Experts' corner

Bert Wolters

From Finish to Start

Bert goes over his performance at the last tournament of the 2018 season and the first of the 2019 season: the NAIC and the Valencia SPE, and looks forward to the World Championships

08/12/2018 by Bert Wolters

Hello readers, Bert here!

It has been a while since a wrote an article, since I was busy finishing my studies, but I’m back today with a brand new article. I will be talking about what I did right after finishing my studies: Playing the last regular tournament of the 2018 season and the first tournament of the 2019 season; The North American International Championships (NAIC) and the Dreamhack Valencia Special Premier Event.

North American International Championships

The day after the final presentation of my study I left for the airport at 4:00 A.M., joined up with my travel buddies and went to Columbus. Because I had been busy with my studies, I didn’t have a lot of time to test for the tournament. Even though I didn’t test a lot, I chose to bring an undertested deck with me as the main choice for the tournament: Zoroark-GX/Weavile. The idea behind this was that Weavile should beat both Zoroark-GX and Malamar decks and that you would run cards like Mewtwo, Weakness Policy and Reverse Valley to help with the Buzzwole-GX matchup. When I arrived in Columbus I found out what some of the other Europeans had been testing for the tournament: the Zoroark-GX control deck. I really liked the concept of the deck, but I still wanted to have some other options to attack with. Therefore I still chose to go with the Zoroark/Weavile deck, while trying to incorporate some of the ideas of the Zoroark control deck. This is what I came up with:

I had serious doubts about the deck the night before the tournament, but since I didn’t have time to test any other decks, I still chose to play this deck. Let’s see how that worked out (I might not remember every match, but I’ll try my best):

Round 1: vs Tapu Koko/Weavile spread

I start game 1 of decently with a turn 1 Brigette, however when I’m looking through my deck, I find out 3 Zoroark-GX are prized. I don’t get any of them of my first or second prize, so I’m forced to give up 2 Zorua to Tapu Koko’s Flying Flip. This combined with matchup unfamiliarity causes me to lose the first game pretty convincingly.

The second game I play a bit better and have less awful prizes. However my opponent is still able to win after drawing the Energy he needs after a being N-ed to a low hand size.


Round 2: vs Malamar

I don’t remember a lot about this match, but Weavile makes this already good matchup even better, so I think I won this round pretty easily.


Round 3: vs Buzzwole-GX/Lycanroc-GX (BuzzRoc)

During this match my doubts about my deck get confirmed. During game 1 my opponent drew well, but not amazing, but I felt there was nothing my deck could do against it. I am lucky enough to win the second game and pull out a tie that way. But the main take-away for me after this round is that my deck isn’t good enough to handle a BuzzRoc deck that is piloted correctly.


Round 4: vs BuzzRoc

I’m very sad to see my opponent flipping a Buzzwole at the start of the match, meaning I’ll be in for a rough round. This time I’m not able to take a game and get swiftly 2-0ed.


At this point I’m out of contention for day 2 and my doubts about my deck are confirmed. I’m pretty down and at this point I’m wishing I picked a different deck for the tournament, but I decide to keep playing, to see if I can still get some points, but I’m not very confident I can do so. At least it would be something to keep me busy while my friends are still in contention.

Round 5: vs Garbodor/Elixir/Psychic Attackers

My opponent’s deck was very similar to a Psychic Malamar deck, but instead of Malamar he chose to play both Garbodor. We had some nice games, but I was able to take the match pretty easily 2-0.


Round 6 & 7: vs BuzzRoc

I don’t remember these rounds to well, but I’m pretty sure I played against BuzzRoc twice. In these matches my opponents played a bit worse than my other two BuzzRoc matches and I was able to execute my strategies against them to win both rounds.


Round 8: vs Malamar/Necrozma-GX

I open Sneasel game 1 and my opponent picks it up to read it, so that is a good sign for me. I Brigette for 2 Zorua and a Sneasel on my first turn and on my opponent’s second turn he plays down five Pokémon with abilities. He realizes his mistake when I play down my Weavile and start hitting him for 250 each turn and I win game 1 pretty easily. In the second game he tries to play around Weavile a bit more, but I’m able to win the match pretty easily regardless.


Round 9: vs Buzzwole-GX/Garbodor/Beast Ring

In game 1 my opponent gets a quick KO on a Zorua. After that I got my set up, so it took a while before my opponent was able to take a second KO. As my opponent tries to take a prize for his second KO we notice he forgot to take his first prize. A lot has happened since he took the first KO, so the game state was unrepairable and my opponent got a game loss.

In the second game my opponent doesn’t get the most amazing set up, but he’s still able to get a Buzzwole-GX charged with a Beast Ring when I get down to four prizes. He then takes a KO on my Zoroark-GX with Weakness Policy. Fortunately for me I’m able to take out his Buzzwole-GX, his only Pokémon with Energies, by using my Zoroark’s GX attack to copy Absorption GX. My opponent tries to make a comeback by using N and locking my abilities, but I’m lucky enough to draw two Puzzle of Time, to get back my Field Blower to regain access to my abilities. My opponent also misses some Energy drops during these turns and I’m able to close out the game.


With this record I end up making top 128 at 117th place. In the end I feel pretty happy with how I played, but I’m still disappointed with the sub-optimal deck I played and I feel like I could’ve done better had I played a better deck. I have an amazing time at the rest of the event as I can cheer on all the other Europeans which did make it farther in the tournament, with four of them in the top 8 and an all European final. Congrats to all of them; Stéphane, Tord, Adam and Fabien!

In looking back to the event I’m also trying to think of what I could’ve done to have performed better. My big mistake was definitely my deck choice and I even realized this in the last (two) days before the event, however I didn’t feel comfortable enough to play any other deck. I also had limited time to test, but this should be something I could work around. Instead of (almost) exclusively testing an experimental deck for the tournament, I should also have spent some of my testing time testing a back-up deck, a standard tier 1 deck that I could play if the other deck didn’t perform well enough in testing. Had I done this I felt like I would have performed better at the event, but I can’t be sure of that.

There are also a couple of things I would consider to make the deck more viable, but I’ll go over those and the potential of the deck for the World Championships at the end of the article.

Valencia SPE

The Monday after the NAIC I leave America to go back to Europe, but instead of going home I’m going to Valencia to have a nice vacation with my parents and, of course, play in the Valencia SPE. Right after the NAIC concludes I start thinking about what deck I want to play for this tournament. It quickly becomes clear to me that it has to be BuzzRoc and here is why:

Zoroark-GX dominated the NAIC and I expected a lot of players to keep playing Zoroark or to copy one of the Zoroark decks in the top 4 of the NAIC. These Zoroark decks would have to play counters to beat other Zoroark decks (especially Tord’s Zoroark/Control deck), which can often make the deck worse against BuzzRoc. And BuzzRoc already has a mostly positive Zoroark matchup.

Because I expected an increase in Zoroark, I would expect a decrease in Malamar decks. And as Malamar is definitely one of BuzzRoc’s worst matchups, so a metagame without it would be great for BuzzRoc.

And lastly I did expect some players to bring BuzzRoc to counter the Zoroark decks. However nearly all top players in Europe don’t like BuzzRoc and therefore don’t play the deck at larger tournaments. So the deck would mostly be played by mid and high level players and, since I feel very confident in the mirror, I feel like I would have the advantage over them.

I solo tested the deck for a few days against the Zoroark decks from NAIC, to make sure I had the matchup down. I sleeved the cards up and went to the event. This is the list I used:

The list is pretty standard, but I feel like this is the best 60 for the deck. Because the list is pretty standard I won’t go over every card, but I’ll go over a few of the choices I made:

2 Buzzwole-GX / 3 Buzzwole (FLI) split

I see a lot of lists playing a 1/4 split, which is better in the mirror match and against Malamar. However I felt like 3 Buzzwole (FLI) would be enough to win me the mirror match and I really liked having the 2nd Buzzwole-GX for the Zoroark matchup, as I think starting off with Buzzwole-GX is better in that matchup than starting with Buzzwole (FLI)

The Stage 1’s: 2-2 Lycanroc-GX and 2-1 Octillery

Because of space issues we unfortunately can’t fit 2-2 of both of these guys in, so a cut had to be made. I chose to go with only one Octillery. Lycanroc-GX is so important in so many matchups and is often the key to your victory, therefore I don’t want to play less than 2 of it and it’s basic. A second Octillery could be useful in matchups where your opponent tries to kill you Octillery to make their late game N stick. However this strategy is mostly used by Zoroark decks which combine this by also limiting your bench to three with Parallel City and, since you usually have to many other good Pokémon in play to keep two Octillery in play, I don’t think a second Octillery would add enough to the deck. I do like playing two Remoraid though, as playing only one gives your opponent the option to deny you Octillery by taking only one KO on a Remoraid.

4 Max Elixir (and no Field Blower)

I tested one Field Blower over the fourth Max Elixir leading up to the tournament, to counter the rise of Weakness Policy in Zoroark decks. However during testing the card didn’t amaze me: I felt like luck was the biggest factor in getting the card at the right time and the matchup usually came down to if I was able to charge my Lycanroc-GX or not anyways. Therefore I was thinking about putting in the Max Elixir instead and after talking it over quickly before the event with Tord and Pedro I did exactly that and during the event I was very glad I did.

And now let’s go into the tournament!

Round 1: vs Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc GX (ZoroRoc)

I’m pretty happy to see my opponent flip over a Zorua, however I’m not able to win the first game. I don’t lose confidence, however, and I win the second and third game.


Round 2: vs Dusk Mane Necrozma-GX/Max Elixir/Beast Ring

My opponent starts off amazing this round by hitting 3 Max Elixir and an attachment on turn 1. He proceeds to draw all the cards he needs, Guzma, Beast Ring etc. and is able to win this game pretty easily. I’m able to devise a strategy against the deck during this match and in the second and third game I’m able to execute it to win the match. My opponent also didn’t draw as amazing as he did in the first game, which also helped.


Round 3: vs BuzzRoc

In the first game I feel I play a bit better than my opponent, I’m able to get my energy down and I’m able to play around Buzzwole (UPR) and Beast Ring as much as possible. My opponent also relies too much on Buzzwole-GX, which isn’t the best option in mirror.

In the second game I start with Buzzwole-GX, which puts me at a disadvantage, and my opponent has a pretty good start. After a couple of turns my opponent has built up a great board and I see I’m unable to win, so I scoop.

The third game is pretty much the same as the first game and I win it pretty convincingly.


Round 4: vs Zygarde-GX/Lycanroc-GX

Zygarde was an interesting deck to play against. It has some good options against BuzzRoc, like being able to KO Rockruff and Remoraid for a Double Colorless (with Diancie on the bench) while charging itself and being able to KO a Buzzwole with its second attack.

In the first game I don’t draw very well, so I’m not able to execute my strategy off streaming Buzzwole. My opponent draws pretty well, so he’s able to win this game.

During the second game I draw a bit better, so I’m able to execute my strategy and win.

The third game I’m also stuck with a bad hand and I get stomped by Zygarde.


I feel a bit salty after losing this round, because I felt I didn’t have much of an influence on the result because of my bad draws. I sit down, drink a bit of water and eat a bit to try to compose myself. This worked pretty well and I felt a lot better and more focused when going in to the next round.

Round 5: vs Naganadel-GX/Metal (Beastbox)

When my opponent opens Poipole I’m a bit worried about how this will go down. I try to go for the strategy to only attack with one prize attackers. This is pretty easy to execute as I can find my Buzzwole using my opponents’ Ultra Space and the strategy worked out unexpectedly well and I’m able to solidly beat my opponent in two games.


Round 6: vs Zoroark-GX/Golisopod-GX

I don’t recognize my opponent and he isn’t Spanish, so I ask him where he is from. He answers that he is from Israel! This really surprises me, as I didn’t know there were players from there and now I also don’t know what to expect from my opponent.

He plays ZoroPod, one of the more difficult Zoroark matchups for BuzzRoc, and I was very impressed with how well he played. Game 1 I draw pretty well and I am in a dominant position during the whole game, but my opponent kept finding ways to keep himself in the game. However he has to give up more and more field pressure in order to do so, and then ends up losing the game.

The second game he draws a bit worse so I’m able to steamroll him pretty easily.


Round 7: vs ZoroRoc

I’m not too sure about the details of the match, but I remember it went to game three and I won the game in a really close fashion


Round 8: vs Zoroark-GX/Garbodor (ZoroGarb)

With one extra match point me and my opponent are both safely in top 8, so we decide to ID.


I make top 8 as the second seed, just behind the Zygarde player, and I have to play a Spanish player playing ZoroGarb.

I go back to the Airbnb pretty content with how I did and very happy with the deck I chose (luckily I did this a lot better than for the NAIC). I felt like I made the right meta call as there were a lot of Zoroark decks and almost no one played Malamar. The top 8 also looked really nice for me, it contained 1 Zygarde-GX/Lycanroc-GX, 1 Gallade/Octillery, 5 Zoroark-GX decks and me, so I felt I would have a good chance of winning the tournament.

I had a nice home-made dinner at the Airbnb and I went to bed at a decent time to be fresh the next day for the top 8.

Top 8: vs Eduard Luque with ZoroGarb

I face ZoroGarb first in the top 8 and I’m pretty happy about that, since in testing the matchup was solidly in BuzzRoc’s favor. I win the flip and get to go first. This game I’m able to execute the strategy against the deck, which is opening with Buzzwole-GX and after that getting out a Lycanroc-GX as fast as possible, since ZoroGarb doesn’t have an answer to Lycanroc-GX. And I win this game pretty easily. The second game my opponent gets to start and opens well, I don’t have the cards to handle this start so I lose this game. In the third game I get to start again and I’m able to execute my strategy again to win the game and move on to top 4.

Top 4: vs Robin Schulz with ZoroRoc

At this point in the tournament there are only me and 3 Zoroark players left, so I’m feeling pretty good about my chances to win. My first obstacle to the championship is Robin Schulz and his ZoroRoc deck.

He gets to start the first game and I don’t have the best start supporter wise. I am however able to get Lycanroc-GX out pretty quickly, while keeping my bench low. Because of this I’m able to take quite a few prizes before he’s able to KO the Lycanroc. I’m able to capitalize on this lead and I win the first game.

The second game is a lot closer, but in the end Robin pulls ahead and wins the game.

The third game is also a very good and close game. I’m able to keep knocking out his Rockruff to keep Lycanroc of the board, but he’s is able to keep it close. One turn I’m not able to KO his Rockruff, but I do hit a crucial Beast Ring on a Buzzwole-GX to have two Pokémon charged up to have some back-up for the incoming Lycanroc-GX. He is able to get the Lycanroc-GX and knocks my Buzzwole-GX out while playing an N to get my down to 1 card. To win I need to draw a Guzma from the N to 1 and the cards I can draw with Octillery. I draw the Guzma of the 1 card from N to win the game to get me into finals!

Finals: vs Stéphane Ivanoff with ZoroGarb

It is great to be in the finals with Stéphane, not only is he the freshly crowned NAIC champion, we also had a really nice rivalry in the past season in the European CP rankings, flipping who was ahead of the other almost every week. So it was going to be a nice finals and a great start of this rivalry for the new season. Or so I thought…

Game one I open a Buzzwole and a Diancie, but no draw supporters to speak of. And to make matters worse Stéphane opens Latios. I go first and attach to Buzzwole, Stéphane then gets the Brigette and an Energy onto the Latios. In my second turn I am able to take a KO on a Zorua using Guzma, but I’m forced to attach and play an Max Elixir on my Diancie as my Buzzwole will most likely be knocked out by the Latios the following turn. This does indeed happen and I’m able to return the KO with Diancie, while benching a Rockruff to prevent myself from bencing out. Stephane then gets the KO on my Diancie and in my following turn I have to evolve my Rockruff not to lose the game, however I have no Energy to threaten the KO next turn. Stéphane hits into my Lycanroc-GX with his Zoroark-GX and now I’m one turn away from losing. But in a ploy to keep this game going, my deck gives me a Buzzwole-GX the next turn which I get charged up by playing a Max Elixir and a Beast Ring, but my Lycanroc-GX is still stuck active, so I have to pass. Luckily for me Stéphane doesn’t have a Guzma and has to take the KO on my Lycanroc. On my turn I use Absorption GX to KO his Zoroark and even up the prizes 2 to 2. I don’t have enough items in my discard to make Trashalanche a KO so he has to take the two hit KO, meaning that if I have a Guzma I win the game. Unfortunately for me I don’t have it and lose the first game.

The second game is a lot closer and more finals worthy. We go back and forth throughout the game until both of us only need one KO to take the win. I am able to take that KO first and therefore win this game

So now we make ourselves up for an exciting final match of this finals, to decide who will be first in the rankings for the new season. My deck, however, has a different plan. When Stéphane opens with his signature turn 1 Brigette, combined with an attachment to his Latios, I’m looking down at my lone Rockruff in the active and at my hand, hoping my top deck will change something about this situation. It unfortunately doesn’t and I’m forced to attach to my Rockruff and pass. Stéphane doesn’t wait to take advantage of this and he finds the cards he need to take the KO on my Rockruff and take the match of a Professor Sycamore.

It’s unfortunate to lose this way, but I still leave the venue very satisfied with my result. This second place is a great kick start for a new season and puts me in a great position for the top 22 race. I spend my last few days in Valencia relaxing at the beach after which I go back home and I start preparing for the next tournament: Worlds.

Decks for Worlds

I’ll quickly go over the decks I played at these two tournaments and how strong they will be for the Worlds meta.


Zoroark-GX/Weavile gets better with the introduction of Celestial Storm. The biggest deck from the new set is Rayquaza-GX and since all attackers in the deck have an Ability, Weavile is a great counter to the deck. So Weavile is in a better position for Worlds, but the deck needs some alterations to improve some of its other matchups.

First off other Zoroark players can play around Weavile by limiting the amount of Pokémon with Abilities in play, so the deck needs a bit more. I think playing an Acerola would go a long way in this as having to deal with healing and Weavile might be too much for other Zoroark decks.

After testing the Zoroark-GX control deck I found out playing two Counter Catchers is amazing against BuzzRoc, so I think adding the second Counter Catcher can help in bringing the matchup against BuzzRoc closer to 50/50


BuzzRoc is one of the strongest decks in the format and that didn’t change with the release of Celestial Storm. The Rayquaza-GX matchup has been pretty 50/50 during testing and it mostly depends on who is luckier with hitting Elixirs and what Rayqauza-GX mills. BuzzRoc can also take advantage of the expected rise in play of Zoroark-GX decks, which is usually a good matchup.

In terms of the list I wouldn’t change too much. Celestial Storm didn’t give the deck any great cards to consider and I think the list I used worked pretty well. Unfortunately I feel there isn’t much room to vary in this deck as most cards, like 2-2 Lycanroc-GX and 4 Elixirs, are essential in making the deck work as consistently as possible. But don’t be afraid to test out new changes if you think they will help the deck.


Thanks for reading!

Please follow me on Twitter @Pokebert1 where I post updates from tournaments I attend, decks I use and other stuff.

[+20] okko


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