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!).

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.

 

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.

Memphis Meta Musings

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. Memphis Meta

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.Top Pokes

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.

shining genesect SLGFirstly 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.

Team Rockets Handiwork FASecondly, 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.

Conclusion

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.

Viable Pokémon EX/GX In Standard Format

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.

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 – 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.

LaprasLapras GX – 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.

Supporting Pokémon-GX:

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 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 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 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. 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 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.

 

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.

The 99%:

3 Lele Expanded

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:mew2

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!