Experts' corner

Daniel Altavilla

On Spatial Squids and Special Friends + Team Up Top 5

Danny discusses a Malamar build with cards from Team Up and reveals his Top 5 cards out of the new set!

01/29/2019 by Daniel Altavilla

Hey there, 60Cards readers! I left off discussing a Hitmontop (LT; 113) / Wobbuffet (PHF; 36) deck that had some incredible matchups in Expanded, but now we don’t have to worry about Expanded for a little while and we can focus on the new Standard format with Team Up! The Team Up set adds plenty of new concepts to the game, like Tag Team Pokemon-GX, which are going to be amazing cards with all their HP and heavy-hitting attacks. I’m almost positive the Tag Team cards will be the first cards heavily explored for Australia in the form of Malamar/Gengar and Mimikyu-GX, Zapdos/Pikachu and Zekrom-GX, and Snorlax and Eevee-GX popping up in plenty of decks, or standalone with Kiawe. People will most likely use Marshadow-GX to counter Tag Teams that are weak to Fighting and to copy their Attacks while costing one less Prize.

The Team Up set offers more than just the Tag Teams though, giving new options to  Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) like the baby Zoroark, Alolan Muk, and Erika’s Hospitality. Erika is a huge boon for the deck and gives you the opportunity to instantly fill your hand to start Trading away and finding combo pieces, and is good  Marshadow (SLG; 45) protection. With Zoroark-GX getting stronger, it also has to find a way to deal with Tag Team Pokémon, like baby  Buzzwole (FLI; 77) Sledgehammer and maybe  Lycanroc GX (GRI; 138) with the new Lycanroc-GX teched in. Zoroark-GX will always find a way to be a relevant deck, but this may come later on in the format and not in time for Australia.

My goal out of the format will be to have a soft answer to Zoroark-GX in case it shows up, while focusing on beating Tag Team decks and hitting one-prize decks that combat the Tag Team decks. I think one-prize decks gain the most options from the new set, allowing them to run things like Jirachi, some of the new Supporter options, the Mr. Mime that shuts off Acerola, and the new baby Yveltal to finally give one-prize decks a Basic Dark-type Counter Energy option. One-prize decks controlled the last format and I expect decks like  Granbull (LT; 138) and other strong one-prize options to see wide play because of their insane ability to trade with Tag Team Pokémon-GX. You can give up three Granbulls to KO one Tag Team Pokémon and still win a game because they offer you two extra Prizes, so that deck is still going to be huge, and I can see Jirachi making Items a hot topic now, which will cause something with Alolan Muk and  Garbodor (GRI; 51) to pop up for sure. You can’t go wrong with a deck that wins prize trades in new formats because they allow you to slip up for a couple turns and still pull out a win, even more so now with Tag Team. 

I think the deck with the most obvious gains, and the one I’d like to focus this article around, is Marshadow-GX/Malamar. 


Table of contents

The Evolution of Squids

Malamar (FLI; 51)  is easily the best deck out of Team Up. It literally gains an answer to every single one of its old problems. You receive a consistent and strong 2-energy attacker, which allows you to have 1 less Malamar on board a lot of the time, a consistent answer to Zoroark-GX even from a defecit, and some new Supporter options to fix issues the deck previously had with draw. It seems pretty clear that Malamar was already a tier one deck last format, so any deck that was tier 1 before and gains new cards is always worth considering when going into a blind meta.


 The thing that benefits Malamar the most as a deck is how flawlessly it switches between pressuring one-prize decks and pressuring GX decks. Against Granbull, Lost March, Buzzwole/Garbodor/ Shrine of Punishment (CLS; 143) , and mirror you can just spam  Giratina (LT; 97) all game and never get punished because you have infinite attackers, and whenever your opponent KOs a Malamar, they leave your Giratina untouched, which lets you easily replace the Inkay or just manually attach to another Tina or have two turns to set up the next attacker. The deck is amazing versus one-prize decks right now and just as strong versus GX decks, including other Tag Team decks, because of the Tag Team Pokémon. The deck can now KO a Tag Team with  Marshadow GX (BUS; 80) copying Moon’s Eclipse GX, or use Snorlax and Eevee Tag Team-GX as itself to make use of the 270 HP and big damage, and the deck is brought seamlessly together by Distortion Door and the pressure Giratina applies as an attacker. If that wasn’t enough already, the deck can also use Bell of Silence on Chimeco CIN to slow down opponents and allow the deck to set up, or to even autowin decks without any true way to get around the attack. This makes for a well-rounded, consistent deck full of options that clearly has been evolving over time and is currently peaking.

The cool thing about Malamar is that it is probably the most consistent deck outside of Zoroark decks. There are a bunch of search Items, 3 Acro Bike, 9 Draw Supporters, new Jirachi, and a Let Loose Marshadow to find off of the search cards. The main attackers are all Basic Pokémon, and the main Support Pokémon is a Stage 1 that can be grabbed off of 9 different cards and is played at 4-4. The deck has so many draw options that you rarely fail to set up, and even then you have Bell of Silence to compensate for the games that you stumble. Enough of me hyping up the deck though, I’ll go into my current list and the counts.


You want 4-4 Malamar in the deck to be able to consistently find your attacking pieces and avoid prizing issues. For consistency with all the ball cards, you play a Tapu Lele-GX to be able to search it out if need be, but you also have a ton of raw draw Supporters. You can also use Marshadow SLG’s Let Loose to try and fix your hand or to kill your opponent’s. You have 2 Jirachi because you don’t want to use too much of the deck’s space to fit Jirachi, but considering you always try to have a free pivot on board it is best that said pivot is Jirachi. This way, even with a dead hand you can Jirachi and potentially draw a way out of your situation. Jirachi can also dig for clutch cards like Guzma or Rescue Stretcher so you find them exactly when you need them. Getting into attackers, I think Giratina LOT is your main attacker in most matchups, being ideal for the one-prize decks and letting you Distortion Door back you attacker every time. This, when paired with using a Jirachi ability every turn, will find you hitting the cards you want every time without worrying much, and Bell of Silence to help you set up is going to be a valuable asset that brings the deck fully together.

Your other attacking options for the deck include Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX, which is mostly just for Moon’s Eclipse GX, Gengar and Mimikyu Tag Team-GX to have a 2-energy attack like Poltergeist that can pack a wallop while also giving you the option to get a free set-up turn with Horror House GX, and Necrozma-GX. I would normally want to play Snorlax and Eevee Tag Team-GX in the deck for Zoroark decks, but I think Poltergeist already does a number on Zoroark-GX and you want the infinite damage cap option that Necrozma gives you. Any deck with a fixed amount of damage can have trouble taking KOs and that is simply not something I’m willing to risk when Tag Teams just got released and are going to be a strong force in the game. Marshadow-GX really centralizes the deck by giving you an option to discard your attackers and still have 2 ways to use them, and lets you abuse the broken attacks on Gengar and Mimikyu Tag Team-GX for one less prize card. Marshadow is extremely important for some of the Tag Team Pokémon and for Zoroark-GX, so it is a welcome option in the deck that shouldn’t go away any time soon.  So now we have options for one-prize decks, GX decks, Tag Team GX decks, Zoroark-GX decks. What else could we possibly need? It seems as if we have come across a very strong and poised Toolbox deck to mess around with in a blind meta, which is always nice considering a Toolbox prepares you for nearly every situation you will face. 


Pokémon aside, the deck still boasts a lot of consistency and is pretty straightforward. Starting off with 4 Lillie, you are going to have an explosive turn one most of the time. The cool part of the deck is that you don’t even need to use Lillie turn one to explode, but when you do it just makes for an even stronger turn one. Besides that, you can greedily draw all game with 3 Erika’s Hospitality, and you still have 2 Cynthia on top of that to fix your hands that are too big for Erika and Lillie. What I admire about this deck is that Jirachi makes you need Supporters way less, because you are a set-up deck that plays off of your board a lot, and if you get to build up a hand and use Jirachi to dig for specific cards you are going to be able to have simple turns where you just answer whatever your opponent just did while either building up your hand, pressuring with Guzma or applying pressure from a dead draw situation which is sort of putting you onto the advantage even though you would normally be heavily disadvantaged. Four Ultra Ball, 4 Mysterious Treasure and a Pokémon Communication are going to give you the best options for cutting down on hand size and finding all of your important pieces and 4 Escape Board + 1 Escape Rope will give you options to use Jirachi, find stuff, and then pivot into anything you want. The 9 draw supporters make for 1 more than the deck used to play and with Jirachi it feels way smoother than it was, and you can fall back on the 3 Acro Bike to dig a little harder for what you need.

Anybody who is unsure of which way the format is headed from here on out will have a good time with this Malamar concept as it is built with a wide-open format in mind, and rather than running heavy meta-specific techs it is just the best and most consistent version of Malamar. When I won the Memphis Regional Championship earlier this season, the meta was still undefined, and while we knew some of what people were playing nobody had the opportunity to really grow comfortable with a deck. This made it easy to just pick up Malamar/Marshadow-GX and not care who or what I was playing against, just play the deck, draw well, and play to the best of my ability and anything can happen. I have a strong feeling this is exactly how Australia’s International Championship will go. I want to do a Matchups section in this article to go over how the deck works, so even though there aren’t any real decks yet I’ll go off of what I personally expect.


Zoroark-GX Variants – 65/35 –

I think Zoroark variants have always been difficult for Malamar to deal with, but with the new options provided through Horror House GX, Poltergeist, Erika’s Hospitality and Jirachi paired with the options we already had like Bell of Silence and Marshadow-GX the deck can finally say it has an edge in the Zoroark-GX matchups. Nothing can quite slow Malamar down anymore, you are digging through your deck like nothing and you WILL find what you are looking for through Jirachi, so you don’t need to worry about Zoroark winning just because you slip up for a turn. Will there be games their consistency is too much for you? Sure, but that’s just how Zoroark is and no deck will truly have an amazing Zoroark matchup when you factor in consistency.

Granbull – 55/45 –

This matchup is pretty close only because of the Bodybuilding Dumbbells. Granbull players will slap a Dumbbell onto their Bull and apply a ton of pressure because you can’t OHKO the Bull anymore. Our deck has no real way to handle that pressure besides Guzma on Magcargo and hope they whiff for a turn, or get off 4 Distortion Door abilities to counter the Dumbbell, but neither of these are particularly consistent to pull off. Bell of Silence can completely win games on its own though, so always try and cheese with that first.

Buzzwole/Garbodor/Shrine of Punishment – 70/30 (Unfavorable if you start a GX) –

This matchup is usually a lay up because you have infinite attacker Giratina, Malamar can double as an attacker in this matchup against Garbodor or can hit a Buzzwole for 120 and then allow you to Distortion Door later on in the game to take a KO and mess up your opponent’s gameplan by not freeing up a Bench Space for them right away, you can use Bell of Silence to keep Magcargo from hitting the board until you’re ready to attack, the deck just can’t properly deal with Malamar anymore. The issue you have always had with BGS is that when you start a GX you just lose because they can win the Prize trade now, and they will always ignore your GX and let Shrine of Punishment tick away at it. These are the games you have to target down Magcargo all game and then hope they whiff a turn, and worst-case scenario you just Let Loose into Moon’s Eclipse GX and hope they whiff a Guzma.

Zapdos/Electric Attackers – 60/40 –

The issue with Zapdos is that you don’t have a good response to the deck. Yeah you can just put a Giratina in their face and ask them to deal with it, but they are always going to get a turn 1 KO on an Inkay followed more than likely by a turn 2 KO on a Malamar which means if you aren’t ready to swing ASAP you will always fall short. The biggest issue with the deck is that they will take 4 prizes first most games, and then they will try to set up a Pikachu and Zekrom Tag Team-GX in one turn to take their last 2 prizes. If it is an all non-GX Zapdos list, you are going to fall behind immediately and will need to find a way to compensate, and it is very difficult to do so. I put the matchup at 60/40 only because you always have a Giratina ready to go so it is more likely that your opponent whiffs a meaningful attack than it is that you do.

Malamar mirror – 50/50 –

Malamar is going to be a difficult matchup no matter what because they are throwing your own tricks back into your face. Malamar is going to be able to put a Giratina Active every turn just like you can, and they are also going to pressure you with GX Pokémon, Bell of Silence and other shenanigans when need be. I’d imagine everybody is going to use Malamar with Jirachi, so you can’t even say you have more consistency than other lists – it is a pure 50/50 for now. If either player starts a GX, just like in the BGS matchup, that alone can decide the entire game. It’s important to note that if you aren’t careful with the 40 damage you place off of Shadow Impact, you will get punished by Distortion Door.


Blacephalon-GX/Naganadel – 80/20 –

I know Blacephalon used to be a big deal and the deck used to be an issue for a lot of other decks to handle, but you can use Moon’s Eclipse GX into Prismatic Burst, you can Black Ray if your opponent puts down two GX Pokémon, and you can just keep spamming Giratina all game on Naganadels and ignoring the Blacephalon to lower their damage output and then drop a Tag Team that is very difficult to KO. All around a very favorable matchup and probably the one you are most poised to beat in this format outside of Buzzwole.

Buzzwole-GX/Alolan Ninetales-GX Variants – 85/15 –

This matchup only goes fully south when you draw awful. In any other situation you just Bell of Silence until you are ready to go in with a Giratina and you just play the one-prize game until after Sledge Turn, then you can just put a Gengar and Mimikyu on board, clear a Buzzwole, and not have to worry about a return KO, then you just clean up. Very linear matchup and can get out of your control in specific poor draw scenarios, but usually goes your way.

 This isn’t everything you will see in Australia considering there is an entire new set out, but these will probably be the biggest decks and what I would start testing against with my new Team Up strategies. Now that you’re a Malamar expert and you have a strong list for Team Up, I’ll jump into my top 5 cards from Team Up to help aide your own testing.

Team Up Top 5

1.       Jirachi – I think Jirachi is the #1 Team Up card on every list, and that’s for good reason – the card simply bridges the disparity between Zoroark’s draw power and everything not Zoroark. Looking at the top 5 and picking a Trainer is always going to be really good considering other decks don’t need combos as heavy as Zoroark’s, so most decks that can easily fit Jirachi and Escape Board or Switch are going to have a field day.

2.       Pokémon Communication – It is quite clear that Pokémon Communication is going to be a staple in the Standard format. There are plenty of decks using Great Ball right now due to lack of options, and most Zoroark-GX decks will probably include some amount of Pokémon Communication as well. The card is nearly as good as Ultra Ball and when we are running so low on Ball options, Communication came at just the right time.

3.       Persian – The “Make ‘Em Pay” attack on Persian makes your opponent reveal their hand and allows you to discard whatever you want until they have 4 cards left. This card is going to fix the Zoroark issue that Expanded currently has, so it is a welcome addition to the game and something any deck with Ditto <*> can tech.

4.       Bill’s Analysis – This card lets you look at your top 7 cards, pick 2 Trainer cards you find and put them into your hand. The card synergizes well in setup decks and stall decks, and can be extremely good in Ultra Beast decks to find Beast Ring and in Zoroark-GX decks to find specific combo pieces when paired with Trade. I think the card has a lot of potential, and even if it isn’t heavily used right now it could see play in the future depending on what other cards get released.

5.       Hitmonchan – The only reason I’m pointing out Hitmonchan is because of my last article. I think Hitmontop/Wobbuffet can cut two or three Hitmontop in favor of Hitmonchan because Hitmonchan is just Donphan but basic so you don’t always have to make your opponent also switch, and Magnum Punch does 70 base so you don’t have to flip Coins to do big damage. I love this card and it makes the Hitmontop/Wobb deck even better than it already was.


I think I’ve covered Team Up enough to allow you to excel in your own testing or to just pick up my Malamar build and start playing. It’s important to keep in mind everything I mentioned about the changes Team Up will provide to our current format, and do with this information what you will in preparation for the Oceania International Championship. Malamar is more than likely the best deck out of this new set, with Zapdos climbing my list more every day, and Zoroark-GX will obviously always find a way to be a competitor. Besides this, I can’t really see the format being shaken up too heavily. With that being said, I wish good luck to everybody in their Team Up testing and can’t wait to see the innovations that pop up for Australia. Until next time,

-          Daniel Altavilla

[+20] okko


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