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Chris Fulop

London Calling - How the EUIC has Changed Standard

The 2017 European International Championships brought a major shift to the metagame. See what new decks have emerged as threats!

11/27/2017 by Chris Fulop

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Hello again, everyone!

The European International Championships in London are in the book, and the metagame has truly been shaken up quite a bit compared to the status quo we had settled into prior to the event!

We saw a few of the usual suspects perform well at the event. (I am not just talking about Masters champion, Tord Reklev, who continues to be an absolute monster at major events, making a very real case for best player in the game at the moment.) The metagame was defined by the presence of Gardevoir-GX, a deck that was isolated as being the Standard format's best deck by a majority of players. This identification really skewed the rest of the deck choices in the field, as decks really soft to the archetype got abandoned, and decks aiming to prey on the Gardevoir showed up in great numbers. Gardevoir saw more play than any other deck and unsurprisingly had the greatest number of copies to make it into the 2nd day of the event, even if only one copy converted this into a top 8 (top 4) appearance.

Beyond Gardevoir, we saw a Volcanion deck make top 8, as well as a Greninja deck. While these decks shift numbers around depending on what they expect to play against, the decks haven't changed a substantial amount in the past few months, and I don't really plan to cover them in great detail in this article. Volcanion felt like a good deck in that it wound up being well positioned against a lot of the anti-Gardevoir decks that showed up. Greninja was a decent call as well, eventually meeting an unsurprising end at the hands of Tord's Golisopod's type advantage.

The two biggest breakout decks at the event were Golisopod-GX/Zoroark-GX (which won the event and looked very impressive in doing so) and various Metal Toolbox decks. The metal decks preyed upon Gardevoir's weakness, as well as being a bit of an unknown quantity, as a lot of the cards to see play were a bit off of the radar. I wasn't super impressed by these decks in a vacuum, but they wound up being a pretty good choice for the event with such a high presence of Gardevoir decks. I actually don't believe that matchup is even that favorable for the Metal decks, which is a testament to how strong Gardevoir-GX is. Confession: I'll own up to feeling underwhelmed by Gardevoir when I first read it, and I was clearly incorrect.

Another deck that put up pretty good results was Buzzwole-GX. I am actually really surprised this deck did as well as it did, since the game seemingly power creeped right past Landorus-EX (a card that parallels Buzzwole fairly accurately) years ago. On top of that, decks had plenty of copies of Max Potion and Acerola, which mitigate the strength of spread damage. I love the idea of such an aggressive deck and its ability to put up multiple strong finishes in a field fairly hostile to it is a really good sign for the card.

A card that did not perform well for the weekend was Garbodor! It didn't see nearly the numbers it had been seeing, and it also didn't really see the widespread success it was used to. This is a major talking point, because with both Garbodor seeing less play, it removes a pair of restrictive forces on deck selection. Garbotoxin really hurt the viability of certain decks and so did Trashalanche. With both being reduced in presence, it is worth looking back to decks that may have been pushed out of the metagame by their larger presence.

Finally, I do want to talk about a deck that I absolutely love from the event, which is Heatmor/Raichu. This lock/mill deck managed a top 16 placement, which is really impressive for such a quirky deck! I don't actually know how great it is, but it looks like an absolute blast and is doing something so far away from what every other deck in the format does that I had to write about it.

The first deck to review is Gardevoir-GX, as it is really the most important deck in the format. There were two real camps when it came to building Gardevoir decks. One build embraced a thin line of Sylveon-GX. The other embraced a full set of four Max Potion and aimed to play an extremely defensive game plan. This is the build I like more and can be traced back to the testing of Seena Ghaziaskar before getting picked up on a much wider scale. That is the list I'll be using for discussion.

This deck is pretty streamlined and straightforward. I actually made one change from Seena's list after the results from London. I trimmed the third Field Blower in favor of a second Gallade. While Field Blower is a versatile card, it's primary function is to strip Tools off Garbodor to remove Garbotoxin. With Garbodor taking a huge hit coming out of the tournament, I am fine going down to two Field Blower. Gallade is a really valuable attacker against Metal decks, allowing you to actually have a primary attacker which isn't weak to Metal and also one that can leverage a better prize exchange by only giving up a lone prize. Seena has stubbornly argued the second Gallade isn't needed, but I think it is very much worthwhile going forward. A lot of lists in London played two already, likely in response to catching wind of the popularity of the new Metal cards printed and Zoroark-GX.

The 4-3-3/2 Gardevoir/Gallade line is thick to guarantee the cards all come out reliably. I normally don't feel you need three of a Stage 1 Pokemon when playing four Rare Candy, but there are various devolving effects in the format which make evolving the hard way worthwhile. Bench-damaging attacks also are popular, so just reliably getting past that vulnerable Basic Pokemon is important.

The Pokemon count is not fancy. It runs three Tapu Lele for consistency and attacking options and, beyond that, just a lone Oranguru and Alolan Vulpix. Vulpix is great alongside Brigette, so you can fill your bench and start grabbing Pokemon to evolve from there. Since the deck takes a slower, more defensive gameplan in a lot of matchups, you don't mind giving up a turn or two to assure a strong setup. Oranguru vs. Octillery is an interesting debate, especially since Octillery gains a lot of value over the span of a very long game. Oranguru is a bit more streamlined and eats up less deck space, but it also ends up being a pretty decent non-EX attacker. Octillery seems pretty easy to get out with the Vulpix inclusion, so I do see this as a point of contention.

Trainer-wise, most of the numbers for this archetype are pretty locked in stone. This list opts for one Brigette opposed to two. Since this list cares less about pressing an early advantage, missing a turn one Brigette isn't as impactful. More concerning is playing only two Choice Band. I understand that the deck isn't as aggressive, but I do think this card is etremely strong, and I don't like deviating from the standard three count. That being said, no, I do not know what I would cut for a third, so I guess I understand the thinner count out of necessity.

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Two Super Rod felt really awkward at first, but the purpose is because you end up using so many Max Potion that you actually end up discarding a lot of Energy over the span of a game. Since the deck is built to abuse Gardevoir's GX attack, you end up discarding a lot of Supporters and Items, namely Max Potion, so the pair of Super Rod allow you to not worry about having to burn any of those spots on Energy as well. Some builds run only seven Fairy Energy, and the eighth copy here is also with the Max Potion gameplan in mind.

With this build, you have an advantage in the mirror match and are pretty well equipped to be able to beat any deck that isn't able to score a OHKO on you. With four Max Potion (or eight, considering Twilight GX), you end up being able to outgrind even other Max Potion/Acerola decks, especially since you do eventually threaten to hit a critical mass of energy for a OHKO as the game progresses.

Prior to London, there were not a lot of decks that are able to OHKO a Gardevoir-GX, and most of the decks that can are forced to use a lot of energy to do so, leading to an easy OHKO from Gardevoir. The mirror match often comes down to attacking with low energy counts into each other to avoid walking into the OHKO from the other player, which is why Max Potion ends up being such a great mirror breaker.

One thing I do want to discuss is how overlooked Gardevoir's GX attack has been, and why I think it makes sense for players to not catch on to how powerful it actually is. This is the type of effect that is often low impact; games don't often end up that grindy, and most games do not ever hit a point where that extra glut of resources ends up mattering. On top of this, most games end up a tight prize race, and giving up a turn of pressure is not appealing. Even a card like Decidueye-GX, which has a similar style GX attack, had primarily been used alongside Vileplume, which applied a lot of disruption. These kind of long-game, grindy effects have very rarely been effective outside of disruptive/lock decks, and Gardevoir certainly doesn't play like that on the surface. In fact, play a build of Gardevoir without a high Max Potion count, and the GX attack becomes bad again. Gardevoir, on paper, reads like the type of card that wants a deck build that doesn't benefit from its GX attack much at all. It makes sense that its value as a tankier Pokemon wasn't really understood until players explored how to get an edge in the mirror match.

I still feel like this deck is strong going forward. You are an underdog against the Metal decks, but the matchup is certainly winnable. Beyond that, the Metal decks lose ground as players  shift from Gardevoir and into decks that have a neutral or better matchup. I don't think these Metal box decks are that powerful, and when their prey deck wanes in metagame percentage, they lose a lot. I actually feel like London's metagame was about as hostile to Gardevoir as you will see, and it will only get more favorable as the metagame widens and players can no longer gun for a lone best deck as aggressively.

Next up is Zak Krekeler's Metal Toolbox list. I was looking through various placing lists, and decided to cover Zak's, since he finished as runner-up in the event.

The overarching concept of this deck is to use Silvally-GX's Turbo Drive attack and Registeel's Turbo Arm to help bring Energy back into play. Alongside these attacks, Zak ran four Max Elixir. This slower, grindy way of putting and keeping Energy in play is aided by Silvally's Gyro Unit Ability, which gives all of your Basic Pokemon free retreat. With most of the Pokemon in the deck having pretty hefty retreat costs, it ends up doing a lot of work. As a result, you don't even have to run any sort of Switching effect outside of Acerola/Guzma.

However, I have been a bit critical of the deck's raw power: The damage output as a whole isn't that strong, capping at 130 for a hefty four energy with Celesteela GX. The copy of Dhelmise does add 10 to all potential damage calculations from Metal Pokemon, of course. Silvally's GX attack is an exception, as it offers a huge burst of damage that should allow one easy OHKO a game. Decks are just not really built to play with a thin bench.

One thing I do love with the deck is how it is able to diversify it's Weaknesses. Silvally is weak to Fighting. Registeel, Genesect-EX, and Kartana-GX are weak to Fire, and Celesteela is weak to Lightning.

Genesect-EX actually is a real all-star in this deck. Not only is it able to breach the damage output cap, its Ability comes into play a bit too. It lets you recycle your Choice Band, which is nice since you can retreat between attackers so freely.

Fighting Memory is great, by the way. It gives Silvally the ability to OHKO an opposing Silvally or a Zoroark-GX. I saw some builds with Psychic Memory, but I don't think it is worthwhile or necessary.

Rounding out the Pokemon, we have three Tapu Lele-GX and Oranguru. These are more than just consistency cards, since both end up actually being pretty reasonable attackers in this deck.

The deck runs 10 Metal Energy for two reasons. First, you want to hit Max Elixir. Beyond this, you also want to be able to see and discard multiple copies of them aggressively to use with Turbo Drive and Turbo Arm early. The four copies of DCE are obviously necessary as Silvally and Celesteela both use them really well.

You see a pretty standard assortment of Items. The draw power in this format is pretty homogenized, which I am a bit disappointed in. Decks run four Professor Sycamore, four N, one Brigette, four Ultra Ball, three Tapu Lele-GX and either an Oranguru or Octillery. These numbers can fluctuate slightly, but there aren't really many viable alternative engines. (This is a bit of foreshadowing as the next deck I'll be talking about is Zoroark/Golisopod.)

Zak ran a pair of Acerola to manipulate his bench, as well as deny prizes and loop attackers. Acerola has proven to be one of the best cards in the format. Since most decks are not really built to pull off reliable OHKOs at the moment, you wind up with a lot of grindy Acerola/Max Potion games. Rounding out the Trainers are a Rescue Stretcher and a pair of Field Blower. Stretcher is nice since the deck runs a lot of assorted one-of attackers, so being able to recycle them offers a lot of utility.

I'll be interested to see how well positioned this deck stays going forward. I've also seen so many various Metal decks, some using Zoroark, some with Scizor EX, that I'm equally curious to see what approach ends up being embraced as the best build of the fairly diverse archetype.

Next up, we have Tord Reklev's Zoroark/Golisopod deck.

Tord's deck is the best example of a deck that realized just how powerful Zoroark-GX is. (While it didn't break into the top 8, there were also Decidueye/Zoroark decks that did decently at the event as well, as well as the aforementioned Metal decks that ran a line of it.)

Zoroark is similar to Tapu Lele-GX in that it offers both a powerful attack and a very useful boost in consistency. Tord relies so heavily on Zoroark's draw that it impacts his entire engine. He is only running two Professor Sycamore. This card gets a lot worse if you had previously been stockpiling a huge hand off of Zoroark. With Zoroark's extra draw power, he is able to run a full set of Puzzle of Time to recycle resources.

By using a 4-4 Zoroark-GX line as the deck's primary source of mid- and late-game card advantage, it frees the deck up to be able to use Acerola and Guzma. Both of these cards are super important for Golisopod GX, although do not let that fool you about the deck. Tord has already acknowledged this is more of a Zoroark deck than a Golisopod deck. Zoroark is the deck's primary attacker as well as it's engine.

Both Zoroark and Golisopod have hefty HP numbers and attack costs requiring one energy attachment, so they are easily looped with Acerola. The deck ends up just trying to outgrind an opponent. While this seems like a common gameplan, the choice to play Puzzle of Time, plus the huge edge in draw power due to Zoroark gives the deck an edge at it.

I'll also be honest: I'm not going to say that I have a full grasp over a few of Tord's tech choices. Mr. Mime stops Tapu Koko spread which seems like a real issue since you are encouraged to have a full bench for Zoroark and it adds up to the point were you can't really Acerola around all of the damage and will find yourself eventually put into OHKO range from a lot of decks. Buzzwole is another deck that it helps against, as Zoroark is weak to it, and it pressures the bench aggressively. Tapu Koko offers some spread damage and also free retreat which is nice with Guzma and Acerola. Mewtwo I am less certain of, but it does have type advantage against Buzzwole and can rock one pretty hard if it gets powered up. The last two cards are Enhanced Hammer. I've never been huge on this card outside of dedicated disruption decks, and as a result its hard for me to really peg what matchups they excel in on the fly without having played with the deck a ton. I imagine they are for any of the grindier matchups, where you can strip DCE away before they can Acerola. With four Puzzle you can get rid of four DCE or Rainbow for a deck like Golisopod Garbodor, which can just prevent them from attacking again. It also prevents a deck like Gardevoir from amassing a huge pile of DCE for OHKOs. With the Puzzles, and the near excessive draw from Zoroark-GX, I like the cards quite a bit since they are live vs. pretty much every deck.


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