03/05/2018 by Chris Fulop
Hello again everyone!
This past weekend I made the 8 hour trek down to St. Loi...Collinsville with my friend Dan to play in the Regional Championships there this weekend. I was actually really excited to play in the event for a number of reasons. First, I had a deck I was really excited to be able to play, with enough games under my belt with it to feel confident with it. I felt that the fallout from the Intercontinental Championship in Australia also led to a predicted metagame shift that should be favorable for my choice. Finally, this was the first tournament where Ultra Prism would be legal. Ultra Prism is a pretty exciting set, all things considered, and I always love the first tournament featuring a new set. As a fan of the game, it is nice to see major changes to a metagame.
With what I have said so far, I don't think it is hard to decipher that I would be playing my Gardevoir Gallade build I have been working on for months. Here is the 60 cards I decided to register for the tournament:
Gallade Gardevoir, Collinsville
- 4x Ralts
- 2x Kirlia
- 3x Gardevoir GX
- 2x Gallade
- 3x Tapu Lele GX
- 2x Remoraid
- 2x Octillery
- 1x Clefairy
- 1x Regirock EX
- 3x N-supporter
- 3x Cynthia
- 2x Brigette
- 3x Guzma
- 1x Mallow
- 1x Professor Kukui
- 4x Ultra Ball
- 1x Evosoda
- 4x Rare Candy
- 3x Field Blower
- 3x Choice Band
- 1x Super Rod
- 7x Fairy Energy
- 4x Double Colorless Energy
The big story to come out of Australia was Tord Reklev's 3rd Intercontinental win, and the incredible Zoroark Gardevoir deck he and his team brought with them. I'd played against Gardevoir Zoroark decks befre and they were actually quite bad. These builds were primarily a Gardevoir deck with a 2-2 or 3-3 Zoroark line tacked in as a secondary attacker and a source of draw power. This just led to a subpar Gardevoir list that suffered in the mirror match quite bit as Zoroark's presence left you quite soft to the opponent's Gallades. What Tord did was to take this idea and craft an innovative approach to a Zoroark deck. Here is the list he used in Australia:
- 4x Zorua
- 4x Zoroark GX
- 4x Ralts
- 2x Gardevoir GX
- 1x Gallade
- 1x Mew EX
- 1x Giratina
- 3x Tapu Lele GX
- 3x N-supporter
- 2x Professor Sycamore
- 2x Mallow
- 2x Guzma
- 3x Brigette
- 3x Rare Candy
- 4x Ultra Ball
- 4x Puzzle of Time
- 2x Field Blower
- 2x Evosoda
- 1x Choice Band
- 1x Float Stone
- 1x Max Potion
- 1x Enhanced Hammer
- 1x Parallel City
- 4x Fairy Energy
- 4x Double Colorless Energy
The deck is primarily a Zoroark deck that uses Trade, Mallow and Puzzle of Time to support a Gardevoir line which it can lean on, as well as a nice re-usable toolbox. Giratina shuts down Greninja decks and Mew EX is your best answer to Buzzwole GX. You get the strength of defensive Max Potion builds of Gardevoir without having to bloat your deck with a bunch of Max Potions because your lone copy of the card is loopable with Puzzle of Times. In a really grindy game, you get unparalleled longevity because you have access to Puzzle of Time plus Gardevoir's GX attack which can get back all four Puzzle plus 6 additional cards. You get the strengths of an aggressive Zoroark deck, the strengths of a Gardevoir deck, and a flexible grindiness that neither of those individual decks otherwise provide.
Not only did Tord win the event with this deck, but the rest of his team put up great results with it as well. The deck has great matchups across the board...except it was bad against traditional Gardevoir. Zoroark itself isn't very good against Gardevoir, and they are a huge liability against Gallade. Tord's deck is also not quite as good at providing a strong enough Gardevoir presence to have any edge in the mirror in that area either. This was a fine "loss" to take as Gardevoir was just not super popular and had minimal hype going into the event.
This deck was such a breakout success that it would have a few major impacts on the metagame. First, people would pick up and play the deck. Second, people would re-consider decks that would be good against it. ( In this case, Gardevoir ) Third, since this innovation introduced a whole new approach to deck building, you have to imagine players would look for other builds to be able to exploit a more gimmicky Zoroark toolbox deck. Whatever deck that could come from that would still be weak to Gardevoir...well, Gallade...due to the fact that the mere engine of the deck requires Zoroark(s) to be in play.
Now, this normally would suggest an easily navigatable set of shifts...but Australia was the final event prior to Ultra Prism's legality, so we have to also try to incorporate what cards we could expect to see make major splashes from the new set. The big hyped cards of this set were Glaceon GX and Magnezone/Dusk Mane Necrozma. In testing, Glaceon just felt super mediocre. It wasn't that disruptive, and it was just a good but not spectacular attacker. The general consensus amongst players I tested with was that the card felt strong but none of the decks they'd played/seen it in were good enough to be a consideration for the event. I'm not writing off the card at all, but it would take time to try and "solve" how to use it, so I didn't expect a large amount of it at the event. Plus, Gardevoir was pretty good against the card anyways, so that wasn't an issue.
Magnezone Necrozma, on the other hand, was absolutely a bad matchup for Gardevoir due to being able to pull off easy OHKOs and just generally leveraging type advantage. Dusk Mane Necrozma was just an extremely difficult return KO too because it purged itself of energy making Gardevoir's damage output particularly anemic. Luckily, Magnezone turned out to be extremely clunky and inconsistent. It struggled to set up reliably, had a tremendous amount of moving parts to it's game plan that could get disrupted, it was slow, and was weak to Ability lock. On paper it was like Vikabulu with a better sutie of attackrs.
Unfortunately, the fact that Magnezone needed Energy to be attached from hand opposed to from deck, this meant that even if you managed to get a turn 2 Magnezone out, that you'd often need to have 3-4 Metal Energy in hand too...this was not realistic. Even with Prof. Letter, it just so rarely attacked on the second turn. Even with Mt. Coronet, you still struggled to draw into a constant flow of Energy as the game went on, especially once N got involved.
Ability lock comes in the form of either Garbotoxin or Shadow Stitching. While Magnezone and Vikavolt both struggle equally against Garbodor, Vikabulu benefits from Tapu Bulu being incredible against Greninja. Greninja, with the addition of access to Cynthia, actually got a lot stronger with Ultra Prism. This is bad for Gardevoir, but luckily the Giratina promo exists. Running it lets basically any deck beat Greninja. I don't ever want to ACTUALLY play the card, but luckily it was pretty popular in Australia and Greninja also had some post-Ultra Prism hype, so I was banking on enough other people running it. I also assumed that those considering Greninja would expect the same and opt not to.
Anyways, despite Magnezone having some advantages over Vikabulu...a higher damage cap, a good Gardevoir game, and access to Dialga GX...it ended up being inferior as it just was so much clunkier and easier to pick apart. The fact Magnezone was identified as "not tier 1" was reassuring, but it was still a hyped deck and one of the showcase archetypes from the new set, so I expected some people to still play it.
Glaceon was good for Gardevoir, and Magnezone, while bad for Gardevoir, proved to be pretty poor overall. These findings made me feel pretty good about my choice. Despite the new set actually having a lot of exciting cards, it felt like most of them were just shy of being good enough to make major impacts. I'd take that, for sure.
With that evaluation under my belt, I finalized my list for the event ( At 7:30 am the morning of the tournament, of course. )
4 Ralts: I opted for all Psychic type Ralts. While I did a lot of testing with Magnezone, I knew that this set introduced a lot of really good Metal Pokemon, and Magnezone was not the only potential way to use them. Some sort of Metalbox deck could show up easily. Zak Krekeler took 2nd in London with the deck, and while it fell off the map since then, the deck would get a lot of tools now to use. I wasn't sure how to approach building it, and I didn't hear much talk about the deck so I wasn't super concerned but I did let it's potential presence linger in mind when building the deck. As a result, I didn't want to run a Fairy Ralts that would get OHKOed by Registeel for a Metal Energy. The Psychic Ralts from Breakthrough also offered 20 damage for a DCE...this is far from irrelevant because with a Choice Band you can do 100 damage vs a Psychic weak Pokemon...140 with Prof. Kukui. This comes up against Pokemon like Buzzwole and Espeon EX...vs Trubbish with Kukui...and vs Espeon GX. Oh Espeon GX. This was my biggest oversight with my build choice. Espeon Garbodor would up being an extremely popular and fairly successful deck choice for the event, and I simply did not have it on my radar. This made running all Psychic Ralts...a 60 HP basic weak to Psychic...a mistake, as it could be taken out on the first turn by Psybeam. Oops. I actually do not find Espeon Garbodor to be very good. I played against it 3 times ( spoiler! ) and even with the major Ralts handicap, every match wound up extremely close. I would, in retrospect, run some sort of split on Ralts just to vary the weaknesses.
2 Kirlia: The Psychic Kirlia is definitely the best choice still, even with the Espeon "issue" because it isn't eating a OHKO off of Psybeam. Being a flippy but powerfu Psychic attacker for a DCE is great, especially once Choice Band and Kukui come into the equation.
3 Gardevoir/2 Gallade: Just the perfect number on both of these cards, and I can't see myself ever changing these counts. Gallade is just too good of an attacker in this metagame to go below 2.
3 Tapu Lele GX: Tapu Lele is not only necessary for your consistency, letting you grab Brigette, Cynthia, N or Guzma, but it lets you get away with tech-y Supporters such as the one Mallow and the one Prof. Kukui. Both of those Supporters are a bit timing sensative, so being able to grab them is important. Tapu Lele is also actually a great attacker too! Gardevoir is a Stage 2 deck...it will always be a little bit clunky and that means having something to attack with early during slower games is important. Tapu Lele isn't a premier attacker anymore but it is much better than people seem to view it as being. It did a tremendous amount of work for me against Buzzwole and Espeon GX during this tournament. Also, with Prof. Kukui, you can actually hit for 60 against Basic Pokemon on the first turn, so you can occasionally get some stolen wins off this. ( I've beaten a few Greninja decks with this, since they run so few basics that they often do pass the first turn with just a Froakie. )
2 Remoraid/2 Octillery: I'm not running a Stage 2 deck without Octillery for draw power, and this deck is no different. I just want the additional consistancy. I'm not interested in settling for Oranguru, or gambling on a 1-1 line to save space. This line is too important. Just run the thicker line.
1 Regirock EX: Regirock is really nice because it freaks your opponent out every time you play it. Literally every time. Amusing shock value aside, it is also legitimately good for hitting key numbers with Gallade. Alongside Kukui and Choice Band you can hit for 190 damage. This lets you OHKO Buzzwole GX and Dusk Mane Necrozma. Both of these are obnoxious cards to play against. This play was easier to pull off when I ran 2 copies of Kukui, but going down to just one copy makes it less reliable...and not repeatable. I had actually wanted to cut the Regirock at first, feeling my matchups were good enough that I didn't need to be able to leverage the Guzma KOs on Tapu Leles, but then I realized that I was just an underdog in the Gardevoir mirror match. One of the big selling points of Regirock EX is that it gives you such an edge against other Gardevoir decks as you can lead off with a huge Lele KO. The matchup plays out in two different ways usually...either there is a notable start gap and one player just sets up first and leverages that pressure into a snowballed in, or you hit these game of chicken where both players try and position themself into the lead without exposing their attackers to a return KO by attaching too much Energy to their Gardevoir. By being able to lead a Gallade and threaten a 2 prize EX KO, you are able to play the second game so much better than a normal Gardevoir deck. With Octillery, you are also usually the "faster" to set up, and have an edge there as well. I debated between this card and a Super Boost Energy...another card I felt would offer strength in the mirror match. Boost wasn't bad, but it wasn't super reliable, and while you could use it for a huge damage boost, it also fed right into their damage too and almost always just ate a return KO. Regirock actually did more for the mirror match than any single card inclusion could, and I really only had one spot to be able to devote to the mirror. It also offered some strength vs Buzzwole and Necrozma as mentioned.
1 Clefairy: Clefairy is fantastic. It can be powered up in one turn with Secret Spring, and Metronome is just a monster against a lot of the format. This deck doesn't use it's GX attack often, so you can often allocate your GX use to Clefairy copying one of the opponent's.
4 Double Colorless Energy/7 Fairy Energy: This is pretty much the standard Energy count. I experimented with the Super Boost Energy, but it was difficult to actually take advantage of and if you did actually power it up, it was often a win-more card. The matchup I hoped it would shine in, the Gardevoir mirror, turned out to be a matchup where it was a double edged sword. It allowed you to get a KO but almost always led right back into a KO for the opponent.
3 Cynthia/3 N/1 Mallow. N is the best Supporter in the game. Cynthia is a vast improvement over Prof. Sycamore because it doesn't discard resources. In a Stage 2 deck, this is important. Even though Gardevoir's GX attack lets you recover resources, without any Max Potions, this deck's build is focused much more on applying pressure and winning the prize exchange. As such it does not want to take a turn off to get cards back unless it absolutely has to. Mallow is too great with Octillery and it can get you cards that are otherwise hard to search up such as Double Colorless Energy and Rare Candy. You also run a lot of thinner counts, so it lets you make sure you reliably hit what you want opposed to relying solely on raw card quantity draw to hit your stuff. You aren't quite as consistant as Tord's Gardevoir list as a 4-4 Zoroark line adds more than a 2-2 Octillery does, but this draw engine does share some similarities.
1 Prof. Kukui: I've sung Kukui's praises a bunch before about how it hits key numbers, but I haven't touched on what it does for the Gardevoir mirror yet. First, it lets your Gallade OHKO their Gallade. It isn't uncommon to lead Gallades in order to not expose a Gardevoir, so if you have "Gallade Supremacy" it cuts them off one potential avenue to approaching the matchup. More importantly, Gardevoir deals damage in increments of 30. Kukui reduces Gardevoir's 230 HP to an effective 210. This means you need only 7 "increments" opposed to 8. This is really important because you get access to 50 "phantom damage"...as in, 50 damage you get to deal, while having none of it factor into how much damage the opposing Gardevoir deals back. As such, you can actually OHKO an opponent's Gardevoir without risking them getting a return KO quite often because of it. The opponent will almost never factor this math into their game plan as well, so you have quite an edge. Kukui doesn't get quite the head tilt that the Regirock does, but lets not overlook the advantage against strong players you gain by having game plans they would never put you on. Punishing otherwise correct play is great.
3 Guzma/2 Brigette: These are pretty standard numbers for these Supporters. If it isn't broke, don't fix it.
4 Ultra Ball/4 Rare Candy: Mandatory numbers. You legitimately just can't trim these. I'd run more if I could. I actually wonder what is the maximum number of Ultra Ball I would run if I could run more than 4? It is probably legitimately like 10 since it is so good with Tapu Lele and Octillery.
3 Choice Band: I see a lot of Gardevoir builds running 2 of these, and Tord only ran 1. I'm aggressively trying to match specific numbers and don't run healing, so I really want to hit them quickly and often. I've found myself wanting the 4th even, but I know better.
3 Field Blower: The deck relies on Octillery for draw so you really don't want to be Garbotoxin locked. Parallel City isn't a backbreaker against you, but you do want to have a wider bench and letting it stick in a prolonged game is a real issue. Fighting Fury Belt is a huge issue, as like I mentioned, you really care about hitting very specific numbers and thus you can't afford to let 40 additional HP stand. Because of all of these factors, I want 3 copies of the card opposed to just 2.
1 Super Rod: Without Max Potion eating up your Energy cards, 1 copy of Super Rod is fine, especially since we have Cynthia and not Sycamore now. Mallow grabbing it for you helps too. I love not having 2 Super Rod clunking up hands throughout the game.
Anyways, now that we got the list and rationale out of the way, lets see how the tournament played out.
I played the above list, and my hotel room which consisted of my friend Dan Polo, Carl Scheu and Kevin Baxter played Buzzgarb/Passimian/Passimian respectively. Dan and Carl had rough days but Kevin managed to squeak into day 2 with a 7-2 record with his monkeys.
Round 1 vs Metalbox
After registering my deck with 4 Psychic Ralts, I THEN became aware of the Espeon Garb hype and was immediately regretting not running a split on Ralts. I felt a little bit vindicated ( results oriented! ) as my first opponent was running Metalbox. I lost the coin flip, which was of course bad news, but my draw was pretty good. She had a mediocre start, and I was able to get a KO with Clefairy and a Choice Band on a Celesteela GX and Gallades took care of a pair of Silvally GX to win the first game. The second game played out somewhat interestingly, as my opponent went out of her way to pick off both of my Remoraid before I could get out an Octillery, which REALLY stifled my draw power over the course of the game. Unfortunately, by doing this, I was able to maintain a fairly strong field otherwise, while she was also running out of Guzma for use of closing out the game later on. By the time she got my Remoraids down, I got a KO on her attacker ( Again, Celesteela ) and her field was left without Energy. She had to transition to Registeel to rebuild which took the pressure off and I was able to draw just well enough without Octillery to be able to navigate the win.
Round 2 vs Gardevoir
I won the die roll, and I wound up with a really strong start. I get the first KO with a Gardevoir, and my opponent just kind of attacks back into it and the game really snowballs as I am able to just get more stage 2s and energy into play while staying ahead on prizes.
The second game was frustrating. I get a decent start, although my opponent's is objectively better as he got to go first. The game falls apart entirely as I get N's into a six card hand of all Field Blower, Stage 2 Pokemon and Brigette. I basically make no forward progression for 3 turns and my Gardevoir goes down and I concede to hopefully be able to win the third game.
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