Experts' corner

Daniel Altavilla

Meta Calls for Memphis - Volcanion/Celesteela and Decidueye/Zoroark

Daniel goes over two top plays for the Memphis Regional Championships.

12/15/2017 by Daniel Altavilla

Hey there, 60cards readers! It's been quite a long time, but finally I'm back with the scoop on Memphis and a little bit of my experience over in London. I'm coming fresh off a top 64 with a Decidueye-GX/Zoroark-GX list that Igor Costa, Jimmy Pendarvis, and Hunter Butler built, and I'm here today to drop some wisdom on the deck, delve into the intricacies of each newer count, and then talk a little bit about Volcanion. There are plenty of things to learn in this fluid Standard where the meta seems to shift event to event, and so many unexplored concepts to try out in each deck. There are even new decks popping up left and right, like Gourgeist or even Tapu Koko spread gimmicks, that are actually competitive! It’s safe to say Standard is currently in a fun and inviting place.

Either way, let’s jump into my performance at London with a bit of knowledge on some of the matchups I faced.

Foxy Owls for London

So the origin story of Decidueye-GX/Zoroark-GX comes from a few test games against Igor with Broken Deck. Basically I was convinced that Gardevoir-GX/Quad Max Potion was the play for Standard and that I was a good enough pilot of the deck not to lose to anything. After a couple games against Igor where I was down to my last prize and still lost, it was apparent that Decidueye was way stronger than I presumed initially, and I was completely sold on the deck. We grinded out games against Drampa-GX/Garbodor and eventually came to the conclusion that even that matchup, which was our supposed worst matchup, was winnable and even slightly favorable!

Perhaps these results were too good to be true, but we took the chance anyways, because we expected there to be virtually no Mr. Mime in the decks where the card mattered, and we knew we had a good matchup against everything else.
A handful of us ended up running the deck at London. I may be wrong, but I'm pretty sure Jimmy, Igor, Gustavo Wada and myself all lost our win and ins with the deck, which for an international is nothing to scoff at.

 A different approach on the list piloted by Stefane Ivanoff was able to see top 16, so that attests to the strength of the deck. While it didn't break the top 8, it still had a strong showing, and I'm confident that if any of us had seen day 2 we could've won the event. Here's a quick tournament report to showcase how my rounds went:

Round 1: Alolan Ninetales-GX/Zoroark-GX - WW 1-0
My first round was against 'Tales/Zoroark, which is probably just the worse version of Foxy Owls. They have a more concentrated damage output, and no heal, so the matchup pretty much comes down to you just force feeding them a Decidueye and Max Potioning it until your set up is ideal and then destroying their active with Feather Arrow + Riotous Beating, or even just spreading and devolving, which they have absolutely no strong answer to.

My opponent couldn't really keep up with me, and every time I saw damage on my Zoroark-GX, I simply would heal it with Max Potion, attach a Double Colorless again, and go to town. This win was pretty convincing, and my opponent had kind of a "wow" expression on his face at the end of the series.

Round 2: Buzzwole-GX/Garbodor - WW 2-0
Game 1 was very close. It was a situation where I Nd my opponent down to one or two with multiple outs in his deck, and he just whiffed. Buzz Garb is kind of a hurdle for us, because our only attacker with substance is weak to fighting, so you have to feed them Lele while also being cautious of your items. After the initial whiff, my opponent followed up the second game with a dead draw. It had the potential to still be a close series though, as an oversight by me gave my opponent an extra out he didn't previously have access to but ultimately whiffed yet again.
Maybe the whiffs attest to the consistency of Buzzwole/Garb?

Round 3: Golisopod-GX/Zoroark-GX - WW 3-0
This round was bonkers. I literally just played solitaire against my opponent twice, as I set up three Decidueye and just kept OHKOing whatever my opponent had up. In this matchup you just have to outdamage your opponent, and if you can't OHKO their active 'Pod, you put the Arrows on the benched Wimpod, so that if they Acerola, you have the guaranteed KO on the new active.
I'd say the matchup is fairly simple, although it comes down to how well the Deci player draws sometimes. After the solitaire, my opponent mentioned that I "had a very aggressive deck." Yes, opponent, it's pretty aggressive!

Round 4: Xander Pero/Drampa-GX/Garbodor - LW 3-0-1
Xander and I played this game on the official stream, so instead of going over it I'd suggest you go watch it. I played very sloppily and probably could've won this round had I made some smarter decisions, but it's definitely tough being in the hot seat with Xander. Either way, it's a great series and a solid showcasing of the matchup for anybody curious.

Round 5: Volcanion - LWW 4-0-1
This matchup isn't as awful as I expected. My opponent ran away with game one, but the last two games he drew realistically instead of absolutely godly, and I was able to overpower him.

The trick to this matchup is such: Swing into their attacker with Zoroark. Keep your Dartrix unevolved until you do so. After they have damage, (120 on baby volc or 150 on any EX/GX in the deck), you evolve, feather arrow into the knockout, let them promote, and then deal another set of damage to the new active. They now either have to KO a Decidueye, ignoring your Zoroark threat, or try to KO Zoroark, ignoring the inevitable Feather Arrow KO you are about to receive. Either way, it's a lot of pressure for Volcanion to deal with, and usually it's enough to put you ahead in the prize lead.

Round 6: Drampa-GX/Garbodor - WW 5-0-1
This round was pretty nice. My opponent ran decent, and so did I, but my opponent decided not to bother with Drampa-GX at all so I just KOd Garbs until there was no late game threat and went crazy playing my items. Quad Drampa-GX is a WAY better matchup than Drampa-GX/Garb! My opponent had a crucial miscalculation in game two which handed the game away, though I'm positive I would've been able to pull it out either way. This series was much easier than the Xander series, as I was much more calm for this one and not misplaying.

Round 7: Buzzwole-GX/Silvally-GX - WW 6-0-1
This matchup was pretty close, and I did not expect it to be. I beat my opponent twice in probably 14 minutes, but both games went down to the nitty gritty. I kept swinging with Lele, but I also dropped attacks with Zoroark, because why not? If I'm outdamaging you, I'm not worried about losing the prize trade, so losing a Zoroark isn't going to be that relevant.

Round 8: Gardevoir-GX/Sylveon-GX/Espeon-EX - LWL 6-1-1
My opponent offered to ID with me here, and in retrospect I imagine accepting the offer would have been the better play. I dead drew in games one and three to lose an otherwise easy series, and his Espeon EX opened up some cheesy plays that put me behind sometimes. The list was clever, though, so credit to Clifton for coming up with it, but I feel sorta robbed for not getting the win here, especially against the ONLY Gardy I faced at the event!

Round 9: Michael Long/Greninja - LL 6-2-1
I asked for an ID, because Greninja is an awful matchup for Owls. It was different back in the day, because of Vileplume slowing their set up, but now it's possible for the frogs to sit at the big boy table and compete with Decidueye. Lo and behold, Michael denied me the Intentional Draw and proceeded to destroy me. It was a real heartbreaker after such an insane start, and I was really dreading not taking the ID!

Either way, I can't really complain. London was fun, and most of my rounds were just swift 2-0s, so it was a pretty easy International. Hopefully this report helped a little bit with some of the matchups and even if most of my games were just solitaire. That shows how much of a punch this deck packs.

Foxy Owls for Memphis
After London, I noticed some key components the deck lacked that could be improved on. First off, if you ever had a game where you prized a Zorua, your attacking options are cut short. Imagine you prize a Zorua and you get another KOd before it can evolve. You literally have to swing with Lele or Deci for the rest of the game, or just tank hits and Feather Arrow. Either way you're missing out on 120-150 damage a turn. For this reason, I have included a third Zorua in the initial list.

For cups, I decided to drop the thirdField Blower in favor of a meta-dependent tech. One cup I ran Mewtwo EVO for Buzzwole and the other I ran Zoroark BKT for pretty much general aggression. This slot can be anything you see fit though. You can even keep it a third Field Blower.

For Memphis, I'm sold on Latios SLG. I'm confident Garb will not be present, as the deck is suffering some awful matchups right now. If it did show up, and I was unlucky enough to face it, I guess I would have to give them the business with only two Field Blower and some early Latios pressure. I predict Volcanion to rise in popularity, so I'm debating running a tech for that matchup, but there aren't too many solid techs to choose from. Baby Zoroark is decent, Team Skull Grunt could be interesting, and maybe even a 1-1 Alolan Muk. It depends how hard I want to win the matchup.

Is Decidueye a solid play for Memphis? I would easily say it's the top choice. Though the catch is that Broken Deck Gardy is also the top choice. Either of these could see a few strong finishes at the event, even though they both have to deal with counter decks. In the end, it'll come down to the best pilot of whatever deck sees its best matchups, so anything could win, but Gardy or Deci are both safe plays.

Let me share my current Decidueye list real quick and explain the counts:


4-3-4 Decidueye

This count is pretty necessary to allow you to get your Decidueye out quickly. Three Dartrix is as low as we can go while still giving Evosoda a strong effect in the deck and as high as we can allow with all the space this archetype needs to fit everything vital to its success. Rowlet is maxed out because of how easily the non-Stage 2 decks can KO them early, and Decidueye is maxed, so we can still manage three if we prize one, and to allow us to be more comfortable with one being KOd.


3-2/1 Zoroark-GX/Zoroark BKT

This line is all we need for Zoroark in this deck. A deck like Golisopod has the room and bench space for a thicker Zoroark line, and literally everybody who talks to me about copying the deck after seeing it do well at London tells me to run a thicker Zoroark line, but this deck isn’t really prospering from seeing eight cards a turn. You only need the stuff you need, and two Zoroark-GX get you there without an issue.

Zoroark BKT is for matchups like Buzzwole, Volcanion, and Zoroark mirror where they prefer to trade prizes two for two, and they fill up their bench, so you get an OHKO (even one you might otherwise not receive!) and you only give up one prize in return. Stand In also can be pretty good with only one Float in the deck now.


2 Tapu Lele-GX

Two Lele really doesn’t hurt this deck any because you aren’t worried about mid/late game Leles compared to early, when you would want them to be able to search out Brigette more efficiently. This card used to be good at three as an attacker, but Zoroark is a much better attacker against the current meta, which is hitting the 170 mark with ease.


1 Espeon-EX

This card is really strong against the mirror and Gardevoir. It is also probably your only win condition against Solgaleo-GX. The card is essentially just your Stage 2 killer and being able to clear your opponent’s board in one turn is too good to pass up. Espeon also lets you lock your opponent infinitely if they ever have four Rare Candy in the discard and no stage 2s in play – you can Feather Arrow and Miraculous Shine the stage 1 until all the Basics are KOd.


1 Latios SLG

Latios is just a stronger Buzzwole-GX tech than Mewtwo EVO, because your opponent still takes damage if they don’t attach to the Buzzwole. Resistance to Fighting gives you the same insurmountable HP count as Mewtwo, and you get to snipe a benched Buzz or Lycanroc to give yourself an easier time against it. Besides that, it isn’t just dead in every other matchup and it can snipe just like Buzzwole can without changing the deck’s Energy count. Koko was a dead card, and I wanted a Buzzwole tech, so this is the closest thing to Mewtwo and Koko at the same time.


4 Professor Sycamore/4 N

This count is changing to three or four Sycamore and three or four N in various archetypes, so it’s something certain decks have luxuries to mess around with. This deck in particular doesn’t have such a luxury and really benefits from the consistency of maxing out these specific supporters. Also as a Stage 2 deck, you tend to burn through Supporters early on setting up and you absolutely need to have Supporters available for your end game.


2 Guzma

Guzma as a two-of has come up problematic once in many, many testing games and the only time it came up I actually just had to Hollow Hunt for a Guzma and then I was fine. This count is fine and doesn’t need to be messed with, rather it is to be respected and you have to conserve your Guzma for when you need one the most. This deck is kind of hard to play at an optimal level without knowledge of resource management, so for anybody comfortable enough to run Decidueye for Memphis, this count should never be an issue.


2 Brigette

Brigette is a completely necessary turn one card and as Golisopod has moved up to three, we have also moved up, but three is just too many for me, and I could never see that working out too well for Decidueye’s late game. I’ll admit maybe three could be better for the early game, but Decidueye needs to have a more defined early and late game. Thus, we can’t afford to see a card like Brigette past turn one, even if Trade is a thing. We need more outs to cards like Double Colorless Energy, Choice Band, or Special Charge -- even Max Potion!


4 Ultra Ball

These are staple and don’t really yield an explanation.


3 Evosoda

Evosoda is specifically for grabbing our oh-so-important Stage 1s, which means Zoroark and Trade! Evosoda effectively digs three cards out of your deck at once when used for Zoroark, and that is really good! It lets us grab Dartrix and that gives us extra Decidueye consistency. When wanting to set up three Decidueye, you’re going to need more help than four Candy and four Ultra Ball.


3 Max Potion

Max Potion is a better heal card than Acerola in this, deck because of our lack of Bench space for a naked Zorua to evolve into, and because Decidueye also needs healing and is a Stage 2, we can rarely afford to put completely into our hand. You can perhaps make cute plays in which you get an extra Feather Arrow off in one turn, but how often is 20 damage so substantial that it becomes the deciding factor of a game?


3 Rare Candy

These give us consistency in getting out our Decidueye and serve no other purpose besides Trade bait. With three Dartrix and three Evosoda, we have plenty of evolution options.


3 Choice Band

We wanted to up this to a three-of because of how important Choice Band is to our math sometimes. Prizing one really can be a pain when trying to get an OHKO on another Zoroark or even a Basic GX when you only have two Decidueye in play. Three Choice Band has been insane in testing though, and I don’t feel like I would ever be comfortable going down to two again.


2 Field Blower

This count was interchanged with Latios and is very meta dependent. In a field of low Buzzwole and high Garbodor variants I would easily switch this back around to three. Field Blower is sort of losing its place in the meta.


1 Float Stone

This is a scary count, because we also only run two Guzma, but the cool thing about Decidueye decks is that your opponent can never deck you out by stalling anyways. Even if something that can’t attack is stuck active, you still can spam Feather Arrow every turn to draw prizes. You would need to have less than nine cards in deck, be out of N and Guzma outs to lose a game, and if you are ever put into that position you can’t be playing the deck correctly.


1 Rescue Stretcher

In a Stage 2 deck, you just need some sort of recovery, which this provides. I wish I had two at times but I know that variance is a part of Pokemon. Playing one is the best possible option.


1 Special Charge

This card gives us enough Double Colorless Energy to close out a game, and it also gives us clutch turns where we may Trade to zero, hit a card we would otherwise miss, and refill our deck. Stretcher also allows this, so both cards in tandem give you a little room to be dangerous.


4 Double Colorless Energy/2 Grass Energy

This line hasn’t really been an issue except against Greninja where you want to play Grass before Double Colorless to help stream attacks. Two Grass are fine, because our emphasis on Decidueye has gone down, and four Double Colorless is obviously necessary with Zoroark and Lele being our biggest attackers.


One thing I'd like to touch on before moving to Volcanion is Decidueye's ability to dead draw. Like any Stage 2 with a Stage 1 deck, it'll tend to draw poorly here and there, but as long as your turn one includes a Brigette and your hand isn't dead after, the sky is the limit on your turns two and three. More often than not, I find myself with a turn three of three Decidueye-GX and two Zoroark-GX. In my opinion, accepting a dead draw every six to eight games is worth it for the games where you don't dead draw. It's also completely possible to just run hotter than the sun and rarely see a dead draw.

If Memphis was tomorrow, I would easily be playing Decidueye-GX/Zoroark-GX. But because we have some time to test, it might not be that simple.

Volcanion for Memphis


Because of the volume of Golisopod-GX/Zoroark-GX decks at league cups and Volcanion’s consistency in hitting the 210 damage mark as well as being able to hit Grass Pokemon for weakness, it’s obvious that Volcanion is currently well-positioned in the meta.

The only major issue is the large influx in “Broken Deck” Gardevoir decks, which will hold a large portion of the meta share for cups and be played in a similarly large quantity in Memphis. If it’s possible to make Volcanion go 50/50 against Gardy or better, then it can easily take the entire event. It boasts a strong matchup versus Zoro/Pod, Deci/Zoro, Silvally/Metal variants, and Zoroark/Lycanroc, while only having an iffy matchup against Buzzwole/Lycanroc, Gardevoir and Greninja.

With that being said, I’ll go into a list I created with the infamous Seena, creator of Brokenvoir, and my Pro-Play Games teammate Hunter Butler, who really took the idea of Volcanion and broke it for the current meta.


This is the list we have come up with, and it easily has one of the best possible chances of beating its good matchups and Gardevoir at the same time. Basically the idea of this Volcanion deck is that you maximize your consistency in your other matchups with the help of Starmie to give you a stream of Steam Ups every time you need it, along with three Brooklet Hill to get around Parallel City and search out Staryu and Volcanion-EX. This added consistency is necessary, because Volcanion tends to lose to Golisopod only in situations when they are drawing what they need during the game and you aren’t. The sad issue is that with how consistent Golisopod currently is, and how inconsistent Igor Costa’s Hartford winning Volcanion list tends to be, you need to switch that list into the Starmie version now.

Other changes worth having are the Celesteela-GX and two Metal energy, which swing the Gardevoir matchup. These cards may seem crazy, but the reasoning behind them is that we want a way to KO Gardevoir without needing any combination of literally three or four Steam Ups and a Choice Band. Volcanion-EX and Turtonator-GX both utilize Fire/Fire/Colorless for their big attacks, which means if you Max Elixir into one of the Metals, they aren’t just dead in non-Gardevoir matchups.

Also, if you need a Metal, you have a choice between your Professor’s Letters or Starmie to dig one out. So Celesteela is essentially just a Metal-type Volcanion because you are using Power Heater to charge it up and then just using it whenever. Another cool thing about Celesteela is the option to use its GX attack, which flips your prizes for the duration of the game. This gives you a built-in Town Map in Volcanion of all things and that can really switch a game!

As you can see, this Volcanion list is well-equipped for this format, and I could see it easily getting T64 or better at Memphis. While personally I don’t like Volcanion, because it never gives me strong hands in my testing with it, this list is one I would jump to play at an event, and one of my considerations for Memphis currently.


It’s been a wild ride writing another 60cards article for you all, and I hope it had plenty of strong information leading up to Memphis! Ideally, I will end up playing Decidueye and not change my mind last minute to something awful as I do so often, but I don’t think there’s much of a chance for anything else to work out for me, so you probably already know what I’m running. Come say "hi" and give me some feedback if you see me at Memphis, and if not please make sure to leave it here or on Facebook, so I can know what to improve and what I’m doing right!

As always, make sure to check out Pro-Play Games for any of your TCG Singles and Accessories, and keep drinking water!


-          Daniel Altavilla


[+14] okko


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