Experts' corner

Chris Fulop

An Evolving Standard

Chris reviews five decks which have recently gained popularity!

10/18/2017 by Chris Fulop

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Hello again everyone!

I have a lot to discuss today! I'll start with an aside on Brigette. I've covered a lot of the different archetypes that have been the most popular lately, so I wanted to go over some more "rogue" decks that I've seen pop up recently: Crabominable, Magnezone/Pikachu EX, and Decidueye Ninetales. Additionally, I revisit a pair of archetypes that I haven't discussed in a while: Metagross GX and a very streamlined Ho-oh/Kaiwe-less Volcanion list, similar to the one Igor Costa recently won a Regionals with.


I would like to address a sweeping change I have recently noticed many players embracing. Until very recently, decks have played a single copy of the card Brigette because you really only need to play it once, typically on the first turn. With 2+ copies of Tapu Lele-GX with its Wonder Tag ability, alongside a deck's mandatory (I don't want to hear about pre-rotation Greninja!) 4 Ultra Ball, it wasn't too difficult to be able to pull off a turn one Brigette with only one copy.

As lists have been refined, a lot of players have shifted over to running a 2nd copy in their setup decks. The card is just so important to hit on the first turn that you really want the second copy as extra insurance that you can pull it off. On the surface, a simple justification is that you do not want to prize your lone copy of the card ever and be unable to search for it at all. Depending on the deck, this can range from being a setback to fairly crippling. Without Trainers' Mail (Or other great Item based draw power) and Shaymin-EX, decks only have access to their one Supporter per turn and 4 potential Ultra Balls, so getting out multiple Pokemon on the first turn to evolve later is not that easy to pull off reliably without Brigette.

I've been saying this for a while now and I feel like this bump in Brigette counts supports this mentality, but decks have a limited amount of search and builds should account for this. I guess this can be a bit of a confusing statement as decks have a pretty reliable engine in Tapu Lele GX, Ultra Ball and Brigette (alongside fringe use of say, Mallow or Skyla), but this ends up being stressed when you rely on these cards constantly. I like running a bit higher counts of critical cards in this format so I don't have to expect to overextend on my search demands. The 2nd Brigette, even if you don't ever prize it, just further increases the odds of drawing it naturally and not needing to search for it. Using a Lele (Which ends up being very useful at all points in the game) eats up a bench space (Which is a real resource!), and lets not overlook the impact the depletion of resources from burning an Ultra Ball has either.

You can be greedy and stay with 1 Brigette (I have lists in this article where I felt that a lone copy is fine) but I think there is a real justification for the 2nd copy. The tie breaker for me a lot of times comes down to how important it is for a deck to have the card. I mean, yes, if you run the Brigette in a deck it is important for the deck, but some decks set up better than others without it. If there is a MASSIVE difference in performance between your deck with Brigette turn one and without it, I really support the 2nd copy. I've found the real impact to be felt when going 2nd. Going first offers enough of a set up advantage you can survive without a Brigette, but if you go 2nd with a set up deck and fail to Brigette, you are pretty far behind. You end up at the mercy of Guzma often, and without multiple copies of key basics, your entire game often gets picked apart. 

Crab Shack

I've taken to calling this deck "Crab Shack" (Long story, not worth telling, just embrace the name and spread it lovingly) in honor of its, well, crab content. I don't think I need to really sell anyone on the strength of the Garbodor line: The Guardians Rising Garbodor with Trashalanche has been a staple card in the format pretty much since release, and while it has weakened as engines have embraced fewer and fewer items post rotation, it remains a powerful threat, particularly as games progress. Garbotoxin is both generally disruptive, and also just a complete lock down against certain archetypes if they cannot find a Field Blower or a quick way to score a KO on the Garbodor. This list plays a pair of Rescue Stretcher, so it isn't easy that easy to keep the single copy out of play, either. 

As for Crabominable, it benefits from being a high HP Stage 1 Pokemon, packing an impressive 140 HP, with an attack that does 80 damage for only a Fighting Energy. It does less damage for each damage counter on Crabominable, but in an era where most attackers simply one hit things, I'm honestly just happy not getting my Pokemon OHKOed each turn, especially when it means my opponent has to spend two turns to KO a non-EX Pokemon. 80 damage, even for a low energy cost, doesn't seem like a lot, but by being a Fighting type crab, you get access to Strong Energy for an extra 20 damage. Toss on a Choice Band and you can reach 130 damage.

The "goal" of the deck is to be able to two hit most Pokemon while being two hit yourself, only your crabs are not EX/GX Pokemon and only give up one prize. As the game progresses, ideally you transition into one hit KOs with Trashalanche to break parity. The other big way you do this is with Acerola. This upgraded AZ lets you loop crabs that don't get one hit, furthering your prize denial game plan. To make this plan even more frustrating, I'm running a pair of Bodybuilder's Dumbbells. These Tools grant Stage 1 Pokemon (All of your Garbodors plus the crabs) an additional 40 HP. Taking a non-EX/GX Pokemon up to 180 HP provides a very tough to OHKO threat. Unfortunately, this defensive line of play loses a bit of strength due to the increased prevailance of Field Blower, although you can kind of overload opponents on the card since many decks that run multiple copies of it do so due to a weakness to Garbotoxin. If they burn copies regaining Abilities, sticking late game Dumbbells becomes more reliable.

Another strength of Acerola is actually in its ability to remove Tapu Lele GX off your bench. Since you play a very grindy game, a lot of opponents will bank on being able to take their last 2-4 prize cards off your GX Pokemon and if they attempt to do that, being able to remove those liabilities can swing a game around completely. Alongside that I have an Oranguru for the late game just to make sure the deck doesn't run out of gas due to Ns. I like the extra draw power too, as you end up using Guzma/Acerola mid to late game a lot, so just having a little bit of extra draw power to supplement that is strong.

This is absolutely a 2 Brigette deck. You really need to be able to fill your bench with crabs and Trubbish early on. You want multiple types of Garbodors out, as you often want a quick Garbotoxin, and at least the threat of a Trubbish to evolve into a Trashalancher. You also want to be able to loop Crabominables with Acerola so you at least want a 2nd Crawbrawler to evolve.

Energy-wise, the deck runs 4 Strong Energy and 4 Rainbow Energy. These provide 8 Fighting sources. Admittedly, Rainbow Energy is a bit...unfortunate...with Crabominable since it reduces the damage output down to 70 just by attachment, but you don't have room for a ton of Energy and need to be able to use Trashalanche too. The 4 Rainbow also act as your only Psychic sources. While that feels like a thin count, you really don't use Garbodor until later into the game so it ends up being fine. A pair of Special Charge lets you restock the deck, and late into a game this fills your deck with such a high energy density that finding copies shouldn't be difficult.

Most of the Trainers are pretty self-explanatory, but I'll go over some of the most interesting inclusions and counts. I love the one-of Wally in here, because if you go 2nd you do threaten a turn one Crabominable doing 80+ damage. This does require you to forego using Brigette (a card I've stressed the importance of in this deck), but it converts a strong start into a VERY strong start. I'm too big a sucker for the Wonder Tag/Wally gimmick, even if it is honestly more of a luxury than a requirement.

3 Acerola is plenty. Not only is the card dead-ish in certain matchups, but in games where it is effective, I can't imagine a 4th copy being anything but overkill. The third copy should be enough to secure the win when needed. While 4 Float Stone seems to be the standard in Garbodor decks, I'm only running 3 copies. With Guzma and Acerola, you have a lot of ways to "retreat" Pokemon, and with 3 Choice Band and 2 Dumbbells, you have plenty of tools already in the deck to keep Garbotoxin active.

I'm not really sold on this deck being super competitive, but it is really, really fun and the look on your opponent's face when you bombard them with crabs makes the deck a great choice if you want something different and a bit of a challenge. It is strong enough to beat a lot of decks, I just don't think I could ever view it as the best choice for an event. I feel like it would gain a lot if people trimmed their Field Blower counts, but I don't see that happening soon.


With all of the success of Stage 2 Pokemon line Gardevoir GX, Vikavolt, and Metagross, I was surprised it took this long for Breakthrough's Magnezone to get revisited. While the card never quite took off in a way that could get it viewed as a tier 1 option, it is hard to argue the raw power level of it. A local Ohio player (and overall charming young lad) Andrew Mahone piloted the deck to a top 4 finish at...I believe a League Cup. This list deviates slightly from his, but a lot of the card choices are similar.

The deck's primary attacker is Pikachu EX. Pikachu's Overspark dumps all Lightning Energy off of it and deals 50 damage for each discarded. This pretty much OHKOs anything in the game with any real commitment to it, and I love having the ability to have a catch-all answer in an attack. Pikachu's big downside is that it only has 130 HP and gives up 2 prize cards. I'm running 2 Mew from Fates Collide to mitigate that. Mew has only 50 HP, but can copy attacks from your Basic Pokemon, and in the process only threaten to give up one prize while retaining the same damage ouput.

Overspark is...EXTREMELY demanding in terms of energy. In order to support this, the deck runs 12 Lighting Energy, as well as 2 Fisherman and a copy of...Clemont. Clemont lets you grab 4 Lightning Energy from your deck and put them into your hand...and then dump them into play with Magnezone. In addition to this, I've included 3 Energy Retrieval. It is a lot of work to keep access to all of this Energy, but the payoff is great. One of the big problems the deck faces is that all of this energy recovery makes it extremely difficult to actually fit enough Field Blowers.

One of the beautiful parts of this deck is that it has access to 5 free retreat basics. Both Mew and Magnemite have it, and this makes a lone Vulpix an easy inclusion. Assuming you pull off the turn 1 Brigette, Alolan Vulpix's attack pretty much assures you set up properly.

On the topic of setting up, this is certainly a deck that NEEDS Octillery. Not only is the card just generally strong, but this deck ends up using Fisherman and Clemont often just to be able to get access to a steady flow of Energy, and this really eats into your Supporter use. Any deck that demands a hefty use of utility Supporters should look into additional Pokemon-based draw and this deck is no different.

I actually looked at running Starmie as a means to recover Energy, and I don't think something like a 2-2 Starmie line is unreasonable at all as your means to get Energy back. You can use your supporting Pokemon either to be draw while your Supporters get back Energy, or use your Pokemon to get back Energy while you rely on your Supporters for draw. I feel like Octillery is just the better card than Starmie, and that gets the slight nod from me.

Raikou gets a nod in here as a non-EX attacker (Alongside Mew!) that doesn't actually nuke all of its energy away to attack. I honestly don't LOVE it as an attacker, which is why this former Magnezone staple only gets a singular appearance this time around. It is sturdy, but pretty weak to Tapu Lele-GX if you want to actually tank it up pretty heavily. I don't even hate "baiting" out Leles into your Pikachus, though. Andrew ran a Tapu Koko GX, but I'm not that sold on the card. The deck's standard game plan kind of undermines the strengths of the GX card entirely. Being able to soak up Energy with its ability is fairly irrelevent when you have Magnezone going. Its GX attack isn't really too strong when Pikachu deals "infinite" damage. On top of this, you should be constantly scoring KOs, which reduces their energy count in play each turn anyways.

I like a few things about this deck: With its unlimited damage output, you can actually OHKO the 200+ HP GX Pokemon which see play. Gardevoir, Metagross, Golisopod...all pretty easy KOs. I even love how you dump all of your energy away, so Gardevoir actually has to really commit a lot of energy in play to be able to OHKO a Pikachu EX even since you are not helping out at all. Even the fire decks give up easy OHKOs of their 180-190 HP attackers. While I didn't really view Crabominable as a real tier 1 threat, I think this deck is quite the sleeper and something I'd love to test more of. I am a bit concerned with how it performs against ability lock (Garbodor or Greninja in particular: Yikes.) and the spread/Espeon-EX decks could easily be a major problem for it. You should have the edge against any deck trying to simply throw haymakers at you, though.


With the rotation of Forest of Giant Plants and Vileplume, most people wrote off Decidueye as dead, being too clunky and slow to still compete. I still liked the card, and last season we saw multiple players take different builds without Vileplume to successful placements. While you can't really replace the strength of Forest of Giant Plants, running 4 Rare Candy does more to fill that gap than you'd think. Stage 2 decks have flourished this format, and so have spread-based decks. I can't imagine there is a better spread deck than Decidueye in the format.

The deck runs a thick 4-3-4 Decidueye line (alongside 4 Rare Candy) as well as the fairly standard 3 Tapu Lele-GX. To go with this, you have 2 Tapu Koko for spread damage and an Espeon-GX, which gives the deck such a powerful game plan against all of the Stage 2 decks. If you thought Po Town plus Tapu Koko and Espeon-EX was frustrating, wait until you see what adding Po Town to Decidueyes' ability does for the game plan.

The deck is Decidueye "Ninetales" but that is also kind of misleading. This is certainly a Decidueye deck first and foremost, and the deck really just loves having access to Vulpix's attack to help set up. At that point, the inclusion of both Ninetales is almost free. Alolan Ninetales-GX gets to snipe 50 damage for a DCE, and if the opponent isn't careful its GX attack is just backbreaking. The non-GX version is not a card I am super high on due to its low damage output and the fact that this deck doesn't have any form of energy acceleration. Normally a Ninetales list would have access to Aqua Patch. With the deck using Rainbow Energy for Decidueye, that isn't even an option. In this case though, even if it doesn't attack, the wall it provides still lets you throw damage counters around with Decidueye while you hide behind it, and that is actually really alluring as a game plan.

Since this deck can now actually play Item cards due to the lack of Vileplume you can run Max Potions. Decidueye-GX has 240 HP and that is a tough mark for a lot of decks. Gardevoir-GX is going to take 8 Energy (or 7 with a Choice Band) to OHKO a Decidueye (and two-hitting it will just be impeded by a Max Potion) and that isn't going to happen multiple times in a game really, since you are doing so much spread work. The deck is going to be really strong against any deck that can't OHKO a Decidueye...which is most decks. Even the disruptive decks are going to struggle against it, since Greninja is weak to it and you have Field Blowers against Garbotoxin. (The rest of your spread strategy is going to be pretty strong against Garbodor decks in general too) I have to imagine the Volcaion/fire matchup is downright miserable, even with the Ninetales line. I'm not entirely sure how the Golisopod matchup is, but I feel like both players struggle to score KOs, and it's a war of attrition between Acerola and Max Potion, only you get access to Decidueye's GX attack, and eventually do threaten an OHKO with 4 Abilities plus a Choice Band.

Worth noting on the Energy count...the inclusion of Rainbow Energy is less about being able to attack with either Ninetales (the GX needs 2 Water energy, and I actually do not like the idea of allocating 2 attachments to the other one very much as its offensive value isn't too alluring) but more for Tapu Lele in my opinion. While Decidueye's GX attack is fantastic, Tapu Cure is also really potent in a deck full of 240 HP Pokemon. The difference between a Decidueye with 230 HP and 240 is functionally minimal as well, so opting for Grass is just not worth it.

I really really like this deck, and I feel like it is off the radar at the moment and also it offers a TON of ability to outplay an opponent. While I do think players expect decks to be able to spread damage (Tapu Koko and Espeon-EX are popular), I don't think people are well-equipped for such a dedicated plan either. If I had a tournament coming up this week, this is what I'd play.


I like Metagross as a deck because of its raw strength against Gardevoir-GX, which is hard to argue against as being the front runner for the best deck in the format. Even if it isn't the best deck to play at a given event, the deck's power and threat of presence warps the metagame around it. Having a near autowin against it is really nice. Being strong against Alolan Ninetales, another deck I feel is really good, is also nice.

Beyond matchups, I also like that the deck functionally has "inevitability" in a lot of matchups and can actually survive a stumbling start because once it gets going, it can just wall off an opponent. That actually comes with a bit of a downside, in my opinion...I somewhat dislike decks that have a high comeback ability. High is, of course, relative. If you end up with a deck that can orchestrate crazy comebacks, time management becomes extremely challenging.

In general, I like knowing when to concede and move to a game 2 or 3 when things look particularly bad. Most decks fall behind and you end up conceding games which are under 5% to win. With these late game decks, you end up chasing 10-20%ers because they can come back, but you often still lose, and just prevent yourself from ever actually converting the whole match into a win. You hit this awkward spot where the odds of winning a comeback are too high to justify a concession, but are still low enough you are fairly likely to lose.

Anyways, let's look at the list. The Pokemon are straight forward. 4-3-4 Metagross is pretty standard. I've seen 4-4-4 to offset Espeon EX game plans but I think that is excessive and unnecessary. Most Stage 2 lines cap at 3 of the Stage 2, but this is a deck that actually wants to get 3 copies in play at a time to be able to properly loop attackers, so the 4th copy gets included.

Tapu Lele-GX is not just a great consistency card, but it ends up being a reasonable attacker, while also offering Tapu Cure to be able to heal off a pair of Metagross-GX. I've said it before and will say it again: I feel like Metagross-GX's GX attack is a trap, and the deck really wants to save its GX attack option for Tapu Lele. Using Metagross's early on isn't worth it. It is too easy to get N'd. Saving your GX attack for late game gives you access to either Tapu Cure, or the ability to land an N and then grab everything you need from your deck immediately after. The deck sets up fine without the search early.

On the topic of setting up, the deck runs a pair of Alolan Vulpix. Since the deck is so good at getting Energy out of the discard pile, retreating into a Vulpix on the first turn is almost free. The last Pokemon in the deck is a Necrozma GX. Necrozma serves two functions. First, it lets you do 100 damage to all EX and GX Pokemon with its GX attack. While this doesn't really OHKO anything, Metagross caps at 180 damage with a Choice Band, so being able to put a whole field of Pokemon into KO range is useful in grindy matchups, such as mirror, or Decidueye for example. Second, you can use its normal attack to hit for 190 damage (220 with a Choice Band) which does increase the deck's hypothetical damage cap. This is why I'm running 3 Psychic Energy. Metagross can get back those or Metal Energy, and after a certain amount of Metal, they become redundant and the Psychics have more upside. It isn't the easiest to be able to get them all into play/discard, but its useful enough for the late game.

I would love to have more to say about the Trainers in this deck, but I think they are entirely straight forward. All of the numbers seem to be par for course, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing at all. Sometimes simple is good.

Metagross is a perfect example of a problem I do have with the way this format is shaping up. I guess it is inherently a problem of Pokemon, a game which has such a natural rock-paper-scissors element at the core of itself, but the format feels fairly matchup dependent. Metagross can't ever beat a fire deck, and struggles heavily against certain decks, and then also has a number of matchups it would really struggle to ever lose against too. This isn't the only deck with that feature, and the more often that is a problem, the weaker a format becomes...or at least, the more frustrating it is to play.


So, Igor Costa just won a Regional with a list very similar to this, which seems at first glance to be a reversion from the more popular Ho-Oh-GX/Kiawe builds that people have trended over to. Igor's list was actually more teched out than this, with the following changes.

-2 Switch
-2 Scorched Earth
-1 Fire

+2 Enhanced Hammer
+2 Float Stone
+1 Lillie

Obviously the Switch vs Float Stone swap is fairly lateral. I've just generally been unimpressed with Float Stone in the deck compared to Switch, especially since it is a bit clunky when competing with Fighting Fury Belt. The fact that it ends up being stripped away with a Field Blower as a free throw-in when the item is used to get rid of a Belt is another strike against it. To be honest, a 2-1 split one way or the other is probably correct but I've just generally been really impressed by the simplicity of Switch so far that I'm fine with 3 copies of it.

I've been happy to run 14 Fire Energy with a 1-1 Starmie line. Igor didn't run Starmie, which is understandable. The card has been really good but isn't mandatory either. To compensate he went up to a 15th Fire Energy. I actually took it a step further and went up to 16. I would have told you a year ago that 16 energy is just insane, but the more I play the deck, the more I really feel like you can really push the upper limits on energy and be rewarded for it. The deck is just super hungry for it on multiple fronts.

Igor ran a lone Lillie, which is...not bad, you can Tapu Lele for it on the first turn, but I'm not sold on the Supporter yet. I actually don't like having to aggressively use Tapu Lele at all, unless I was using it to get a Kiawe since the pay off is so potent. Since I am jumping up to 16 Energy (and it is one of the reasons I did so) I am running Scorched Earth. The card is another good means to discard Energy early and actually potentially enables an early Turtonator-GX's GX attack to really fuel your team.

I'll also just be brutally honest: I'm not entirely sure what the Enhanced Hammers are for in the deck. I mean, thats a bit misleading, I understand the value of the card, but I am sure they are for specific matchups, and I'm just not entirely sure I understand where they shine and what matchups they are supposed to swing. I feel like Volcanion is such a powerful, proactive deck that it isn't really the type of deck I like to put situational disruptive cards in, so my gut told me the second I saw the list is that I love the approach of the deck, but that I was going to trim the Hammers.

I love the thick line of baby Volcanion and Fighting Fury Belt. It gives the deck a grindier game plan that is able to leverage a quality non-EX attacker that is hard to actually KO. If I'm trying to sell you on Crabominables 140 HP plus a Dumbbell as being alluring, Volcanion is falling under the same umbrella. With Steam Up, the damage ends up being comparable. I feel like this version should have a much better Gardevoir matchup...two hitting a Gardevoir with Volcanion while eventually transitioning into an OHKO seems much more viable than trying to jam EX OHKOs into them. The four Fighting Fury Belt makes it so that you end up overwhelming their Field Blowers more often than not.

One consideration I had for the deck would be to look into trying out Po Town. Volcanion with Po Town has seen some degree of success already, since you don't run any evolutions so the card ends up being totally lopsided. The extra damage adds up across the board too. With the Fury Belt plan, you just play so many cards you force an opponent to be able to Field Blower. Another potential change I could see myself wanting to make is to just cut the 16th Fire Energy for a 2nd Super Rod.


Thats all for today! In my next article, I'll be going over the upcoming Crimson Invasion expansion, and discussing some of the likely impact it'll have on the Standard format. I'll also cover any new and exciting decks I stumble upon between now and then, although I can't make any predictions as to what those may be! Until next time!

[+13] okko


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