’t get Buzzwole to work.

Next Steps

My next tournament is our Local Leagues Cup in a couple of weeks. Although Ultra Prism will be pre-released it will not be legal for the Standard format. This means that the format.

I’m planning on bringing the either Gardevoir or else a tweaked version of the Buzzwole deck. However now that I’m not sick I’m going to be playtesting the life out of my options!

Ultra Prism SM5 – Top 10 to Watch

 Ultra Prism SM5

So the next Sun & Moon set – SM5 Ultra Prism – is in pre-release next weekend. There is major hype surrounding the eponymous Prism Star cards themselves. Here’s the specific rule in question:

You can’t have more than 1   (Prism Star) card with the same name in your deck. If a  card would go to the discard pile, put it in the Lost Zone instead. 

And for reference the Lost Zone rules are:

The Lost Zone is an area considered to be a more advanced form of the Discard Pile. Unlike cards in the Discard Pile, cards moved to the Lost Zone are kept face-up and are considered to be “outside” the Play Area due to the fact they are not kept on the playmat if one is used. As such, cards moved to the Lost Zone are no longer considered to be in play, and cannot be retrieved at any time, or by any means during gameplay.

That being said, in my top 10 list I’ve only included two Ultra Prism Star  cards. While interesting I’ve found most of them underwhelming. The Ultra Prism Pokémon mostly have abilities which can be shut off by Garbotoxin or similar locks. Additionally you’re only allowed one of any given Prism Star  Card in any given deck which reduces consistency and most of them aren’t particularly extra-strong or broken to warrant such restrictions. That being said, I do hope that it is a mechanic they carry forward, unlike say the Steam Siege dual-types, because it might allow for some more interesting mechanics and some strategic decisions moving forward.

Anyway without further ado here’s some of my top picks from the new Ultra Prism set – first up is the breakout card – Magnetic Circuit Magnezone.

#1 – Magnezones

Ability: Magnetic Circuit
As often as you like during your turn (before your attack), you may attach a [L] Energy from your hand to 1 of your Pokemon.

This has been highly hyped and for good reason – potentially unlimited energy acceleration in a nice stage 2 package. Because there’s two types it allows for twice as much potential carnage! The Lightning version could easily power up a Raichu-GX or even Xurkitree-GX deck. There’s also a Alolan Dugtrio in the new set that discards energy to deal damage, along with a stadium that enables recycling of Metal energy. So in short there’s a LOT of Metal support in this new set.

 

#2 – Dusk Mane Necrozma GX

[Ultra Beast]
[C][C][C] – 60
[M][M][M][C] – 220 discard 3 energy from this Pokémon
[M][M][M] GX – 250 only if you have more prize cards left

Weakness: Fire, Resist: Psychic, Retreat: 3

The main thing to note about Dusk Mane Necrozma is that it’s a bulky Metal basic and not a Prism Star  Card! It does need a lot of energy in order to attack so might give a lease of life to Metagross-GX or of course the above Magnezone. However all is not lost since Metal is getting a massive boost with this set and it should fit in nicely with the overall metal theme to put the final nails in the Gardevoir-GX coffin. While a mediocre card in and of itself, I’ve put it as #2 to show how the game is shifting to bigger, bulkier basics with expensive attacks.

 

#3 – Dialga GX

[M] – draw upto 6 cards
[M][C][C] – Shred 80 / not affected by effects on opponents’ Pokémon
[M][M][M][C][C] Timeless-GX 150 / Take an extra turn after this one!

So this is one of the more interesting GX Pokémon that we are getting in this set, most notably the GX attack that lets you take an extra turn. Granted it requires 5 energy (although again Metagross-GX or the new Magnezone can help to alleviate this).

It really makes the value of a GX attack interesting since we don’t really have a lot of ‘ex-meta’ type abilities that can manipulate the actual flow of the game state in such a dramatic manner. I hope that this might signal a new shift in some interesting abilities which allow for more strategic decisions to be made and break the often obvious BDIF style metagame that we’re stuck with at the moment.

#4 – Leafeon GX

This one has been translated, so I’ll save typing out the breakdown. The key point is the Grand Bloom GX attack is essentially a Wally for all of your Pokémon in play. It only costs [G] and since that same energy can evolve your Eevee, you could use this to help setup a Decidueye-GX deck or even Golisopod-GX or Lurantis decks in your turn one. This one has the potential to be metachanging by itself so keep an eye on this one.

 

#5 – Glaceon GX

Again has been translated (thanks internet!) although unlike Leafeon-GX, we’re looking at the Freezing Gaze ability instead of the GX attack. Essentially while your Glaceon-GX is active it shuts off your opponents EX & GX Pokémons’ abilities. Again you could start with an Eevee and attach a [W] energy to evolve and shut down your opponent’s ability to use cards such as Tapu Lele-GX. The main attack is similar to Umbreon-GX and arguably overcosted. The GX attack complements the spread-damage type effect any synergises with other spread abilities such as Decidueye-GX or Tapu-Koko too. Of course the weakness to Metal is a liability given the forecasted rise of metal but you’re probably not going to play this for it’s bulk, just it’s shut down ability.

#6 – Cynthia

N’s yourself for 6, also required for the Garchomp/Lucario deck – which will be a thing, even if it’s just to be a rogue counter-meta deck. If nothing else Cynthia will replace N and Sycamore once they rotate out of standard since it’s a highly reliable means of non-discarding draw support. While Shauna is considered too weak to be worth playing, Cynthia hits the sweet spot of being useful enough that it can be justified.

Additionally she synergises with the new Garchomp who for [F][C][C] can do 200 damage. There will totally be a deck built around getting out Garchomp and the supporting Lucario with Cynthia for support. The main issue will be recycling the Garchomps since it’s quite fragile as well as getting the 2 attachments required to be able to attack. So it can fall behind, however it is a budget competitor that can catch people unaware.

 

#7 – Cyrus 

This is one of my 2 Ultra Prism Star  Cards on the list. In my view most of them are heavily situational and because you can only have 1 in a deck aren’t consistent enough. However their impact can be strong enough in the right deck to justify their inclusion.

Cyrus’ effect: This card can only be played if your Active Pokémon is a [W]or [M]
Your opponent shuffles their Benched Pokémon and all cards attached to them into their deck until they have 2 Pokémon on their Bench. (And of course the usual Ultra Prism Star  Card restrictions & conditions)

As you can see this is quite a disrupting card – combined with something like Sylveon’s Plea-GX attack or followed by a Parallel City it could really ruin your opponents day. Ideally you’d need a deck dedicated to disruption featuring either Water or Metal Pokémon and of course since you only have 1 Cyrus it can be hard to plan around – although you can still of course fetch it with Tapu Lele-GX etc. It has the potential to be devastating, although again a 1-of means there will be times that it’s prized and there’s a condition so it will only see play in decks with Water or Metal Pokémon – thankfully there’s at least one viable Water Deck (Greninja) and several Metal options forthcoming.

Even if Water or Metal decks aren’t built around disruption it is a card that could be worth including just for the sheer amount of disruption it can cause for a card space.

#8 – Pal Pad 

Just shuffles 2 supports from your discard pile into your deck. It’s a VS Seeker 2.0 (well not quite!) but will be heavily played thanks to the variety of supporters. Also especially more relevant after rotation when we loose N and Sycamore. Finally it enables the Garchomp/Cynthia/Lucario deck to function smoothly and allows for inclusion of thinner supporter lines in other decks.

#9 – Super Boost Energy 

Effect: This card provides [C] Energy.
While this card is attached to a Stage 2 Pokémon, it provides every type of Energy but provides only 1 Energy at a time. If you have 3 or more Stage 2 Pokémon in play, it provides every type of Energy but provides 4 Energy at a time.

 

This sounds confusing at first, but basically it’s a Rainbow Energy for Stage 2 Pokémon. If you have 3+ Stage 2s then it gives FOUR of each energy. It’s highly situational of course, and you can only have one (bye-bye consistency!) but is potentially archetype-making.

In the Garchomp deck for example, you’ll likely have multiple stage 2 Pokémon and Lucario gives you a way to find this specific card. It could also fit into decks like Decidueye. In short almost any Stage-2 deck can benefit from this card which is why I’ve included it. At worst a Rainbow Energy for no damage cost is still a good card.

#10- (Wash) Rotom 

Ability: Rotomotor -If there are 9 or more Pokémon Tool cards in your discard pile, ignore all Energy necessary to use this Pokémon’s attacks.

[W][C][C] Wash Arrow –
This attack does 50 damage to 1 of your opponent’s Pokémon. (Don’t apply Weakness and Resistance for Benched Pokémon.)

I’ve included Wash Rotom, but this is to cover all Rotoms – they all have the ‘Rotomotor‘ ability which makes their attacks free. There’s Frost, Ice, Mow and Heat Rotoms too. A whole deck centred around milling out your junk tools to enable a toolbox of Rotom types is bound to emerge too.

 Conclusion 

The Ultra Prism set looking to be good. Nowhere as broken as Guardians Rising or as impactful as Zoroark-GX has been on the meta, but it is definitely posed to shake things up which is long overdue. Crimson invasion didn’t really add anything too radical outside of Buzzwole-GX. There’s also some gems for use in Expanded – which is where I think that most of the Ultra Prism Star  Cards will find their niche in decks that can focus on exploiting their abilities. This would also tie in with the TPCI’s current attempt to push the Expanded format.  We can safely say that several new deck archetypes will emerge and I think that overall there will be a more diverse and healthy meta moving forward.