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Return of the OHKO-format?

Take a look into some of the new Primal Clash decks! Decklists for Gardevoir, Medicham, Camerupt and Primal Groudon.

02/02/2015 by Øbro

Hello there.
My name is Øbro, and I'm a 24-year-old Pokémon TCG player. I've qualified for Worlds all of the three full seasons in which I've played tournaments. I know I won't be able to afford going to Worlds again here in 2015, so this year I've focused mainly on my role as judge and League owner in the local league which I've just started. However, that won't keep me from staying up to date with the game, so in this article I will discuss some of the factors that might shape the new metagame with Primal Clash!

Primal Clash introduces some Pokémon that have the capability of taking one-hit-knock-outs (OHKO) on nearly anything, no matter their amount of HP. Those are M Gardevoir EX, M Aggron, Medicham, Camerupt EX and Primal Groudon EX. I fear that these will bring back a OHKO-format, where are lot of decks have the very simple strategy of being able to OHKO anything. This would be somewhat similar to the format we had where Rayquaza EX, Keldeo EX/Black Kyurem EX and Virizion/Genesect were some of the dominating decks. Why do I think this would be bad for the format? Because when there are many dominating OHKO-decks in the metagame, you have to deal with them somehow if you want to succeed in larger tournaments. In order to be able to prize-trade against a deck that can OHKO one of your EXs, you would have to also OHKO one of theirs every turn, which means that in a simplified metagame, you would also have to play a OHKO deck yourself. Of course there are other ways to handle the OHKO-decks, which is what I will also be discussing in this article, but my main point is that a huge amount of OHKO-decks will diminish the amount of creative decks doing well. I'll be giving some decklists for some of the new decks, and go over what makes them strong.


Mega Gardevoir EX

This is probably the most simple of the new decks. You accelerate a lot of energy with Xerneas, and when you have enough, you start OHKOing everything with Mega Gardevoir EX. With 6 energies in play, you can OHKO normal EXs, and with 7-8 energies you can OHKO other Megas. When you get damaged, you simply move your energies away with Aromatisse and play Max Potion to fully heal your Mega Gardevoir EX.

I play 4 Xerneas simply to maximize the chance of starting with it. Having 3 energies in play after turn 1 really makes a huge difference in cases where you don't begin. I would like to have 4 Max Potions in the deck since they are what makes the deck so good, but I felt like I lost too many games from not being able to attack quickly enough. It doesn't help much to heal if you can't also put pressure on the opponent by attacking them back. So I've cut the 4th Max Potion for more consistency. 12 energies would be the ideal number, but it worked pretty well for me to swap the 12th energy for a Energy Retrieval. It might seem a little odd to play 3 Lysandre in a deck that can OHKO anything anyway, but you really need those against Donphan. It's not too hard for Donphan to set up for a Wreck attack that can even OHKO Mega Gardevoir. Playing Lysandre against a Donphan deck that uses Wobbuffet will also let you use your abilities again, so that you can heal before the next Donphan comes charging against you.

What makes this deck so good is that, unless your opponent can OHKO Mega Gardevoir, you can keep healing it, while running through your opponent's deck. Once set up, it is not unusual to win in three turns since you can often also drag the opponent's EXs up from their bench with your 3 Lysandre. On the other hand, if your opponent is actually able to OHKO Mega Gardevoir, it is a huge hit to your face, since you lose 3 energies. Even though you might have another Mega Gardevoir ready, you might not have enough energy to take the OHKO. You can always switch to Xerneas to get more energy, but you might not even have enough left in your deck. Lysandre's Trump Card could be added to recover all the lost energy, but in most of these cases, where you had to do so, I felt like you were already too far behind to play a supporter that doesn't give any instant advantage and then start accelerating energy.
Another weakness is that the deck doesn't have room for many techs. The deck needs to go all in on consistency, and in this list there are already some quite thin lines. It would be nice to play a 3-3 line of both Aromatisse and Mega Gardevoir EX.



When I first saw this card, I didn't think it would be very good because it needed 2 energies to attack, and if the opponent was able to get your first Medicham with 2 energies down, it would be easy for them to just roll through the other ones before you were able to get 2 energies on another one.
This was until I saw some people play Celebi EX in the deck. With Celebi EX in play, Medicham has the option to use Meditites Smack attack which does 20 damage for 1 energy. Even though Smack is not Medichams own attack, it still has the option to attack twice with it because of it's Ancient Trait: Omega Barrage.
With 1 Strong energy, Silver bangle and Fighting Stadium in play, you will hit for 90 damage. Use this twice and you suddenly hit for the magical 180 damage! Being able to OHKO an EX for 1 energy is what makes this deck good.

Doing so requires a lot of specific card combos, but with Teammates you can often search out the two cards you miss to hit the right numbers. The reason why I didn't include Teammates in the Gardevoir deck is because it only works when the opponent just KOed one of your Pokémon. Gardevoir attempts to not get KOed at all, so I didn't think it was that useful in the deck. But with Medicham, your main attacker has only 90 HP, so it will always get KOed at some point, making Teammates very useful.

Repeat Ball is also a great addition to fighting decks because of the synergy with Korrina. You can search out Meditite as the Pokémon choice for Korrina, and also grab a repeat ball to search out a second Meditite.

The deck has an edge over many EX based decks, because you can take KOs on EXs every turn, and while Medicham might also often be revenge-KOed, you will only have to give 1 prize in exchange for their 2 prizes. The opponent has the option to drag up Celebi EX for two prizes, but will often not have time to do so because they need to deal with a 2-energy Medicham that is running rampant. 1 Landorus EX is also in the deck simply because it is such a powerful turn 1 attacker, and so you have the option to snipe late-game for a KO you were not able to finish off with Medicham.


Manectric EX/Camerupt EX

This deck uses Mega Manectric EX to power up Camerupt EX. With Camerupt you'll deal 50 damage for each Fire energy you discard from your Pokémon, which means that you can set up to deal any amount of damage you could possibly need. Note that you don't have to discard the energies from Camerupt, which lets you keep energy on the attacking Camerupt, so that you can also attack with it in the following turn. I reckon that Emboar would be a much faster energy accelerator than Manectric, but Seismitoad EX should still be around, and it'll be too hard to make the deck work under an Item lock.

With Manectric it also makes more sense to use the new Scorched Earth stadium. The stadium boosts the concistency of the deck by letting us trade Fire energies for drawpower. We would need to discard them anyway in order for Mega Manectric to accelerate them from the discard pile, so this is a win-win situation.

We will often have to switch between Manectric and Camerupt so that we can take some important OHKOs with Camerupt, and then get Manectric out there again to pick the energies up. With Camerupt's 4 retreat cost it is never desirable to retreat normally, and it would also be nice not to rely on getting Switch at the right moment, so I've added 3 Float Stones and a Keldeo EX.

I only play 1 Blacksmith because it's usually not enough to keep Camerupt going by itself anyway. You have to discard 4 energies to KO a normal EX, and with Blacksmith and attachment for the turn, you'll only get 3 energies into play in which case you fall short of energy in the long run. 1 Blacksmith is still nice to have along with VS Seeker so that it is a lot easier to get at the right moments despite being situational.
Zapdos and Hard Charm are there to make you stand a chance against Domphan which would otherwise be a near-autoloss.
The downside of this deck compared to the other OHKO-decks is that it is impossible to stream OHKOs every turn. You will always have to switch for Manectric at some point to prepare the next OHKO. The good thing about this deck compared to the other ones is that it is very hard for your opponent to make sure you can't OHKO something. If you spread your energy so that you have 1 energy on two different Camerupts, you will threaten the Blacksmith + energy attachment to reach the 4 energies you need. In the same way, if you have 2 energies attached to a Camerupt, you have the option to play Computer Search and get the single DCE, which works just fine to reach the 4 energies needed to attack with Camerupt's Explosive Jet attack.

The deck doesn't rely much on abilities so it is not very vulnerable to Garbodor and Wobbuffet. I even thought about playing Garbodor in the deck, but that would open up for Hawlucha to hit Manectric for weakness, so it is probably not worth it after all.


Mega Aggron EX

I'm not going to post a decklist for Mega Aggron EX because I couldn't figure out what approach I actually wanted to take with Mega Aggron EX. I really like this card, because it can reach the 240 damage, which seems to be the new 180 that would previously OHKO anything. But I haven't found a way to play it optimally.
If you want to play a solid line of Aggron and Spirit Links for it, you need to replace some of the other attackers normally seen in Bronzong decks. This might not seem to be a problem if you can OHKO anything. But when playing against a deck that is not build up around EXs, you really have to go through a lot of setup before you can start attacking with Aggron, even if you only need to deal 90 damage.
Another approach could be to play it more as a tech. But I wouldn't play it without Victini (Fliptini), and then it takes up three spots already, even though we don't have Spirit Link. Relying on getting all those three cards into play seems a bit risky, since one of them could often be prized.

I'm wondering if it's worth playing Aggron in a Bronzong deck at all. It's the perfect anti-Mega-Pokémon card, but what threat is it actually that needed for? A standard metal deck should already be able to deal with Gardevoir. Aggron could indeed be the Mega Manectric counter that it needed before, but if Manectric begins to be paired up with Camerupt EX often, then you would probably lose that matchup to the fire weakness anyway. Then there are the two new Primal Pokémon: Groudon and Kyogre. I'll talk more about Groudon in a moment. Kyogre is a great card, but also one that I think has been overhyped. Both Groudon and Kyogre suffer to grass weakness, which means that if they ever become really popular we'll just start seeing a lot more of Virizion/Genesect. Until we know more about how the metagame is shaping, I don't think it's worth the trouble to work a lot with Aggron.


Primal Groudon EX

There are not many ways to accelerate Fighting energies, which makes it quite hard to reach the 4 energies that Primal Groudon needs to attack. But since Groudon's Ancient Trait, Omega Barrier, can prevent the effect of Lysandre, you won't have to fear that your opponent drags it up before it can attack. Unless of course that they play Genesect EX, since Omega Barrier doesn't prevent abilities. Once you have it ready to attack, you can often take 2 OHKOs with it on opposing EXs, before the opponent is able to deal with the massive 240 HP it has.
Primal Groudon is easier to evolve into than a lot of other Megas, since you can search out both Groudon EX and Spirit Link with a Korrina. A standard list that evolves Groudon normally is also a pretty good deck, but I really wanted to try and make Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick work, so I'll give you this list instead. This version might not be better, but it sure is more fun!

With this list I'm able to get Primal Groudon onto the table during turn 1 more than half the times. And during most of those times I was also ready to use Shout of Power with Landorus, so that I could start powering it up in turn 1, in case I wasn't the starting player.
The idea of the build is that you're able to play or burn most of the cards so that you can get your hand down to that one last card, that should be either Maxie, VS Seeker or Jirachi. Since you can't play other supporters when aiming to play Maxie, they will often be dead cards in your hand, which is why I've replaced most of the draw supporters for item draw.

Even when you have several cards in hand that you can't play, you can often either discard them with Ultra Ball or shuffle them back into the deck with Maintenance. Roller Skates should often be the first items you play since the difference in the outcome is quite big. Knowing if you have a big or a small hand to deal with makes it easier to plan ahead, and increases the chance of playing the Hidden Ball Trick. You will often be able to draw into either Maxie or VS Seeker + Battle-Compressor. If you also have Bicycle in hand, then try to thin down your hand as much as possible. If you then happen to draw into a Ultra Ball with Bicycle, you can discard Ultra Ball and two other cards to failsearch and end up with only Maxie/VS Seeker in hand. Make sure you have searched out both Primal Groudon, Maxie and a basic Fighting energy with your first Battle Compressor.

Hard Charm is awesome to put on Primal Groudon because Omega Barrier will prevent the opponent from discarding it with Startling Megaphone.



So there we have some of the new contenders for the upcoming tournaments involving Primal Clash. It's still hard to tell if it will actually be a OHKO-format. Do I personally think that the OHKO decks will dominate the format?
Nope. All of the OHKO decks have some flaws that can be taken advantage of. But since they use very different methods to build up for these OHKOs, I think it'll be very hard to counter them all. And though they might not dominate, I still fear that they will have a serious impact on the metagame, which will make fewer new and creative decks do well. This would indeed be a shame now that we come from the BCR-PHF format, which I think is the best format we have had for years. We constantly saw new combinations reach top 8 at Cities, and there were no decks that clearly dominated the tournaments we had during December and January.

 So how do we beat these OHKO decks? Donphan is still pretty good and has an even or better matchup against most of the decks in this article. This is partly due to Wobbuffet disrupting several of the decks, but also because they have to go through a lot of setup, even though they only have to hit for 130 damage. Garbodor is also quite troublesome for both Gardevoir, Metal and Medicham. But I wouldn't like to see a format where you had to choose between a OHKO deck, Donphan or lock-decks. Until the Regionals start towards the end of February, it'll be hard to clarify how the metagame is, but hopefully we'll still see a lot of creative decks.

I hope you enjoyed the article and got a few ideas for your own playtesting!

-Simon Øbro

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