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Brandon Flowers

Keeping an Ear Out for Standard

A look at Standard Metagross-GX, as well as a bit of a new take on spread including Tapu Koko, Necrozma, and Meowstic

10/01/2017 by Brandon Flowers

With Standard still being defined, ‘new’ decks and archetypes being discovered or rediscovered, everyone is finding out that each deck has a few tricks up its sleeve (or can, at least) that can give it an edge in an ever developing and changing metagame. However major or minor these things are, they can be game-changing if used in a timely and effective manner. Here are a couple lists - something old and something new, that I believe have enough tricks up their sleeves that can allow them to hold their own in the current metagame. 

 Metagross-GX BKT-BUS

Metagross is one of the more established archetypes, but that doesn’t mean it can't find a few cards that are more useful than before in today's metagame. Two of the best examples of this are Parallel City and Guzma. Guzma is nothing new – but without VS Seeker in format, running 4 Guzma can give the deck quite a bit of an edge. With the ability to both reset your primary attack and select the target you want, Guzma really is a great inclusion for Metagross. At one point, I had considered Pokemon Ranger as an option to reset Metagross's attack for repeated use - but as long as you have an energy either in hand or from Geotech System, and a Pokemon with a retreat cost of one energy on the bench, Guzma gives you the same option. Guzma even improves one of the worst matchups that Metagross has: Greninja. By using Guzma and retreating the pokemon you promote, you are able to use Giga Hammer more than one turn in a row, even under the effect of Shadow Stitching. Throw in a Giratina Promo and you can help turn the matchup around pretty well. Lastly, by using Guzma and promoting any non-Giratina Basic Pokemon, you can retreat back into your Metagross-GX, while picking a new target. 

Parallel City is the best stadium option for the deck as well, for the time being at least. While Altar of the Sunne can eliminate your Fire weakness, most Volcanion decks already play multiple stadiums and Field Blower, so a stadium with a passive effect is not likely to work in this matchup. With Parallel City, you can immediately reduce either your or your opponent’s bench down to 3, or opt to reduce their damage output by 20 if they are Grass, Fire, or Water type. With possible matchups such as Ninetales, WaterBox, or even Volcanion, it can come in handy. While two of those three matchups are pretty clean cut in general anyway, having the option won't really hurt you.

As expected, I choose to make use of both of these options in my list:

 

Metagross does of course have the option of Magearna-EX as well, which can directly replace Giratina here. While they both target the same matchup, they do have different effects on Greninja that both have merit – Magearna gives you your abilities back, whereas Giratina prevents them from using their own. If Greninja is excessively prevalent in your area, using both may even be in your best interests to further shore up the matchup. Outside of the high Guzma count, Parallel City, and Giratina, nothing else is too shocking. This is predominately because consistency is more important than ever. No Shaymin-EX and no VS Seeker in the Standard format results in some awkward situations that can no longer be solved by a quick Ultra Ball. No VS Seeker means your opponent can be sure that you don’t have any more outs to N once four of them hit the discard (in lieu of Puzzle of Time or Twilight GX, at least- which are far less reliable or immediate as VS Seeker is), and can read your plays much more quickly. No Shaymin-EX means that your hand can only be modified by something such as Oranguru or Octillery once you’ve played a supporter for turn, which definitely explains the rise of Octillery’s price in the last few weeks. As more people explore the format, more are turning to Octillery to help alleviate some consistency issues, and give you the option to dig a little deeper than you could otherwise. While Octillery isn’t as reliable for draw power as Shaymin, it does give a more continual effect, without the liability of being two prizes. In testing, I originally played a 2-1 line, but between Brigette to get it out fast, and Stretcher to get it back semi-reliably, the second Remoraid was inevitably cut for the tech spot that Giratina currently occupies. Getting Octillery out quickly is generally not a huge need, since as long as it’s out after you’ve taken 3 or 4 prizes it serves as a well timed, much needed safety net. If for whatever reason your opponent chooses to target the Remoraid or Octillery, that’s just one less Beldum that took a hit generally- though balancing the use of Vulpix and Octillery so they have to extend to take two prizes off the combination can be pretty useful in games. If your opponent cannot take 2+ prizes off non-EX/GX Pokemon, it forces the ever despised 7 prize game, which gives you at least one additional turn to work with.    

As one would expect, several of Metagross-GX’s matchups tend to be ‘solved’ more often than not, given that both you and your opponent set up properly. Ninetales is pretty straightforward, as you hit them for weakness, never giving them a chance to Ice Path effectively at all. Gardevoir is much like Ninetales, except they have even less space to tech against you, and less room to maneuver. Volcanion is pretty awful, as the same happens to you in reverse – your plan of powering through with knockouts and not getting one shot yourself falls flat when the aggressor is Fire type and knocks you out with ease. Garbodor variants can be managed well enough with the right balance of items and by taking advantage of your built in resistance.

Though, in any format, things happen. Matchups can be teched for, and things can be turned on their head, especially when many decks feel lacking in the consistency department.  While weakness plays a huge role in the format, nothing is certain by any means. I’ve won the Volcanion matchup in instances where I can get set up quickly and use multiple Vulpix to do a whopping 100 damage with a Choice Banded Icy Snow turn after turn, or even if they just fail to set up. I’ve also lost matchups against variants of Garbodor do to a combination of Po Town and failing to set up myself. Many decks that have trouble maintaining an edge in the format can turn to Po Town, Tapu Koko promo, and Espeon-EX to turn the tide against pretty much any evolution based deck around. As Michael Pramawat showed recently with a Ninetales-GX/Koko/Po Town deck, even evolution based decks themselves can use Po Town to bring their opponents down a notch and into range of knockouts.

 

Koko/Necrozma/Meowstic

Of the many decks that can play Po Town to help with math in specific matchups, some decks can even use it as part of their basic strategy. While some of the decks that use this strategy should be overlooked, I feel like some of them should not be passed over lightly. In any developing format, previously overlooked cards can finally have a chance to shine and be utilized in ways not viable or not possible before. One of these cards is Meowstic from Generations (originally printed in Flashfire). Even I had overlooked it initially, prior to talking a bit with Andrew Krekeler and reasoning through it a bit. He had the idea to actually utilize all the spread damage we’re already trying to make use of in the format as a direct, cohesive strategy- and boy can it be potent. Moving damage with attacks was never a big thing before, due to both having ability options to do so, and spread decks not being super viable to begin with. Now with cards such as Po Town, Tapu Koko, and Necrozma-GX, maybe Meowstic can finally fulfill a purpose. Meowstic is just a nice little addition to utilize the damage that people are already focusing on. 

While seemingly a bit all over the place, it does all work towards the same end goal – using total damage on the board to take out threats preemptively, and inevitably take all your prizes by utilizing built-up damage that would otherwise go unused. Koko, Po Town, and Necrozma can each add quite a bit of damage to your opponent’s board, while Espeon-EX and Meowstic can turn these damage reserves into knockouts. As a secondary plan, Necrozma and Tapu Lele can both utilize every energy attachment and Max Elixir they can get to deal ever increasing amounts of damage to the active Pokemon. Even in the event Tapu Koko isn’t needed as an attacker, it can be used as a pivot for Max Elixirs to whichever Bench Pokemon you need energy on.

While the deck certainly needs a bit of refinement, I don’t believe it truly has any autoloss. While Garbodor hits most things in the deck for weakness, it doesn’t overly rely on any abilities (with Wonder Tag being the main ability utilized), and the combination of Po Town, Tapu Koko, and Espeon-EX can take out Trubbishes whether they’ve managed to evolve yet or not. The same goes for any deck that relies on Stage 1 or Stage 2 attackers – if you aren’t able to deal with them with Lele’s Energy Drive, or Necrozma’s Prismatic Burst, then any combination of Po Town, Flying Flip, Ear Influence, Miraculous Shine and Black Ray GX should get you some knockouts. Against something like Volcanion, which uses 0-1 evolutions generally, Black Ray GX puts in a massive amount of work, and Ear Influence and/or Prismatic Burst can help finish them off. While Espurr may not be attacking much, it can also change your opponents active Pokemon's weakness to Psychic- doing so makes Prismatic Burst even more of a potential threat in certain situations.   

While something like Weavile serves a similar purpose in spreading damage, I believe that controlling your spread damage is quite a bit more potent than just spreading more, without complete control of the targets. There may be cases in which Weavile can't even target anything on the board. With Meowstic you know that the attack will always be potentially useful, so long as you’re getting some damage on their board, and you only have to rely on your own output rather than their potential Pokemon.

I believe the format now consists of many sets that were once overlooked due to better options being available, and some things are yet to be rediscovered. With so many things lost to the wind of Expanded, Standard actually requires a bit more thought, now that the multitude of ‘old reliable’ options weren’t reprinted for the first time in quite some time. The loss of Shaymin-EX, VS Seeker, Acro Bike, Trainers’ Mail, and a whole slew of attackers like M Rayquaza-EX and Vespiquen stands to create diversity in the format. Once people think outside the triangle that is Metagross>Gardevoir>Volcanion>, that is. Creativity and research is a major part of creating a bit more depth in any format, and there’s never a bad time to introduce it. The key to reaching new heights is to not discourage new ideas without a bit of testing – many times you will be discouraged due to something lacking, but sometimes you may be pleasantly surprised at what you find when you do test out your ideas. Just because something is under-utilized does not mean it’s not useful, especially in a new and unexplored format.

 

Good bye and good luck for now!

-Brandon

[+6] okko


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