So, if you weren’t aware, this past weekend before the Christmas holidays there was a rather large Pokémon TCG tournament in Memphis. It attracted a lot of big names and there were some astoundingly high quality decks operated by equally skilled players. It could be argued that the US Pokémon TCG meta is more challenging than the European one. This is evidenced by the fact that despite no major expansion releases since the last European tournament, the metagame managed to sufficiently advance so that we saw some new decks breaking ahead by clear margins. (US vs EU meta is a topic for another time though!)
If you want the standings (as well as decklists) you can find them on the excellent Limitless TCG website. However I’ve (rather arbitrarily) taken the top 32 seeded decks and plugged the numbers into Excel to make it a bit more visually digestible.
Just a disclaimer – insightful statistical analysis isn’t really my forte so there’s no massive revelations here, it’s just some numbers and pretty charts to make things more accessible and hopefully provoke some thought with a little discussion of a couple of Rogue decks.
Naturally the decks aren’t 100% identical but I have grouped them by archetype which is usually taken to be the main 2 or 3 Pokémon types that underscore the deck.
As you can see Zoroark/Lycanroc dominated the event taking more than a third (37.5%) of the meta. Unsurprisingly this was also the archetype skillfully used by Michael Paramawat (#PramNorris!) to achieve first place in the tournament.
Zoroark-GX and Lycanroc-GX certainly were the most represented Pokémon across all of the Top 32 decks with a smattering of Golisopod-GX, Buzzwole-GX and others showing up to keep the mix interesting.
So while 37.5% (12) of all deck archetypes were Zoroark/Lycanroc, even more decks -75% (24)- contained either one of them in conjunction with other Pokémon. Leaving only a quarter (8) of Top 32 decks not running either Zoroark-GX or Lycanroc-GX. All but 2 of these 8 were established archetypes – namely Golisopod/Garbotoxin, Gardevoir, VikiBulu and Volcanion leaving us with 2 anomalies.
The Pair of Rogues
You can’t have a metagame article without paying homage to the Rogue decks of the event. Rogue Decks are the ones that people don’t see coming or don’t give much weight to. A well chosen Rogue Deck can take the Meta by surprise since not many people account for it or know how to play against it. For Memphis 2017 these were placed in 10th and 11th. I have to state that I’m glad to support a game where even fun decks can be viable and going ‘off-meta’ is a legitimate option.
Firstly in 10th place was Harrison Grandish with his Shining Legends inspired Genesect/Venusaur deck. Essentially Venusaur makes your [G] energy twice as effective powering up Shining Genesect’s Gaia Blaster attack. While I’ve heard people speak of this combination the difficulty in acquiring Shining Genesects seems to be a major barrier in people actually testing it out. However Grandish proved that this archetype actually is viable and so I expect that this will mean that interested players will invest in the cards to make this built in the near future.
Secondly, in 11th place overall was Yehoshua ‘Yoshi’ Tate with a unique Wishiwashi-GX/Hoopa/Xurkitree-GX deck. Essentially the deck functions by either absorbing hits on high HP Pokémon, such as Wishiwashi-GX or Celesteela-GX and then using Max Potion to heal, or by preventing attacks with Pokémon such as Hoopa or Xurkitree. While the opponent’s attacks are being prevented or largely ignored, the deck also seeks to discard energy and cards from the opponent’s deck via cards such as Team Rockets Handiwork. Unfortunately there isn’t a decklist available at the time of writing but hopefully soon, because I really want to try it out! I was fortunate enough to be able to watch it played on Twitch where it lost to Paramawat – but was still really great to watch.
So as promised this isn’t massively insightful mainly because I haven’t really sat down and done solid testing with any of these decks yet. I’d rather be able to give an informed opinion instead of baseless conjecture and I’m not confident enough to predict the meta ahead of a competition. In todays’ world of FOMO and clickbait style articles I’ll just have to take my time and develop proper, informed opinions based on playtesting and experience instead!
Finally if you’re interested in reading about getting better or building a community I’ve also written a couple of articles for The Dark Patch which you can find here. I’m sure they’d love the readers and I hope that you enjoy them.
Following on from my previous post about viable EX & GX Pokémon in the game, I’ve gotten around to reviewing the GX Pokémon in Shining Legends (SLG) and Crimson Invasion (CRI).
It’s no secret that GX Pokémon have shaken up the game – almost every serious deck features some kind of GX (in addition to Tapu Lele-GX). Even if only as a one-of tech or just for a GX attack. So let’s review those GX Pokémon from the latest 2 sets to have entered the metagame.
This ‘bonus’ set sees 4 different GX Pokémon over several prints including the elusive ‘Tube Mewtwo’ Secret Rare – Possibly the most beautiful card in my collection.
Entei-GX – Probably the least viable GX from SLG, Entei pales in comparison to other popular fire Pokémon such as Turtonator-GX or Ho-Oh-GX. That being said while everyone is focused on the amount of support Metal is getting from Ultra Prism, few have noticed that fire is getting a fair bit of support too with buffs to conditions from Infernape and Salazzle. However until such a time as fire rises to combat the oncoming metal onslaught, Entei remains the least useful of the SLG GXs.
Mewtwo-GX– I’ve faced off against this in an energy acceleration deck and, although the attack is similar to Gardevoir-GX, it only counts your energy and is on a 190HP platform. With no innate ability to accelerate energy, a lacklustre second attack and a mediocre GX attack means that Mewtwo-GX plays second fiddle to the old Scatter Shot (BKT 62).
That all being said, with the SLG Mew, some Max Elixirs and the right combination of support, this GX could make some impression. Although I just don’t think it is strong enough in the current metagame to warranty all of the hassle that would be needed to run it effectively.
Raichu-GX – Similar to Mewtwo-GX above, I have faced this in a Standard energy acceleration deck seeking to exploit the Powerful Spark attack. It is similar to Delphox’s Psystorm (FCO 13) whereby more energy across all your Pokémon means more damage. A respectable 210HP and low retreat make this not a bad Pokémon per se but the lack of general Lightning-type support is what holds it back at the moment. Watch out for the Lycanroc and Buzzwole weakness but also the Metal resistance – especially when facing off against Registeel.
Zoroark-GX – Aside from Tapu Lele-GX this card is probably the best card in the format right now. Reasonable 210HP, Psychic resistance, and an extremely efficient attack makes this a good Pokémon, even taking the typical Fighting type weakness into account. What makes it a great card however, is its Trade ability – you can discard a card to draw two new ones. This has meant that since it’s release Zoroark-GX has seen play in the winning London 2017 regionals as well as San Jose 2017’s Expanded tournament with all 4 of the top decks running it – 3 of them Night March. Although the cost of the card is quite high, it is thankfully available as a full art promo in a special collection box that comes with 5 Shining Legends boosters. The sheer utility of the card means that it is probably one of the best value boxed sets at the moment.
The October 2017 set saw 4 ‘regular’ Pokémon GX as well as all of the Ultra Beasts printed as special kinds of Pokémon GX.
Garaydos-GX -Another fan favourite, sporting 240HP despite being only a stage 1 to start with and keeping hope alive with a quite disruptive GX attack that discards an Energy from each of your opponents Pokémon – for only [W]!
However high retreat costs and arguably over-costed attacks mean that so far this monster hasn’t really managed to define any decks to date.
Alolan Golem-GX -Another bulky GX with similarities to Gyarados-GX, high retreat and attack costs, plus a generalised lack of Lightning support again means that no decks featuring this Electric rock have really been seen doing well.
The most interesting feature is the GX attack at 100 damage for [L][L][C][C] but also prevents your opponents playing any cards next turn. In the right kind of deck – perhaps in the future with Lightning support – there might be some hope but until then it’s one for the folder only.
Alolan Exeggutor-GX – A new fan favourite, mostly due to sheer derpyness, Alolan Exeggutor is a Dragon type that only requires grass energy (Most Dragon types require 2 different kinds of energy, or indeed Double Dragon Energy)
20 damage per energy, even one that can choose a target isn’t exactly the best, not is 120+confusion for 4 energy. Low hitpoints and a weakness to the prevalent fairy relegates this into meme deck territory.
Silvally-GX -The star of the set! The designated Beast Killer accelerates energy while providing free retreat for any basic Pokémon you might have. It also has the ability to change it’s type based on various ‘memory’ tools. So far we have Fighting and Psychic with Electric and Fire arriving in Ultra Prism.
At present it seems that the most difficult part of running Silvally is finding the Type:Null that it evolves from! Thankfully there is now a Silvally-GX box which includes both and some boosters for a reasonable price, which eliminates the issue!
In terms of performance, a deck combining this Pokémon with Steel managed to place highly at London 2017 Regionals as a dedicated ‘anti-meta’ deck. By having a solution to every expected Pokémon type it was able to forge ahead becoming the #2 seed after day 1. However regardless of type, Silvally is weak to fighting and only has 210HP so is relatively fragile in a meta with Lycanroc-GX, Buzzwole-GX and (ironically) Silvally-GX with Fighting Memory.
All Ultra Beasts are Basic Pokémon-GX. However to distinguish them from regular Pokémon-GX their ‘GX’ is highlighted in red (see right). Additionally they also all have the ‘Ultra Beast’ label below their HP which allows for future interactions and support. Ultra Prism features a ‘Beast Ball’ which allows you to retrieve an Ultra Beast from your Prize cards. I would have preferred a search effect (perhaps similar to an Ultra Ball but discarding only 1 card?) but this is what we’ve got.
Kartana-GX – Although this comes with a built in Enhanced Hammer effect, its low HP and Fire weakness can make it a 2 prize liability. Thankfully its attack allows it to shuffle back into your deck enabling you to re-use the Slice Off ability.
It’s Blade GX attack simply lets you take a prize which if your opponent is making you play for 7 Prizes could just swing the game right at the end for only [M].
Buzzwole-GX -Possibly the most used of all the Ultra Beasts at the moment, Buzzwole fits in decks as support for Fighting types with Jet Punch hitting the active and a benched Pokémon for 30 damage.
Decent 190 HP for a basic are only let down by a weakness to Psychic types, however Trashalanche decks are waning in popularity so it may not be a massive liability.
Nihilego-GX -Not seeing a lot of play for its attacks which at [P][P][P] are on the prohibitive side, however the Empty Light ability can leave both active Pokémon Poisoned & Confused which synergises well with Chaos Tower.
180HP is solid for a support type Pokémon and the only real drawback is the retreat cost. It certainly is a support Pokémon and needs a deck building around it to get the best of its abilities and attacks.
Guzzlord-GX -Much hyped when the card was spoilered mainly due to the massive energy costs for its attacks as well as the high bulk of 210HP on a basic. However even with Eat Sloppily you need to be careful because of the high energy investment required.
Jokes about ‘4 Guzzlord & 56 Energy’ have been bandied around, however even the almost guaranteed 180 damage after an Eat Sloppily isn’t necessarily enough to defeat a more well rounded and balanced deck that has access to Guzma or other field control effects.
Guzzlord is certainly an interesting card, and a fun one at that, however outside of a dedicated deck the costs are prohibitive and even when facilitated the card itself is inflexible, 180 for 5 energy is simply too high of a cost.
These next 3 Ultra Beasts are available only in Special Collection boxes, however we do expect them as Secret Rares / Full Arts in the Ultra Prism set in a manner similar to how Tapu Bulu-GX and Tapu Koko-GX were available first as Box promos and then as Full Art rares.
Pheremosa-GX – Although the attacks are efficiently costed they still have relatively low damage ceilings meaning that this Ultra Beast is outclassed by other Pokémon in the Grass type such as Golisopod-GX.
The weakness to Fire can hurt especially with the relatively low 170HP making this Pokémon more suitable for late game revenge killing via Beauty GX which is essentially the inverse of Salazzle-GX. This attack deals 50 damage per prize card your opponent has taken. Meaning that for only [G][G] you could potentially deal end up dealing 250 damage!
Xurkitree-GX – The magic christmas tree Pokémon! I quite like it’s design and wish that I could find more use for them. The two main selling points are the Flashing Head ability which walls anything that has special energy attached – and with 7 out of the top 8 London 2017 decks running special energy it’s a good ability. Rumbling wires is poorly costed at [L][L][C], even [L][C][C] would have made it just slightly more playable – 100 damage and discarding a card makes it more useful in a Stall or Mill style deck.
The Lightning GX attack also ties into this theme by allowing you to put a card from your opponent’s hand into their prizes. As with Raichu-GX, the lack of explicit Lightning support prevents it from being a top choice but I remain hopeful that future support will see more Xurkitree love!
Celesteela-GX – The secret star of the show! I know I harp on about London 2017 Regionals but it was a high tier tournament with lots of interesting deck concepts. No more so than the #2 seed Silvally/Metal ‘Anti-Meta’ deck. In addition many other decks teched in Celesteela-GX to counter the high volume of Gardevoir-GX decks.
With [M]+DCE+Choice Band/another attachment Celesteela-GX can take out a Gardevoir-GX. Additionally the Blaster-GX attack lets you forecast your prizes in addition to dealing a fair amount of damage. The bulky 200HP coupled with an atypical Weakness to Lightning makes this Pokémon a solid play. When combined with Silvally-GX the high retreat cost isn’t an issue and the [F] resistance helps against the odd Lycanroc-GX or Buzzwole-GX you might run unto.
While I love the zaniness of Xurkitree and it’s supported strategy, my favourite of these new sets has certainly been Celesteela-GX. With the dearth of Metal support coming in Ultra Prism it’s a safe card to pick up and know that you’ll get a lot of use from.
Today I’m going to look at Viable Pokémon EX and GX in the Standard format. Expanded has several gems that shine but they are usually quite niche within their own deck types.
This post idea was partially inspired by a reddit post on r/pkmntcg.
Crimson Invasion and Shining Legends aren’t really discussed since there has not been any major events where they’ve both been legal yet! The next big event will be Internationals at London (which I’m unable to go to this year 🙁 ) When I next do an article on Viable Pokémon it will include these and probably the next set!
Anyway, without further ado –
Viable Pokémon EX:
As per the heading, viable pokemon that are EXs 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.
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.
Kommo-o is possibly the only ‘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.
Charizard, 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 – 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. Update: I did end up facing one at our League Challenge which was interesting. Weakness to Fairy does hurt though!
Random off-meta/rogue Pokémon-GX:
These are Pokémon-GX that are not terrible, or only feature as an option in some main decks, or feature as a counter to certain other decks.
Wishiwashi, Marshadow – they may have a use but are better in expanded decks where they can be a little bit more viable.
Raichu – People are trying to make it work and it is a Stage 1 compared to Gardevoir-GX being a stage 2. (Also early days since it is from Shining Legends.)
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 Darkrai deck, also works in expanded.
Lapras – Can be the centre of a deck based on water toolbox, stall/wall or other variants.
Solgaleo – not in the ‘never’ pile because it counters Gardevoir and has a decent ability and GX attack. Still quite niche, paired with Metagross. The new one in January will be the killer.
Lycanroc – the literal rogue deck, bloodthirsty eyes is a free Lysandre effect while the GX attack can punish an unaware opponent. Combine with Regirock-EX for much lolz! This card has become popular as a partner with Zoroark-GX as it also counters enemy Zoroarks.
Vikivolt – can be included in Vikivolt/Bulu as a backup attacker.
Thoroughly Viable Pokémon that are included in some deck types as a 1 or 2 count or as a secondary attacker in competitive decks.
Tapu Fini – 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– 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 fallen out of favour at the moment.
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!
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!)
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!
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.
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.
Gardevoir– Arguably the best deck in format at the moment. 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 and not an easy deck to ‘pilot’ requiring skill to use effectively. I’ve tried testing it many times and I still lose because I’m not very good at using it yet! Update: I managed to go 4-0-0 at a league Challenge with this on 11/11/17
Golisopod– 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. Needs the deck built around supporting it but still has room for things like Garbodor and even promo Tapu Koko for free retreating shenanigans. Crossing cut GX and a choice band can take a KO and keep it safe for another turn of switcheroo shenanigans.
Turtonator /Ho-Oh/Salazzle– 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.
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 pesky EX/GX decks. Needs to watch out for Metagross though!
Drampa – There’s very little fighting in the meta at the moment so weakness isn’t an issue – exceptions being Gallade in Gardevoir, Lycanrock-GX in Zoroark 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. Probably the most played of these cards outside of a dedicated deck archetype for good reason.
It’s worth mentioning in an article about Viable Pokémon – Tapu Lele-GX
Almost all competitive decks have 2-4 (usually 3) copies of Tapu Lele-GX because it’s that good (broken!) 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 I think it’s hitting saturation point) and since it can be used in all of your decks it’s worth investing in. I do need to do an article about actual real-world costs at some point soon. However the very fact that you can use it in any of your decks means that it’s not a wasted investment if you play at all competitively.
Too soon to say:
The new Crimson Invasion (CRI) and Shining Legends hasn’t really been tested in the crucible of battle yet although Zoroark-GX is looking popular and I’m sure people will be gunning to use the new Ultra Beasts where possible. More will be revealed in the upcoming London Internationals I’m sure!
First up a disclaimer: Expanded Trevenant is a nasty nasty deck. It won’t make you friends – You have been warned!
Trevenant is a control deck. It aims to lock down your opponent via the Forest’s Curse ability and then spread damage around via Silent Fear. It can then finish with Necrozma-GX or simply by using Tree Slam.
The core of this deck are; Phantump, Dimension Valley and of course the XY Trevenant with Forest’s Curse ability.
Phantump – the underrated king of the deck. With Dimension Valley it can ‘attack’ for free and this allows you to search out and evolve into Forest’s CurseTrevenant, activating the item lock. If you go second you will attack with it, but if you go first you’re going to have to try and get a Wally (possibly via Ultra Ball + Tapu Lele-GX) in order to have it evolved before your opponent has a turn!
Dimension Valley – Energy is at a minimum in this decks (as always in expanded) so the ability to reduce your attack costs by 1 is quite strong. This enables a Phantump to use ascension without an attachment and enables Trevenant BREAK to use the Silent Fear attack with only 1 energy attached – a bargain!
Forest’s CurseTrevenant – you’re playing this 90% of the time to lock out your opponents ability to play items. Unlike similar lockdown abilities it doesn’t affect you, so you can play items but your opponent cannot. Additionally unlike Seismitoador Giratina-EX you don’t have to hit with an attack in order to put the clamps on your opponent. Ideally you’ll get this up and running in your first turn in order to slow down your opponent.
The deck rounds out with Trevenant BREAK, Necrozma-GX and energy denial in the form of 2 Team Flare Grunts and 2 Enhanced Hammers.
Trevenant BREAK – as well as adding some Hitpoints, the attack ‘Silent Fear‘ is extremely powerful – 30 damage on all opponents Pokémon for only 1 energy with Dimension Valley – Bargain!
In a low energy format, knocking off the energy in addition to denying items can extremely hinder your opponents deck’s ability to function. As mentioned in the beginning – this is a nasty nasty deck!
Necrozma-GX is there for it’s ability to do 100 damage to all EX/GX for only 2 energy. This can enable you to essentially snipe off Tapu Lele-GXs, Shaymin-EXs etc after a couple of Silent Fears. It synergises perfectly with the energy type and Trevenant’s attacks so it’s worth the include.
As always your mileage may vary, and there are some tweaks that you may like to make. Those with a bigger budget could replace Jirachi-EX and/or Shaymin-EX with Tapu Lele-GXs. There are also arguments for either Lysandre or Guzma or both.
Drawing everything together we end up with this potent decklist:
Now that several regional events are in the Expanded Format, the format is growing and gaining in popularity. Our local League has always been in Expanded Format as it allows a wider variety of deck to be used. Additionally since the ‘Nightmarsh’ deck doesn’t utilise Tapu Lele-GX it is extremely affordable and competitive at the same time!
Expanded Format allows anything from Black & White set (circa 2011 onwards) to be used with the exception of a short banlist. From a competitive viewpoint there are a variety of ‘viable’ decks in Expanded, and even more with the latest Sun & Moon block. Play tends to be faster and EX Pokémon are featured heavily being basis of several strong decks, although there are an equal number which do not rely on such Pokémon
This post has a short overview of some Expanded deck archetypes – although we’re going to look at the winning deck from the latest US Expanded regional (Fort Wayne) and then a re-hash of 2 expanded deck archetypes combined into one!
Night March / Marshadow aka ‘Nightmarsh’
Nightmarsh is similar to the typical Night March decks that dominated Standard Format in 2015-16. In Worlds that year it was defeated by the mighty Audino-EX but that is another story!
Put simply Night March is an attack that gets more powerful depending on the number of Pokémon with the ‘Night March’ attack in your discard pile. Decks focus on having one or two attackers (usually Joltik or a Mew) and put the rest of the Night Marchers into the discard pile. This enables them to have a high damage attack for a low energy cost.
It is similar to Vespiquen/Flareon decks (aka ‘Bees’) although the main attacker is usually much more fragile. Joltik has 30HP, Mew a mere 50HP – The solution to this is Marshadow-GX!
Marshadow-GX is a Fighting type Pokémon that can copy any basic attack from a Pokémon in the discard pile via its ability ‘Shadow Hunt’. This synergises with Night March Pokémon as you want them to be in the discard pile. Voila instant improvement of the deck!
Here is a sample decklist:
Puzzle of Time
Computer Search/Dowsing Machine
Fighting Fury Belt
Double Colourless Energy
The most difficult components to acquire is the Computer Search or Dowsing Machine – these are ‘Ace Spec.’ meaning you can only have one or the other in your deck. They are relatively expensive but thankfully you can only have, and so ever only need, one! Shaymin-Ex has dropped in price since it’s not in the Standard Format any more. In this deck it works to draw you cards. You need to be able to keep drawing since you have to discard so much out of your deck with Battle Compressor.
The Charizard Lounge has a great article on how to run this deck with a very similar list to the above and also the winning Fort Wayne Regional list. It is a high skill level deck because you need to fine-tune the amount of Pokémon in your discard pile (and therefore your damage output) with your need for Pokémon on the bench to be able to attack with.
Raikou/Eels + Seismitoad-EX
This is my secret love-child of a deck. It combines the offensive might of Raikou powered by DynamotorEelektrik with the item-lock abilities of everyone’s second favorite frog*
(…but Seismitoad is a toad not a frog.. hmm…)
Raikou/Eels is an existing archetype that basically involves using Eelektrik to rapidly accelerate energy onto an efficient recipient, namely Raikou.
Raikou is a great Pokémon, especially when equipped with a Fighting Fury Belt. It also resists all damage when it has at least one Lighting Energy attached. It’s attack scales with the amount of energy attached so it can hit for high numbers and only concedes one prize when KOed.
To add to the mix, Rough Seas will heal 30 damage every turn. For example if you’re attacked for 60 damage, you will take 40 since Shining Body will resist 20 damage, and then with Rough Seas you can heal 30 – meaning that of your 160HP (120HP base + 40HP Fighting Fury Belt) – you’ve only taken 10 damage!
The deck usually runs DCE to accelerate in addition to Max Elixirs so Seismitoad-EX can benefit from these. Although both Eelektrik and Raikou are Lightning types, nothing about the Dynamotor ability states that the recipient must be Lightning type. This means that you can power up Seismitoad-EX just as easily as Raikou.
The item lock of Seismitoad-EX combined with Rough Seas gives him some durability while giving you a little time to ramp up your energy and then go for knockouts with Raikou.
Raikou BKT 55
Tynamo NVI 38
Eelektrik NVI 40
Keldeo-EX BCR 49
Seismitoad-EX FFI 20
Fighting Fury Belt BKP 99
Rough Seas PRC 137
Double Colorless Energy
As you can see this deck has quite a bit going on including a Keldeo-EX/Floatstone combo to help switch out a redundant ‘toad or Raikou. It is an extremely fun deck to play, and aside from the Tapu Lele-GX also quite affordable. While not as dynamic as Nightmarsh, it can provide a great challenge to top tier decks. It also is well positioned to counter Yveltal decks and emerging Ho-Oh-GX decks.
If you’re thinking about getting into the Expanded Format it’s never been easier. The banlist in Pokémon TCG is mercifully short and there’s lots of people around to play against. Let us know if you have tried any of these decks. Until next time, keep being the very best – like no one ever was!
Welcome again to Meta Monday. Today we’re going to look at a standard format deck type that is inexpensive to construct and is relatively strong against most other decks.
The key Pokémon are Alolan Ninetales, Alolan Ninetales GX and Tapu Fini GX. Useful trainers are Aqua Patch and Guzma.
This deck is a type of control deck – it aims to regulate which Pokémon your opponent has active and by dictating which of their Pokémon can attack you can then prevent them from damaging you.
Firstly Alolan Ninetales with Luminous Barrier – this protects your Pokémon from opponents GX and EX as well as having a low retreat cost and a somewhat passable attack. The only real threat to it in the format is a steamed up Volcanion or a Metang with 3 energy that hits for weakness and can one hit KO your Ninetales.
Ideally this will be your active Pokémon when your opponent is using a GX or EX Pokemon. The low damage doesn’t matter when you can’t be damaged in return, so just play it calmly and steadily.
Alolan Ninetales GX – This is for when you need to hit harder or if a more significant threat needs dealing with. 210 hp is enough to survive most non-weakness hits that you can then Ice Path GX to swap the damage or use Acerola to bounce Ninetales GX removing the damage and swapping in a Luminous Barrier Ninetales.
Ice Blade allows you to hit around the opponents active Pokémon targeting their bench – this is particularly useful if they have a bulky support Pokemon active or a Pokémon that has a high retreat value such as Vikivolt. In these situations you are better off leaving that non-threatening Pokémon active and targeting bigger threats on the bench.
The last active Pokémon in this deck is Tapu Fini GX. This Pokémon can help you switch around with aqua ring, complements ice blade with hydro shot which can also target your opponents bench.
If you’re facing a massive threat, such as a powered up Metagross GX or Gardevoir GX you can use Tapu Storm GX to shuffle them away and give you some breathing space. Timing is extremely important as you need to maximise the time it gives you to get ahead of your opponent. Don’t remove something that Luminious Barrier could be blocking unless you really need to!
The rest of this deck is built around supporting these three key Pokémon and controlling the flow of the main game field. Octillery and Tapu Lele GX are for consistency, the glut of energy is to ensure that you can confidently discard with Ultra Ball to then Aqua Patch them back on to accelerate the deck.
Options shown below are to switch Rescue Stretchers for Super Rods. If you find yourself running out of energy then swap in a Super Rod instead of a Rescue Stretcher. Brock’s Grit is there for mid-late game recycling too.
It’s Meta Monday again! This week we’ll look at the results from Liverpool Regionals 30/31st July. We’ll also talk about the decks that Poké-Post thinks we’re likely to see at Worlds this year.
Before Liverpool the field was relatively open with seven different decks taking the top eight spots at North American Internationals. Liverpool saw the collection of top eight decks narrow. Drampa-GX/Garbodor took three spaces, Ninetales-GX took another three. Decidueye-GX/Vileplume took one spot and Decidueye-GX/Ninetales-GX took the other.
Ninetales-GX is a deck that has really gained traction recently. When Guardians Rising released initially it was not a deck that populated the top tables in big events. However, Ninetales has two things really going for it. Alolan Vulpix has a brilliant first attack – for no energy Vulpix can find two Pokémon from the deck and put them into your hand. This is consistency in a card and consistency is one of the things that Ninetales excels at.
The other is recovery. Ninetales’ main attack does 160 damage for the cost of discarding two Water Energy from Ninetales. But Aqua Patch, also printed in Guardians Rising, can put those Water Energy straight back on. 160 will KO a Garbodor in one shot. With a Choice Band it will also KO Tapu Bulu-GX, Drampa-GX, Necrozma-GX, Ho-Oh-GX, Volcanion-EX and Tapu Lele-GX.
Ninetales is also versatile. It’s first attack pairs well with Decidueye-GX, doing 50 damage to any Pokémon. Ninetales protects Decidueye so that it can snipe from the Bench.
All in all, we can expect Ninetales to continue its strong performance and place at Worlds.
Garbodor has been a strong contender since its release in Guardians Rising. Since then, Garbodor has won Seattle Regionals, North American Internationals and Liverpool 2017/18 season Regionals. A formidable deck, Drampa-GX can deal 150 damage (180 with Choice Band) Turn 2. Meanwhile, Garbodor does damage based on the number of items its opponent has played, making it a potent closer.
Overall, Garbodor is both consistent and hard hitting. A one count of BREAKPoint Garbodor shuts off Abilities, countering decks like Metagross-GX, Tapu Bulu-GX and Decidueye-GX. Other disruption cards included in Garbodor – such as Delinquent and Team Flare Grunt – slow the opponent. Navigating this disruption can force the opponent to play more item cards. Drampa-GX can also discard opponent’s Special Energy with its first attack; and if necessary its GX attack can get you a hand of 10 new cards.
Garbodor is the obvious winner of Worlds this year. But there are other decks emerging from Burning Shadows that may be able to provide an answer to Garbodor. Let’s take a look at some of them.
There has been a lot of talk about the potential of the new Gardevoir-GX from Burning Shadows. Gardevoir managed to win the Japanese Nationals (Japan’s releases are different to ours so they had the card before us). It can largely avoid playing items. The main attack is a reprint of Mega Mewtwo-EX’s Psychic Infinity attack, doing 30x the amount of Energy attached to both Active Pokémon. But Gardevoir does not have Mewtwo’s tricky Weakeness to Psychic, avoiding the auto-loss to Garbodor. Whilst Gardevoir is a Stage 2 Pokémon, this elevates its Hit Point level to 230, taking it out of 1HKO range for most attackers.
Fairy is also a really strong type right now. Gardevoir players can think about teching in Fairy Garden for free retreat. They also have access to Diancie from Burning Shadows, who can evolve your other Pokémon as an attack, or alternatively attack to heal 30 damage from each of your Fairy Pokémon. Players might consider Comfey from Guardians Rising to protect them from Special Conditions (a big part of Burning Shadows). Or there is Ribombee from Burning Shadows, who can take Fairy Energy from deck to hand ready for Gardevoir to attach with its own Ability.
Gallade also evolves from Ralts and Kirlia, meaning that Gardevoir players can choose to include a one- of two-of Gallade. In particular, Gallade from BREAKThrough allows you to look at the top five cards of your deck and rearrange them to suit you.
As long as they have access to Abilities then, Gardevoir players can avoid playing some items in favour of Pokémon with useful Abilities, to limit Garbodor’s damage output. The Abilities also give Gardevoir players consistency. The Resistance to Dark Pokémon also means that Darkrai-EX/GX and Yveltal players have to work harder to take Gardevoir down.
Even if Gardevoir players choose to build a more straight forward list without making use of supporters Pokémon, in theory they should be able to outspeed Garbodor decks. The addition of Guzma means they cn pull in Garbodor during the early game for the KO. The fact that Double Colourless Energy counts as two Energy for Gardevoir means you can in theory add 90 damage a turn to your count. There needs to be four Energy in total attached to both Active Pokémon for Gardevoir to get the one-shot on Garbodor. Drampa-GX cannot return the 1HKO, but with three Energy attached for Berserk, Gardevoir only needs three on itself to KO the Drampa.
Decidueye-GX/Ninetales-GX will prove more difficult for Gardevoir decks that choose to make use of support Pokémon, as their lower HP will make them easy targets for Bench sniping. Decidueye also has high HP at 240, making it a difficult KO for anyone. But if players use Gardevoir’s Ability to attach an Energy from the hand for free, the accerelation should mean that Gardevoir can KO the Decidueye in two to three turns.
Given the success Mega Mewtwo-EX has prior to the release of Guardians Rising, we know that Gardevoir will do well. The question is how well will it do at Worlds? We’ll all be waiting to see.
Darkrai-GX and Darkrai-EX
Last week I said that I didn’t understand Darkrai-GX. This week I can see why it is an inclusion in Darkrai-EX decks, and it may be the boost that Darkrai-EX needs to start placing at events again. Darkrai does 20x the Dark Energy attached to all the Pokémon on Darkrai’s side of the board. This used to be a really powerful deck and one which was my favourite for quite a while. Recently its success has dwindled as Sun and Moon Base Set saw Pokémon with higher HP and stronger attacks being printed.
Darkrai-GX is extremely useful to Darkrai decks. You can discard Darkrai-GX while Ultra Balling for something, playing Sycamore etc. You can then use its Ability from the discard pile to place it on your Bench and attach an Energy to it from the discard. It hasn’t got a brilliant main attack itself, but it is basically a free Energy for Darkrai-EX. Its GX attack is powerful as it can Knock Out the opposing Pokémon if they are currently affected by a Special Condition. However, it is an individual choice whether Darkrai players choose to tech in Special Conditions to use this attack or not.
I’m not sure that Darkrai-GX will be enough to see Turbo Dark place at Worlds this year, but it is still one to keep an eye on.
Taking a Bet – Necrozma-GX and Why I Think it’s the One to Watch at Worlds
Looking at the way the meta has been recently, especially the results in Liverpool, I think there’s a storm brewing with one Pokémon (or rather two) at the heart of it. With Ninetales-GX and Gardevoir-GX on the rise, I believe that we’re going to watch Necrozma-GX/Metagross-GX come out of left field and sweep to victory.
Of course, I’m not the only one who thinks this. There has been talk in the community of Necrozma and its chances. Necrozma/Metagross has several things going for it:
Necrozma’s Ability makes it immune to damage from Normal types. Drampa-GX and Tauros-EX won’t be able to do a thing about it.
Metagross can find both Psychic and Metal Energy from the discard pile and attach them to the Active Pokémon, meaning Necrozma can be recharged each turn but also meaning that Metagross can be set up in a turn if it is needed.
Both Gardevoir and Ninetales will be Weak to Metagross, turning attacks into 1HKOs.
Tapu Lele-GX and Garbodor are Weak to Necrozma (Necrozma is Weak to Garbodor but Tapu Lele’s attack specifies that it doesn’t hit for Weakness).
Metagross can also 1HKO Garbodor.
Before Necrozma, Metagross players had to worry about being Weak to Volcanion-EX, but Necrozma is not Weak to it and can 1HKO it.
Of course, Necrozma/Metagross is as weak to Garbotoxin as any Ability deck. However, both Field Blower and Guzma mean that Garbotoxin is a fading threat. Necrozma is the Basic Pokémon partner that Metagross has been needing.
As a meta call, Necrozma/Metagross should do well at Worlds. It’s difficult to say whether it will defeat Garbodor consistently, but only time and testing will tell. I think that it is the deck to watch for and – especially if Gardevoir turns out in force – should be a formidable pairing.
Here’s a sample list for anyone interested in playing Necrozma:
4 Professor Sycamore
1 Brock’s Grit
4 Ultra Ball
3 Rare Candy
3 Field Blower
3 VS Seeker
3 Choice Band
2 Level Ball
1 Professor’s Letter
6 Psychic Energy
5 Metal Energy
You might also want to think about Rescue Stretchers and/or Max Potions in this list, although it includes both Brock’s Grit and Acerola. The question is whether you can get set up in time to stay ahead in the match. If you can, it should be a good match. If not, then take a leaf out of Decidueye’s book and think about Trainer’s Mail, Oranguru or Shaymin-EX. But this is my call for Worlds and even though I’ll probably be horribly wrong, I’m sticking with it. Let us know what you think!
I love the release of new sets. It really gets my creativity flowing. So many new decks to try! What’s more, with Burning Shadows releasing this week (August 4th) we are only three weeks away from Worlds! Everybody breathe. So, what can we expect from the next set?
There are some great new Pokémon coming out of Burning Shadows. For the collectors out there, get your hands on Charizard Rainbow Rare and get it PSA graded as quickly as you can.
For the players, here’s a break down of my favourite Pokémon from the next set.
Yes people, the hype is real. We’ve been play-testing Golisopod and it has the makings of a brilliant card. Turn 1 120 damage for one Energy, thank you very much! With Forest and the Ability on this set’s Wimpod, that is easily achievable. Better hope the opponent has something on the Bench. Paired up with Golisopod (GUR 9/145) and Lurantis-GX (SM15/149) /Lurantis Promo if you’re in the mood; this thing is vicious. A real Grass toolbox Pokémon.
Probably not what you were expecting me to start with. However, this is an interesting play. I don’t think there will be decks built around Araquanid obviously , but I can easily see this included in grass decks. Maybe not Decidueye/Vileplume as there isn’t a lot of space there already! But for any deck playing Forest of Giant Plants, Araquanid with a DCE turn one stops your opponent from being able to attach Energy from the hand to their Active Pokémon for a turn. Perhaps this is just wishful thinking on my part as I love that little spider!
Now, I’m not a Volcanion player. But the word on the grape-vine is that Burning Shadows Ho-oh is going to be a nifty addition to Volcanion decks. Whilst its Phoenix Burn attack requires an additional fire energy compared to Volcanion’s Volcanic Heat attack, you’re doing 180 base damage instead of Volcanion’s 130. Ho-oh is blocked from using that attack again next turn but has two other usable attacks compared to Volcanion, who can’t attack at all after using Volcanic Heat. With Volcanion’s Ability boosting Ho-oh’s attack by 30 per fire Energy discarded, Ho-oh should have no problem one hit KOing anything it comes up against.
Tapu Fini is not the most groundbreaking of Pokémon in this set. However, it has two interesting attacks. Hydro Shot will do 120 damage to ANY Pokémon at the cost of discarding two Energy attached to it. Normally that would be horrible but now we have Aqua Patch to put those energy right back on, and Fisherman to get them out of the discard pile too.
It’s GX Attack, Tapu Storm GX, shuffle the opponent’s Active and all cards attached to it into their deck. You don’t get a prize for doing so, but it’s an excellent stall technique. I’m pretty sure that Tapu Fini will see some amount of play in decks such as Lapras-GX, and Alolan Ninetales-GX.
Before rotation last year, Joe played Genesect-EX/Bronzong. Necrozma is a better Genesect. It’s Ability makes it immune to damage from Colourless Pokémon. So long Drampa-GX and Tauros-GX!
It’s first attack requires three colourless energy to do the following: Discard all Psychic Energy attached to this Pokémon; this attack does 60 more damage for each Psychic Energy discarded in this way.
Yes, that’s a bit of set up. Guess what? Metagross-GX attaches Psychic and/or Steel Energy from the discard pile to the Active. Boom! You have the makings of a targeted, modular attack whose damage output you control. But even more excitingly – Necrozma’s GX attack does 100 damage to all of your opponent’s GXs and EXs, ignoring all effects on them including Weakness and Resistance. Now THAT’s a brilliant early-game attack.
This really is a card to watch out for in Burning Shadows. Players in Japan, who received this set long before we did, love it. Gardevoir-GX came first in the Japanese National Championships (remember that their blocks are different to ours, so all cards from XY-on are currently legal in Japan). Easy to set up with Diancie from the same set (or Wally, or evosoda), Gardevoir-GX has an amazing Ability that lets you attach extra Energy every turn. Good news, as her first attack is a copy of Mega Mewtwo’s “Psychic Infinity”. 30x the Energy attached to bothActive Pokémon. If MMewtwo and the similar Yveltal-EX decks are anything to go by, this is going to be meta-defining. The existence of Metagross-GX, which Gardevoir will be weak to, may hold the deck back slightly, but Gardevoir should have speed on its side against most other decks.
This card is going to see play at Worlds. It’s a horrifying combination Seismitoad-EX and Giratina-EX. Noivern’s first attack, for a Double Dragon Energy (or one Dark Energy, one Colourless) does 50 damage and stops the opponent from playing item cards from their hand during the next turn. Its second attack does 120 damage for a Double Dragon and an Energy of your choice (or one Psychic, one Dark, one Colourless) and stops your opponent from playing Special Energy cards from their hand during their next turn. The GX attack is a little lacklustre, doing 50 damage to all the opponent’s Pokémon but even so my goodness is this a powerful control card. After rotation we lose Double Dragon Energy in Standard but who knows! A reprint may be in the near future.
Cards that I almost like (but not quite)
I love what the Alolan region has done to Ninetales. And the Burning Shadows Ninetales is not awful – just kind of meh. Like Plasma Blast Suicune before it, this Ninetales is immune to EX (and now GX) Pokémon thanks to its Ability. This may see some use in Ninetales-GX decks to wall opponent EX/GXs.
Also like Suicune it’s only attack requires a Water Energy and two Colourless to do Aurora Beam, this time for 80 damage instead of 70, but aside from the ability the attack is lacklustre.
With rotation taking away the option of Full Retaliation Gyarados, TPCi have decided to print a slightly worse version. Burning Shadows’ Gyarados requires a DCE to do 50x the number of magikarp in your discard pile. I’m sure you can see the problem here. However, if you could pair it with something to tank whilst you Rescue Stretchered some Magikarp and Gyarados back you might be able to make this work? I guess? I’m not convinced that you could stream the attackers well enough, but I enjoyed the slightly Rambo style of previous Gyarados decks so if someone can make this work it’ll be fun if nothing else. As the damage is really limited by the number of Magikarp you can play, however, it’s unlikely to see the success of its former reincarnation.
I know they’re preparing for the 2018-2019 season when BKT Zoroark is rotated, but having tested Dusknoir I’m just not convinced that Zoroark’s replacement is going to be nearly as good. Dusknoir has HP that is somewhere between bad and average for a Stage 2 at 150HP.
It’s Ability, while not Stand In, is interesting (once per turn look at your opponent’s hand and place a Basic Pokémon there onto their Bench). Its Mind Jack attack is also 30 + 30 more for each of your opponent’s Benched Pokémon. However, it requires a Psychic Energy and a DCE to pull off as well as being, well, a Stage 2. Add to that a retreat of 3 and the loss (on rotation) of Sky Field and you’re just better off playing Zoroark.
Maybe I am missing something here, but Marshadow-GX just doesn’t quite do it for me. Marshadow’s attacks are ok but not the most special, and its HP is only 150. The important bit of Marshadow’s card is its Ability: this Pokémon can use the attacks of Basic Pokémon in your discard pile if you have the right energy. That means that this card is really versatile! I don’t think it will see tier 1 play – it’s let down by its HP and the move away from Basic Pokémon attackers – but there’s no denying that it’s a powerful card.
This card briefly reignited my interest in my first ever deck – Sceptile-EX. I wanted desperately the find some combination of Sceptile, Ariados and Seviper that would get me guaranteed 1HKOs, but then I remembered that even with Laserbank Sceptile just couldn’t do it.
Seviper might be an interesting inclusion in some Alolan Muk-GX/Salazzle deck, but for an additional 10 damage a turn I don’t think it would be worth it. Speaking of…
Alolan Muk got me really interested on first appearance. And there are probably ways and means of getting that 1HKO every turn but… it seems like a lot of setup. Muk’s attack basically does (for a Dark Energy and two Colourless): 10 + 70 more damage for each Special Condition affecting your opponent’s Active Pokémon. Now, paired with Salazzle you should be able to do 210 on a good day, and I’ll probably do a BDIF write up of the idea at some point soon, but it’s just too conditional for me. Experience has told me that decks like this struggle to do well. But then, who am I? I could be proven completely wrong.
I want to like this Darkrai, I do. Turbo Dark was my favourite deck for ages. But I just don’t see what the GX adds to the game. It resurrects itself complete with a Dark Energy which is good, but its main attack is 130 damage for two Dark and a Colourless, which is completely lacklustre. The GX move Knocks Out the opponent’s Active if they’re affected by a Special Condition. That’s cool, but conditional and obviously you can only use it once. I just don’t see the appeal of this Darkrai, but I hope I’m proven wrong.
And Finally… Trainers!
Unlike my much younger self who just liked collecting Pokémon for the Pokémon, Trainers are pretty much the most important part of a set for me now. Burning Shadows is bringing us some interesting additions and some reboots of old favourites. Let’s take a look!
Acerola is basically AZ. Put a Pokémon (with damage on it this time) and all cards attached to it into your hand. Awesome! In a game of high HP attackers, Acerola can rescue them from certain KO and let you replay them straight away. AZ was a popular card and Acerola will be too.
It’s ya boiiiii Guzma! I love this card. Everyone should love this card. Guzma is a better Lysandre – you can pull in any Pokémon from the Bench into your opponent’s Active spot and then you can switch your Pokémon for a fresh one. I’m probably going to be running three in every deck, especially after rotation.
Well, fire needed a boost apparently. Kiawe is an interesting card and I’m pretty sure more than a couple Volcanion players etc will be thinking about a Turn 1 Kiawe. As he attaches four Fire Energy from to one Pokémon and simultaneously ends your turn, I think this is a personal call and I’m not sure I’d run it personally, but in the right deck with the right circumstances it will be absolutely brutal.
I haven’t seen that much hype around Olivia, but I personally really like her. You can search your deck for any two Pokémon-GX and put them into your hand. Whether you need that Metagross-GX or that Tapu Bulu-GX, this is a good card.
Po Town has a little space in my heart. Three damage counters on anything that is evolving is brutal in a meta defined by Evolution Pokémon. Many of the decks currently running Team Magma’s Secret Base will probably switch to Po Town after rotation, so this is definitely something to factor in to your equations!
Any Stage One gets +40HP? Sweet. This Tool card is going to see quite a bit of play, especially in Eeveelutions decks. However, I’m not sure it trumps Choice Band for most people so I imagine it won’t see as much play as it otherwise would. Dumbbells has the same problem as Fighting Fury Belt – it’s easily Field Blowered off. Still, a card that has great potential.
Burning Shadows Conclusion
This set is going to shake up the meta once again for Worlds! I don’t think we’ll see the chaos we did after the release of Guardians Rising, but get ready to see some big changes to the meta. I can’t wait!
Last Meta Monday, I talked about which decks made up the meta. Today I want to delve a bit deeper and discover which trainer cards the meta relies on. Using science (and magic) we will work out how to build a meta-worthy trainer line for your deck.
Broadly speaking, there are several categories of trainers which every deck needs to think about. Draw support is vital so that we can cycle through our deck and find the cards we need to win the game. Search effects let us look through our deck to pick out individual cards. Switch trainers keep our Pokémon moving (no one wants to get stuck in the Active spot!). Healing recovers the HP of our Pokémon. Disruption affects our opponent’s ability to play the game. Tech cards help to cover bad match ups.
Trainer Cards and the Meta
When you start playing the Pokémon TCG trainers can seem like the boring bit. You’re playing because you like Pokémon, right? But trainer cards are vital to the success or failure of your deck.
The number of trainer cards included in winning decks recently has certainly been affected by the release of the latest sets. At Anaheim, the first US Regionals after the release of Sun/Moon, people played on average 10 supporters and 24 item cards. At Salt Lake City and then Roanoke we saw the almost exactly same numbers. (11/12 supporters and 24 items).
After the release of Guardians Rising, we saw fewer items in play as people were afraid of the power of Trashalanche. At Seattle we saw on average 12 supporters and 20 items, and at Madison the average was 12 supporters and 19 items.
Using the law of averages, we came up with the following list:
4 Professor Sycamore 4 N. 1 Professor Kukui 2 Lysandre 1 Brigette 1 Hex Maniac
4 Ultra Ball 1 Level Ball 2 Choice Band/Fighting Fury Belt 2 Float Stone 7 Rescue Stretcher/Special Charge/Puzzle of Time/Revitalizer/VS Seeker etc 3 Team Magma’s Secret Base/Forest of Giant Plants/other Stadium 4 Trainer’s Mail/Rare Candy/Max Elixir/Acro Bike 2 Field Blower
7 Basic Energy 4 Special Energy
Now, this list hasn’t been play tested and has never won any events. I’m also not a statistician. But taking all the top eight results from Sun/Moon on, thanks to the Pokémon website we have worked out what an average winning list ‘should’ look like. So let’s break it down…
4 – 4- 1
Let’s go further. Draw support is probably the most important category of trainer in the game. Almost every deck is running seven draw supporters at minimum, with counts going as high as 10 – 1/6 of deck space.
With rotation around the corner, they are only set to get more important as we will be unable to recycle our supporters with VS Seeker. I fully expect counts to increase. However, let’s take a look at how many draw supporters decks in the current format are running.
There are two cards in particular that we need to look at.
Professor Sycamore allows us to discard our hand and draw seven new cards. This is an incredibly powerful trainer which decongests the deck of all those cards which we don’t need right now. Seven cards is also a large hand of cards which gives us a good chance of drawing the cards we’re looking for.
N is another incredibly powerful trainer card. It requires both players to shuffle their hands into their decks and then draw cards equal in number to their remaining prize cards. This has three main advantages. First, it is a guaranteed six new cards early game, a number not to be sniffed at. Second, it doesn’t make you discard your hand. This is really useful if there are cards you just can’t afford to throw away. Third, it is a brilliant way to disrupt your opponent if they have few prize cards remaining or if they have just searched out specific cards to use next turn.
The average count of these cards at Seattle and Madison Regionals was four Sycamore and three N. There were however variations including 4/2 and 4/4. At the North American Internationals the average count was 4 Sycamore and 4 N.
Another draw supporter which sees play is Professor Kukui. Professor Kukui featured in 50% of the top eight decks at North American Internationals. This versatile card allows you to draw two cards and inflict an extra 20 damage on your opponent. The top players usually only have one copy of Kukui in their deck.
2 -1 – 1
Ask a good player what other supporters they include in their deck and you can usually assume that they will say Lysandre. Lysandre allows you switch one of your opponent’s Benched Pokémon into their Active spot so that you can attack it. This is great as it allows you to take easy Knock Outs on low HP or damaged Pokémon hiding at the back. It also allows you to stall for time by pulling in Pokémon with a high retreat cost (and preferably one with no chance of attacking!) This card has often made the difference between a win and a loss at high powered tournaments and continues to be an important card in the format.
Lysandre has been on average a two-of in every recent event. The card will rotate out at the end of this season. However, his replacement Guzma, is even more powerful! When you use Guzma you can switch your opponent’s Pokémon while also switching your Active Pokémon with one on your Bench. Great for saving your damaged Attacker and putting in a fresh Pokémon! With VS Seeker rotating out as well, I wouldn’t be surprised if Guzma becomes a 3-of or 4-of in every deck.
With the rise of Pokémon-GX we’ve also witnessed the rise of Brigette. With Brigette players can find three Basic Pokémon (or one Basic Pokémon-EX, almost a complete waste of a supporter!) and place them on the Bench.
There are two great things about this. Being able to place three Basics on the Bench is a massive boost to your ability to set up quickly while also removing the cards from the deck so you can draw more useful things. The other great thing is that as Brigette places the Pokémon straight from deck to Bench, this means that you avoid any negative impact of coming into play. For example, if the stadium Team Magma’s Secret Base is in play, you would put two damage counters on every Pokémon you play from your hand to the Bench. With Brigette, you are not playing from the hand so your Pokémon take no damage. Brigette is a one-of in almost 50% of top eight decks since Guardians Rising was released.
Hex Maniac is one of those cards that can get you out of a really tricky situation. The card turns off all Pokémon Abilities (both yours and your opponent’s) for a turn each. It buys you time. Item locked by Vileplume? Hex Maniac lets you play items. Can’t afford to take damage from your opponent’s Benched Decidueye-GX? Hex Maniac stops them from placing damage counters for a turn. Overall it is a really good utilty card made all the stronger by Tapu Lele-GX’s ability to find her. Hex Maniac spiked in Seattle where 88% of the top eight played her, but on average she is a one-of in around 30% of top eight decks since then have played the card. Although the most powerful card this trainer negates is rotating in Vileplume, I imagine we will see a two-of at least in post-rotation decks.
Great Balls of Fire
4 – 1
In every deck there are item cards dedicated to finding Pokémon. They are inescapably useful in a format that requires speed and consistency.
Ultra Ball is a four of in pretty much every deck. The card lets you find any Pokémon in your deck at the cost of discarding two cards from your hand. This means that not only can you pitch two cards you don’t really want to use but you can set up any Pokémon you need.
28% of other top eight decks since Sun & Moon released have featured other kinds of search balls. Any deck playing Decidueye-GX/Vileplume is running two to three Level Balls, and Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu-GX also makes use of them. Level Balls let you find any Pokémon with an HP of 90 or less. GreninjaBREAK lists include up to four Dive Balls, which let you find any Water Pokémon. These items provide less versatility than Ultra Ball but are extremely useful in specific decks.
While not every deck needs search balls other than Ultra Ball, the average across the US Regionals since Sun/Moon and the three Internationals says that you’ll probably want one. Obviously it’s highly unlikely that you’ll just run a one count, but that’s statistics for you!
Don’t Be a Tool
2 – 2
Tools are an integral part of many strategies in the Pokémon TCG. These powerful Trainer cards attach to Pokémon in play to generate a specific effect.
Fighting Fury Belt
FFB gives Basic Pokémon an extra 40HP AND an extra 10 damage to their attacks. Choice Band lets any Pokémon it’s attached to hit for an extra 30 damage against EXs and GXs. These are obviously really strong cards that can completely swing matchups. FFB has declined slightly in popularity due to the proliferation of Field Blower, which can knock off any two of stadiums and tools. This could in theory allow a person to take all six prizes in one round. But it is still popular with decks that run entirely on Basics, such as Turbo Dark and Volcanion. Before the release on Guardians Rising, 45% of top eight decks were running Fighting Fury Belt.
Choice Band has seen immediate success since its release in Guardians Rising. 30 additional damage is a big deal, and there are no shortage of EX and GX decks around for you to reach that extra damage. Choice Band has probably stopped some people from running Fighting Fury Belt as it is often seen as the better choice. If FFB is Field Blowered off you probably haven’t benefitted from the extra HP yet, but Choice Band will do an extra 30 damage to EX/GXs every round that it is attached. If you aren’t running Fighting Fury Belt, the chances are you’re running Choice Band – or both! Since the release of Sun/Moon, 63% of decks run at least one of those choices, and since Guardians Rising 92% of decks are running them. Taking an average, most people are running two of these cards, though counts of three or four and extremely popular.
The third most popular tool card is Float Stone. This tool gives the Pokémon that it is attached to free retreat, meaning it won’t get stuck in the Active spot if it is damaged or unable to attack. With a lot of Pokémon having retreats costing two or even three energy to retreat, this is an important possibility. Decks also run very small counts of energy and often can’t afford to make the attachment to retreat. Float Stone is so important that since the release of Sun/Moon, 89% of top eights have run it, most running two copies.
Spirit Fingers Links
Normally, when a Pokémon-EX evolves to a Mega Pokémon-EX, your turn ends. However, with the nifty attachment of a Spirit Link, you can keep on going without needing to end your turn. Brilliant, eh? Every deck running Megs is running Spirit Links – usually the same number of Links as Megas. However, in recent times Megas have been disappearing from the meta. Mega Mewtwo-EX is weak to trashalanche Garbodor and just can’t keep pace with it. Mega Rayquaza-EX is extremely vulnerable to its Sky Field being Field Blowered away, or being KOd by Zoroark. With no new EXs being printed (at least for the time being) it looks like Mega Evolution Pokémon have had their day.
There are inevitably going to be times where you are down on your luck in Pokémon. Your main attacker has been knocked out, your energy has been removed to the Discard pile, the two cards you really need are no longer in the deck. When that happens, you need a trainer that will help you recover. For this reason, you’ll find on average three recovery trainer cards in top eight decks.
There are several popular trainer cards that act as recovery items. They are:
Rescue Stretcher – pull Pokémon back from the Discard pile to hand or deck
Super Rod – shuffle a mixture three Pokémon and/or Energy from the Discard pile into your deck
Revitalizer – take two Grass Pokémon from the Discard pile and put them into your hand
Special Charge – shuffle two Special Energy back into your deck
Energy Recycler – shuffle five Basic Energy cards back into your deck
Mega Turbo – attach a Basic Energy from your discard pile to your Mega Evolution Pokémon
Aqua Patch – attach a Basic Water Energy from your discard pile to your Benched Water Pokémon
EXP. Share – (tool card) attach an energy to this Pokémon from another Pokémon when that one is KOd.
Puzzle of Time – if you play two at once you can take any two cards from your Discard pile into your hand.
As you can see, there are a whole range of really useful trainer cards here. As you can only have four of any Pokémon in your deck, you need to be able to recycle them. There are lots of trainers on this list that let you do that. The one seeing the most play at the moment is Rescue Stretcher. When you’re in a pinch, Rescue Stretcher lets you pull one Pokemon from the Discard pile into your hand so that you can play it immediately. When you have a little more time, Rescue Stretcher lets you shuffle three Pokemon from your Discard pile into your deck. You can also use the Supporters Karen or Brock’s Grit, who also recycles energy.
Getting energy back from the Discard pile is also really important. While you can run as much energy as you like, it takes up precious deck space and so most decks run the minimum they can afford. This means that, if you take an average across all Internationals and US Regionals, top decks are running seven Basic Energy and 3 or 4 Special Energy. This isn’t actually the case for many decks, but somewhere between four and eight appears to be normal. Decks which do damage based on the amount of energy they have, or which need to continuously cycle energy, tend to run 12 energy. With these relatively low counts, it is important to have cards which can pull your energy back from the Discard pile. Alongside items like Special Charge, Super Rod, Aqua Patch and the rest you can also use Supporters to recycle energy such as Fisherman, who puts four Basic energy from Discard pile to hand or Brock’s Grit to shuffle some back into your deck.
Recycling Other Cards
VS Seeker is probably the single most versatile card in the Standard format. VS Seeker lets us take Supporters from the discard pile so that we can play them again. Recently there has been some move to playing three VS Seeker rather than four, but on average people still play four. With the set list of the next set having been posted, we know that VS Seeker will be missing from the Standard format at least until October. Every deck is therefore going to have to adjust their supporter lines. Stay tuned on how this actually happens!
VS Seeker was first printed in the Fire Red/Leaf Green era so I am absolutely sure we will see a reprint in the near future.
The other card that lets us recycle cards which are not Pokémon or Energy is Puzzle of Time. If you play one Puzzle of Time, you can look at the top four cards of your deck and reorder them as you wish. But if you play two Puzzle of Time together you can take any two cards from your Discard pile to your hand. This is pretty much the only way in Standard to recycle item cards (although Eco Arm can pull back Tools) or stadiums and that makes it really powerful, though not easy to pull off.
Rocking the Stadium
Stadiums are a trainer you play which stays in play until replaced or Discarded and which affect both you and your opponent. There are some great Stadiums out there, and some really brilliant strategies people have employed using them.
The moment popular stadiums since the release of Guardians Rising are Team Magma’s Secret Base, which puts two damage counters on any Basic Pokémon played from the hand onto the Bench; and Forest of Giant Plants, which allows Grass Pokémon to evolve the same turn they come into play. Both of these featured in six different decks out of the 24 top eight decks across three different events. Team Magma is primarily useful in decks that run Drampa-GX, who hits for extra damage is someone on their Bench has taken damage previously. Another deck that uses it is Full Retaliation Gyarados, which do damage based on the amount of damage on Benched Magikarp. Forest of Giant Plants is used mostly in Decidueye-GX/Vileplume decks to evolve turn one and get that item lock as quickly as possible.
Other stadiums of note recently have been Altar of the Moone, which lets Pokémon with any Psychic or Dark energy attached retreat for two energy less; Brooklet Hill which lets each player search for a Basic Water or Fighting Pokémon and place it on their Bench once per turn; Parallel City which has different effects depending on which way up it faces; and Rough Seas which heals Water and Electric Pokémon every turn.
Stadiums are obviously dependent upon both the rest of the meta and the type of deck you’re running – more so than most trainer cards. However, on average most decks play three copies of Stadiums.
Set Up and Acceleration
Before Guardians Rising came out, 100% of decks were running these Item cards. Nowadays, only 46% are running them, preferring a slower set up to avoid the mounting damage caused by Trashalanche Garbodor. However, they remain important to the meta. So which cards are we talking about?
Trainer’s Mail and Acro Bike give us the chance to find the cards we need. Max Elixir lets us get more than one energy attachment a turn so we can get energy out quicker. Rare Candy lets us skip an evolution step to go from Basic to Stage 2. These cards are obviously slightly more specialised to individual decks – for example, Turbo Dark needs Max Elixir and Metagross uses Rare Candy – but used correctly they can give players the edge they need. The average number of Acceleration trainers used per deck is four.
Denial’s Not Just a River in Egypt
Trainers that deny your opponent resources are not overly popular in the meta at the moment. There are plenty of options out there though. Supporters include Team Flare Grunt to discard energy; Team Rocket’s Handiwork to discard cards from your opponent’s deck and others. Items include Enhanced and Crushing Hammers to discard more energy from your opponent; Red Card to put your opponent down to four cards in hand and more.
However, there is one item card that towers over them all. Field Blower has featured in top eight decks a whopping 75% of times since its release in Guardians Rising. Most decks are running an average of two. Why? Because it has two fantastic effects. Field Blower lets you discard two of any Tool cards and Stadiums in play. Need to stop Garbotoxin from working? Blow off their Tool. Want to keep a big retreater stuck in the Active? Field blower off their Float Stone. In theory with Field Blower getting rid of Fighting Fury Belt, as mentioned elsewhere in the article, you could take all six prizes in the same turn.
Making Sense of the Numbers
Each deck is unique and requires a different set of Trainers, Energy and Pokémon. What we have provided here is just a starting point for those wishing to build a deck that should perform well. As NA Champion Tord Reklev said, consistency is key. With changes to Standard coming very soon, I think this is overall the most important thing we can remember. The list at the start of the article is probably not the most consistent list and that’s why nobody has ever won (as far as we know!) running this exact list. But it could be the start of something great and there’s only one way to find out!
Today we’re going to talk about how this year in Pokémon has unfolded. We’ve experienced the release of three sets so far this year, with one more to come. With Worlds just around the corner people wondering what deck they should play. There’s a lot of talk about the meta in Pokémon but which actually decks are actually “meta” at the moment?
So, let’s talk about Standard. Things have been evolving (see what we did there?) constantly over the season with each new set bringing change.
The Meta Before Sun/Moon
Yveltal/Garbodor (five top 8 places in Europe Internationals and 8% of top 8 decks in total US Regionals before SM)
Darkrai Builds (between a Turbo Dark list and Darkrai-EX/Giratina-EX or Darkrai-EX/Garbodor, Darkrai dominated 15% of US Regionals top 8s despite not featuring in Europe Internationalss top 8)
Mega Mewtwo-EX/Garbodor (no top 8 in Europe Internationals but 8% of top 8s in US Regionals before SM)
Volcanion/Volcanion-EX (two top 8 places in Europe Internationalss and 8% of top 8s in US Regionals before SM)
GreninjaBREAK (one spot in Europe Internationalss top 8 and 8% of top 8s in US Regionals before SM)
Mega Gardevoir-EX (honestly this came out of nowhere in Dallas Regionals and got a win and 3 other spots in the top 8 there, but hasn’t featured much since)
Vespiquen/Zebstrika (three top 8 slots in Athens GA Regionals)
Mega Rayquaza-EX (three top 8 slots in Athens GA Regionals as well)
So a fairly even spread between a number of decks here. Dark is always a strong contender and there were no shortage of Darkrai and Yveltal decks. Dark decks placed at the four US Regionals held between the start of the season and the entry of Sun/Moon. Despite the prevalence of Garbotoxin Garbodor, Volcanion and Greninja saw play with their powerful abilities. Meanwhile in the shadows Vespiquen was once more on the rise.
A Change in the Winds
After Sun/Moon released we saw some changes start to creep in to the meta. Some good trainers came out of the set such as Professor Kukui – who combines both options from the earlier Giovanni’s Scheme – and Nest Ball to find Basics regardless of HP. We also saw reprints of various staples. Sun/Moon brings a lot of good utility Pokémon such as Vikavolt who takes your energy attachment for the turn up to three and Oranguru who acts as draw support to let you draw up to three cards once per turn.
With two International Championships and three US Regionals, here’s how the meta reacted to the release of SM:
The Meta After SM1 Release:
Decidueye-GX/Vileplume scored a whopping 50% of places in the two Internationals combined, and 17% of top 8s at the Regionals between the release of SM1 and that of SM2.
Turbo Dark ramped up its damage count to take 13% of places at the Internationals and 25% of Regionals, scoring at least one top 8 place in every event. Add in the Darkrai-EX/Giratina-EX build and its total Regional top 8 count comes to 33%
Despite not scoring a single top 8 place at either International, Mega Mewtwo-EX took 21% of top 8 places in US Regionals.
Volcanion/Volcanion-EX scored 19% of top 8s in the two International Championships, and 8% of the Regionals top 8 places.
Vespiquen resurfaced as Vespiquen/Zoroark and took 8% of the Regionals top 8s, but none of the Internationals places.
As you can see, Turbo Dark and DeciduPlume really started to dominate the format. Despite the threat of Garbotoxin Ability lock, many of the above decks rely on Abilities. Perhaps people were so sure that Garbodor would turn up at the events that nobody actually bothered to run it.
A Champion Deck Rises?
Finally we come to the most recent and therefore most relevant part of the season, with the release of Guardians Rising and the chaos that ensued. The Guardians Rising expansion blew everything before it out of the water. The set featured the best consistency aid we’ve possibly ever seen in Tapu Lele-GX. What’s more, we gained brilliant attackers in the form of Trashalanche Garbodor, Drampa-GX, Turtonator-GX, Alolan Ninetales-GX and Metagross-GX. And the new trainer and Pokémon support is fantastic. We gained Aqua Patch, Brooklet Hill, Choice Band, Rescue Stretcher, the much needed Field Blower and Sylveon-GX, Machoke, Sudwoodo, Mimkyu, Sensu Oricorio (the Vespiquen Counter), and the list goes on.
Let’s take a moment to appreciate just how many useful cards are on that list. Trashalanche Garbodor changed the way we build decks overnight, with more of a focus on Supporters and a stream lined Item list. Turtonator gave a massive boost to Volcanion decks with it’s ability to Nitro-GX turn one. Drampa gives you a viable turn two 150 damage, and Field Blower took the wind out of Garbotoxin’s sails. Of course, as the season has gone on people have started running fewer Field Blowers, leading to a small resurgence of Garbotoxin especially in Transhalanche decks.
The Meta After the Release of SM2
Drampa-GX/Trashalanche Garbodor took the top spot in North American Internationals and 1 other place in the top 8 there, as well as 25% of top 8 positions in the 2 Regionals that have happened so far. With fantastic early and late game attackers, this is surely the deck to beat going into Liverpool Regionals and then Worlds.
Vespiquen/Zoroark has taken 19% of top 8 places in Regionals since the release of SM2, and although Vespiquen didn’t place in Internationals, ZoroarkBREAK did score a top 8 finish, showing that both of these attackers are to be feared. Vespiquen has been helped by the release of Tapu Lele-GX, Rescue Stretcher and Choice Band, and often makes use of the Ancient Origins Eeveelutions to hit for weakness on many of the other top decks. The big thing Vespiquen has to fear is Sensu Oricorio, which twists Vespiquen’s own strategy against it with its Supernatural Dance.
Looking to the Future
According to results, the rest of the field is wide open. There were seven different decks in the top 8 of the North American Internationals. There were 10 different decks spread across the two top 8 results of the US Regionals. Most decks in the meta seem to be running Drampa-GX. Zoroark features in three different builds – ZoroarkBREAK in the NA Internationals, Vespiquen/Zoroark in both Seattle and Madison, Zoroark/Drampa in Madison. The combination of Mind Jack and Stand In is certainly a powerful one. Most interesting of all is the notable lack of any form of Turbo Dark from the latest results. Perhaps with tool removal in Field Blower to blow off Fighting Fury Belts, Zoroark taking advantage of the large Bench Darkrai-EX often needs to set up quickly, Garbodor liking its high item count, and the Drampa Berserk, Turbo Dark has been out-turboed.
So, what to expect from the next set (Burning Shadows) and from Worlds? Well, for that we’ll have to wait and see!