Experts' corner

Chris Fulop

Po Town Blues

Chris Discusses One Of The Format's Most Hyped New Strategies, and Reviews More Tier One Standard Archetypes!

09/25/2017 by Chris Fulop

Hello again everyone!

In today's article I will be covering more Standard decks. I want to spend some time talking about the newest hyped deck: Po Town Ninetales. Beyond that, I will be discussing a few of the more popular archetypes making an impact in this new format that I haven't had the chance to actually review in my past few articles, which should cover almost all of them. Finally, I want to briefly go over the updates I've made to a few of my previous lists that I am actively playing the most. 


Alolan Ninetales


I first saw this approach to Alolan Ninetales from Michael Pramawat, and since then it has become my favorite deck in the format. I was already really high on Alolan Ninetales, but I was focused more on just being a proactive and powerful deck while also taking comfort in the fact that the deck has a lot of play and versatility to it if need be. The problem was, there were just stronger decks. You fall behind compare to the end game of some of the powerful stage 2 decks, which are some of the more popular archetypes in the format at the moment.

The key change here is the addition of FOUR Po Town, which damages Pokemon every time they evolve. Most decks do not run Stadiums, since in general the legal Stadiums in this format are fairly weak. Not only do most decs have little incentive to use Stadiums for their own strength, but there isn't much reason to just run counter Stadiums, especially with Field Blower legal. That is the next issue at hand: The average count for Field Blower continues to drop off. I very rarely see decks running more than 2 copies of the card, and that makes it pretty easy to play AND actually stick Po Town. Not only does Po Town's damage make it easier to take OHKOs with Blizzard Edge, but you actually have a fairly dedicated spread strategy within the deck. Tapu Koko is a card that is really popular right now, and for good reason. When a majority of decks in the format end up filling their bench, you end up placing a ton of damage counters for only a DCE. On top of this, Ninetales itself has a nice sniping attack in Ice Blade.

The big pay off to this is Espeon EX, as for only 1 Energy you can devolve the opponent's entire field down a Stage! With all of the spread damage, it is really easy to just break a game wide open. You get to do a "Rock Lock" style strategy, for those who have played the 05 or 06 format at all, by repeating forcing them to re-evolve into Po Town for additional damage. Since the Stage 2 decks rely primarily on Rare Candy to evolve, you can really devastate a lot of board states.

The spread damage also makes it so that Tapu Lele GX, which is already a strong attacker, can actually pull clean up duty. You hit a point in the game where you don't just end up having to settle for 2HKOs with Lele, but can just sweep the damaged remains of the opponent's Pokemon. All of it comes together rather smoothly.

This Ninetales build actually manages to merge two fairly different strategies within one list, as you can play a slower, grindy spread game against the Evolution decks which can generally overpower it, but you can also be proactive and bully the other decks with effeciency and raw damage output. Blizzard Edge OHKOs most of those decks' Pokemon with a Choice Band. Most of the non-Evolution decks will struggle to OHKO an Alolan Ninetales GX, so you get to leverage it's GX attack there as well.

There are two additional Pokemon, and I'll be honest when I say I am...on the fence...about both of them. Alolan Ninetales ( Of the non-GX variety! ) is the type of card I just dislike. It's Ability prevents all damage it would take from GX and EX attackers, and with the rotation of Hex Maniac, it is a lot stronger than it would have been previously. One of the problems I've found with these types of cards throughout their history in the PTCG is that they are just too easy to work around. They come off as looking absurd whenever they stick and single handedly win a game, but more often than not decks either have means to KO them or the opponent works around the card entirely taking KOs elsewhere. This Ninetales is a bit different though.

Decks no longer have VS Seeker. The standard count for Guzma seems to be 3, and that makes it hard to truly work -around- Ninetales with the tools in most decks. On top of that, these "anti-EX" walls don't do a ton of damage, and in a lot of cases by chasing the wall dream, you end up giving up on whatever primary plan your deck is trying to accomplish. If you are trying to race or leverage raw power, and take a large portion of the game off doing weaker damage while the opponent is taking KOs or setting up while you have no assurance that the wall will eventually lock up the game, the mere gambit of it all is a set back. In this case, you have a deck that is totally willing to play small ball, if you will, and is set up to take advantage of its 80 damage hits. It also is able to be powered up in one turn with a DCE and an Aqua Patch, which goes a long way towards making me like it. It is a shame that the card couldn't do more to try and help the Metagross GX matchup, which is a nightmare. Unfortunately, due to it's Metal weakness, it just gets eaten alive by a Metang in one hit.

Tapu Fini GX I am less sold on so far in my testing. Hydroshot is a nice snipe attack, but it ends up being inferior to Blizzard Edge alongside a Guzma, so it isn't really offering too much of a new angle for the deck. Bench hitting attacks...well, one target bench hitting attacks at least...have generally become fairly obsolete while in a format alongside Pokemon Catcher/Lysandre/Guzma ( in order of era ) since the attacks end up scaling in power/cost to incorporate the ability to hit the Bench and competitive decks generally can get access to a Benched Pokemon anyways.

Even Fini's lack of weakness doesn't come into play really since the deck is mainly concerned with Metal attackers...meaning Metagross GX, and Metagross with a Band still OHKOs Tapu Fini despite it's lack of weakness. I get the idea behind Fini's GX attack. For only a Water, you can fling away a Pokemon, which is all well and good, but you didn't advance the track of the game much in the process. You fail to take any prizes, and did not do any damage. Giving up a turn's attack to fling away a Pokemon is...not always worthwhile even. I've been praising Sylveon GX in Gardevoir for it's GX attack despite the higher Energy cost, but the difference between flinging away two Pokemon and one is actually massive. Alolan Ninetales GX also has a really powerful GX attack in it's own right that Fini has to compete with.

I haven't chosen to deviate too much from what Pramawat played, which is honestly why the Fini is still in the list ( albeit on the chopping block! Ninetales is safe though! ) Pram ran a 3rd Tapu Koko, which is great as an opener, and the card is very frustrating in multiples as the damage piles up, especially for decks that are not that well suited for OHKOing it. I feel like it isn't quite necessary, and cut it for a Mallow. Mallow works really well with Octillery, and will often emulate the "third" Tapu Koko by making the lone Rescue Stretcher more accessable. Mallow being able to grab a DCE + Aqua Patch, two of the most in demand cards for the deck, comes up a lot as well. Even setting up double Patch turns becomes a lot more consistant as a result of adding the lone Mallow ( Thanks Tapy Lele! )

The last change is to cut a Float Stone for a Switch. Due to Guzma, Float Stone/Switch/Etc have dropped a lot in value. That being said, you do sometimes want to bench a Ninetales GX to be able to Patch onto it and then retreat it active again to chain Blizzard Edges. Float Stone still forces you to abide by the one retreat a turn rule. On top of that, Ninetales will often be suited up with a Choice Band making it unable to hold a Stone. Despite how well the deck benefits from it's lean use of DCE and having access to Aqua Patches, the deck still does really care about each of it's attachments, so conserving Energy on a Ninetales is very important! I understand that my play style with the deck is still influenced by how I would approach it in my prior ( inferior ) build, but I don't think I am handling the deck incorrectly either. It is certainly capable of bullying decks around with it's raw power too, and I am happy to make small tweaks to make that aspect of it's game just a little bit stronger.

The final inclusion in the deck I am a bit unsure of is the Field Blower. The deck doesn't really -need- it, but it is a catch all so I like having access to it. I like it more with the addition of Mallow, since it is so often very time sensitive regarding when you need to have it.

If you haven't played with this deck, do yourself a favor and sleeve it up. It is really strong but also really fun to play. It also can take a lot of different approaches to a game, so having some games under your belt with it is really important if you want to take it to a tournament. I am a bit concerned that the deck could lose a bit of strength if it's popularity continues to rise, as the Evolution decks adjust their lists to better combat the Po Town menace. Right now the deck reaps the rewards from lists being extra soft to the card, but that won't always be the case. Luckily the deck is not stictly a gimmick: It has a ton of game, and just trying to counter part of it's strength isn't going to cripple it. It may be worse positioned, but I can't see it ever being bad.

Next up I have two archetypes that I haven't gone over in previous articles and I feel nearly obligated to actually address them at this point. Those decks are Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu GX and Golisopod ( And a bonus list with Garbodor as a variation! )

Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu-GX

I've always lumped Vikavolt in with Metagross and Gardevoir GX as the formats "Stage 2" energy acceleration decks. While all of the decks have slightly different strategies and strengths, they all share a key premise: They bend over backwards to set up a complex game state leveraging their Stage 2 Pokemon in order to present a game plan going forward that is simply more powerful than what the other decks are doing. This can be offset by being faster than them, or by disrupting the decks ( they are far more vulnerable to disruption than most decks. )

Vikavolt is a Stage 2 Pokemon that lets you yank a Grass or Lightning Energy out of the deck each turn and dump it into play. Ideally you get multiple Vikavolt in play and can take over a board state. While Vikavolt itself is a decent enough attacker, capable of putting out 150 ( 180 ) damage with it's attack. Having to discard 3 energy to do so is a real chore, even with all of the Strong Charging. Therefore the deck relies heavily on Tapu Bulu GX to do the heavy lifting ( Fun Fulop Fact: Tapu Bulu is by far my favorite of the Tapus. )

With 180 HP and no Weakness, Tapu Bulu is a great choice for a primary attacker. It has ( realistically ) two attacks: Nature's Judgment and Tapu Wilderness GX. The GX attack does 150 ( 180 with Band ) and heals the GX Pokemon to full. Decks aiming to two hit Tapu Bulu are in for a real chore. Judgment does 120 damage, but you can dump all Energy off of it to do an extra 60 damage. This 180 damage can reach 210 with a Band. This attack is really important against Gardevoir GX. Not only can you score a OHKO, but you end up being able to purge Bulu of all it's energy which just totally nerfs Gardevoir's damage output.

I am actually disappointed by the deck's lack of inclusion of Tapu Koko GX. I love this style of card, going all the way back to Fire Red/Leaf Green's Zapdos EX. ( More recently, albeit it took a multiple card combo, we had Zekrom/Pachirisu/Shaymin in 2011 ) Sadly, Koko's damage output is just not impressive enough and the deck as a whole is not super aggressive, and once set up the selling point of Koko becomes fairly obsolete.

The only other attacker ( Besides the obvious access to Tapu Lele GX ) is a Vikavolt GX. It offers the deck a really tanky attacker (240 HP), and it's GX attack is really powerful. I really mainly want it against Metagross where you can put 60 damage on all of their Metagrosses and ideally sweep from there to avoid getting caught in their Max Potion limbo.

For this list, you see the standard 4-2-3 Stage 2 line ( with the GX Vikavolt tacked on, Gallade style ) I was actually in the process of contesting the near universal urge to play 2 Stage 1 Pokemon in lists, feeling like it was actually probably unnecessary, and then Espeon EX's popularity sky rocketed, so I guess that argument is kind of a moot point now. Well played Espeon, I'll keep my 2nd Charjabug.

I run 3 of both Tapu, since you want to reliably have access to Bulu as an attacker, and I need a very good reason to run LESS than 3 Tapu Lele in a list now. ( I ran 2 in Ninetales, and that deck's reason is the inclusion of Octillery, which increases your mid to late game consistency quite a bit. ) 3 Lele effectively gives a deck like this 8 cards which can produce a turn 1 Brigette...which is your ideal opener. You have 3 Lele, 4 Ultra Ball ( for said Leles ) and the actual Brigette.

Despite the 3 Lele, I'm also running 1 copy of Oranguru as a bit of a poor man's Octillery. One of the great selling points of Vikavolt is that it's energy comes from the deck, and thus the flow isn't disrupted by N ( unless you get N'd into drawing all of your energy or something. ) Still, you need more than Energy a lot of times, so you still want an anti-N safety net, and the monkey works fine here.

Energy is actually just a bit of a toss up. You want roughly 12 Energy...this seems to be the norm for basically every deck but Volcanion/Fire decks...and you want some mixture of Grass and Lightning Energy. You end up having free reign of it once you get some Vikavolt out anyways, so anything close to 6-6 is pretty fine, but with Tapu Bulu discarding energy as frequently as it does, I feel the demand on the Grass Energy is higher enough to warrant a higher allocation.

One thing that has really seemed to settle down with this format is that the Trainer base in almost every archetype is now kind of set. 4 Sycamore, 4 N, 3 Guzma, 4 Ultra Ball, 3 Choice Band 4 Rare Candy if you have Stage 2s...Brigette in most...this deck certainly doesn't deviate much. In addition to these standard, this deck gets 2 Heavy Ball, since both Tapu Bulu and Vikavolt have 3 retreat costs.

This deck is extremely weak to Garbodor, and it doesn't really like playing against Fury Belt either. With Po Town's popularity, that was all I needed to bump the Field Blower count from 2 to 3 in this deck. I have a 1-1 split with Switch and Float Stone. The difference is minimal, so I just default to a split between the pair. The last card in the deck is from Evolutions: Brock's Grit. This is a deck that really wants to put Energy back in the deck to be able to grab with Vikavolt. I considered Energy doesn't eat up your Supporter for the turn, but it is also really difficult to draw into at the right time, so I went with Grit since it can be Wonder Tagged. Being able to also put in Pokemon doesn't come up often but it is not irrelevent.

One thing I do really like about this deck is that it manages to stay out of the Rock Paper Scissors direction this format is ( depressingly ) headed towards. Metagross is great and obliterated Gardevoir, but is really cold to any of the Volcanion/Ho-oh decks. Those suffer against Ninetales. Vikavolt may not be quite as inherently strong as some of the other top tier archetypes but it also manages to avoid having any major weaknesses while also being a bit off of the radar still.


The big, giant bug beast? in the, format? that I haven't touched on much is Golisopod. The card has experienced varying degrees of hype, mainly in Expanded to begin with, until burst it's way into undeniable tier 1 status with it's breakout performance at the 2017 World Championships by being by far the most successful deck of the event. With rotation, it lost a decent amount. Forest of Giant Plants is gone. The type shifting Eeveelutions are gone. VS Seeker is gone, and that actually makes Acerola a bit more awkward. Despite all of this, the Stage 1 Grass GX is still a tier 1 option.

The deck's primary gimmick is that it will sit and loop itself with Acerola. This re-triggers the damage boost of it's first attack, and gives any deck that can't score a OHKO on the beefy GX Pokemon absolute fits. First Impression's cheap energy cost is what allows the deck to function, as you deal 120 damage for only a Grass. ( 150 with a Band! ) Rocking 210 HP, Golisopod is a tough OHKO for a lot of decks.

This list has two ways to approach it's Golisopod game plan. You can suit it up with either a Choice Band or a set of Bodybuilding Dumbbells ( That is really obnoxious to type. ) Choice Band is interesting. The damage boost is great, and pairs really well with its GX attack as it hits that sweet 180 mark, but it isn't actually that great with First Impression. Even at 150, you should end up 2HKOing most Pokemon. The BIG exception to this is a Tapu Lele GX. While Lele has 170 HP, if you use Tapu Koko's spread attack, it leaves all of the opponent's Leles vulnerable to future OHKOs. ( Tapu Koko is primarily in the deck for it's free retreat, but the spread damage certainly comes up. It's role as a non-EX attacker should not be overlooked either. )

The Dumbbells, on the other hand, grant 40 extra HP to a Stage 1 Pokemon, which brings 'Pod up to 250 which is REALLY difficult to OHKO. They have the same problem all defensive Tools/Stadiums face...they are extremely weak to Field Blower. Luckily since Acerola loops a damaged Pokemon AND all cards attached to it, you have a lot of freedom alternating between the two options.

Acerola actually defines a lot of the rest of this deck's construction. 4 Tapu Lele GX get the nod because you often end up needing to use one to search up an Acerola mid to late game. The 2-2 Octillery line helps offset the damage done by not being able to allocate each turns Supporter to drawing cards. With those 4 Tapu Lele, Brigette becomes even more reliable. Another cute aspect of the Tapu Lele count is I am running 1 copy of Wally ( In Generations! ). It absolutely could be unnecessary, but it lets you evolve and attack on the first turn, which is a LOT of pressure. Getting the jump on someone in a game of 2HKOs can be huge.

Beyond this fairly linear, straight forward plan, another popular build pairs Golisopod with both Breakpoint and Guardians Rising Garbodor! This is an idea first showcased at Worlds which managed to survive the rotation and still be a powerful force to be reckoned with!



This deck ends up running pretty much the same Trainers as a whole, but the Pokemon line is much different. ( And sadly my pet Wally is missing from the deck as well. ) You run a 3-2/2 Garbodor line. I've mentioned before how much I really like Garbotoxin in this format, and I always struggled to find a build I really felt was strong enough that also fit with it well. Garbotoxin's presence influences how the rest of the deck is built, just like how Acerola ( Which also has a very strong presence here ) influences the wider Golisopod archetype as a whole. I'm not running Octillery anymore ( Not only is it terrible alongside Garbodor, but space for the 7 pieces of Trash had to come from somewhere! ) and I have cut the deck down to only 2 Tapu Lele!

Some of that trimming is space oriented, but you also won't be able to Wonder Tag mid and late game a lot of times. I've included a Drampa GX in the deck as well though. You have to run Rainbow Energy to be able to attack with Garbodor ( Guardians ) anyways, and that in turn just makes Drampa an easy slot in. It is also naturally really good with Acerola, as it is another 1 Energy attacker with high HP that lends itself to a grindy game. One of the biggest selling points for me is actually it's GX attac, Big Wheel, since you want to have a safety net in place to re-fill your hand late game without having access to Abilities.

One of my major complaints about Trashalanche had been that decks simply do not discard enough Items to enable OHKOs anymore. In this case, as you sit and force an extremely prolonged game...often forcing them to burn resources, and play Sycamores...they are almost forced into fueling Trashalanche's damage output. That said, I am far more enticed by Garbotoxin than I am Trashalanche. I've harped on a likely increase in Field Blowers going forward but I feel like the nature of this deck forces such long games that it isn't that hard to be able to re-establish the lock even if the opponent keeps stripping Garbodor of it's Tool.

Of the two decks, I actually do prefer this version, even if I do see the appeal of the streamlined nature of the Garbodor-less build. 


To close out the article I am going to include two updated lists from archetypes I've been playing the most. I have written about Volcanion variations since the start of the 2017-2018 rotation ( Rayquaza rotated, I have to cling to something! ) but it is still my personal favorite deck to be playing. The more I play, the more copies of Ho-oh and Switch-ing cards I end up adding.

Ho-oh has fully embraced it's role as the deck's primary attacker. I just want to Kiawe on turn 1 pretty much every game, and try and get as much mileage off that initial Ho-oh as possible. The deck is fast and has a lot of potential game plans. I'd cut baby Volcanion entirely by this point, but I love the 7th prize aspect of it.

I actually find myself running low on Energy as the game progresses since Kiawe and Max Elixir rip copies out of my deck. Even with 14 Basic Fire Energy, I still want to replenish my deck with more. With thinner Pokemon counts outside of Volcanion EX and Ho-oh GX, Super Rod seems like the perfect compromise. I want it over Brock's Grit in this deck because you end up wanting to Guzma to reset your attacker more often than in an average deck.

The big debate I was having was over whether to run Choice Band or Fighting Fury Belt. I was..not too impressed by Fury Belt at first. It got worked around or Field Blowered often, and especially against Gardevoir, often led to me coming up just short on KOs. I find myself leading with Ho-oh and falling back on Volcanion EX or Turtonator as the follow up as they are more reasonable to power up off of Elixirs. I was actually close to returning to Fury Belt as I saw less and less Field Blower, but I'm paranoid about what Po Town's hype will do to the metagame. I am a bit afraid I am overstating the impact it will have, but it seems to have garnered quite a bit of attention since it is such a unique strategy, and one that is fun to play too.


Finally, I just wanted to revise my crazy 4-2 Sylveon/Gardevoir deck. I didn't make a lot of sweeping of the things I did do was cut 1 of the Eevees ( it even looks less absurd now...sadly. ) for a 3rd Switching card. It ends up performing a very similar function in terms of getting an Eevee active on the first turn even if you don't open it. I'm running the 1-1-1 split with Switch/Float Stone/Escape Rope since Sylveon lets you search them up so the deck benefits even more off the "toolbox" of them.

Finally, one of the biggest omissions from the previous list was Max Potion. I felt with leading with Sylveon so often that you could still leverage your superior set up well enough that healing was a bit less important than a normal list. I have since been peer pressured into caving into including 1 copy of the card. It is a bit unusual because it always looks fairly impressive but a lot of those games you can still win without it. I would hesitate to call it a win-more card, because it is a lot better than that, but I think it is less mandatory than I've heard people label it as being.

I am not entirely sure how I feel about this format yet. It is far from solved, and there are a lot of viable decks at the moment, but I fear that this is more a result of the matchups being inherently skewed and therefore the format is more about pairings than anything else. That usually changes as players get more refined with their lists and certain decks get pushed from the format, but for right now it feels very much like an exaggerated rock-paper-scissors format. You have a lot of auto wins and auto losses, more than I am really comfortable dealing with.

That said, I do want to end the article by isolating the two decks I would use if I were playing a tournament tomorrow. I would play either Alolan Ninetales/Po Town, or Ho-oh/Volcanion. I don't think this is much of a surprise after reading what I've had to say today, but I do really like those decks. The Fire deck is just really powerful and the deck I have the most experience with. Ninetales is great and the most fun option and probably the best deck in the format to leverage play skill with, but it is also hard to pilot and may have a bit of a target on it's back due to the hype. None the less, I feel like either choice is strong!

Until next time!



[+11] okko


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