Experts' corner

Chris Fulop

From The Ashes...

The Fallout From Recent Regionals And Special Events Has Left The Metagame In Upheaval! Find Out What Has Emerged As The New Decks To Beat!

04/08/2018 by Chris Fulop

Hello everyone!

In my last article, I talked about the new high impact card on the block, Lucario GX. I discussed a few of the starting points for where to apply the card. Since then, we've had a number of major events take place while the card has been legal: Portland Regionals, Perth Regionals, and two Special Events. Lucario made a major impact, in a number of variations.

The best performing version was played by Jake Morgan in Portland. Of the four events I'm looking at, I am going to weigh this event as being the most important because it has the largest turnout and the overall highest level of competition.

One of the first things I want to address is the lack of any sort of "looping" game plan, notably Acerola. This is actually a trait of almost every one of the Lucario lists that have seen play. With Golisopod already providing a...somewhat...parallel skeleton for how to approach playing Lucario, I focused my initial testing on really leveraging Acerola as a game plan. Well, what is interesting is that Acerola is basically unnecessary. The correct way to attack a Lucario deck is to just attack around the Lucario while letting it's damage output basically nerf itself. You want to attack the Riolus. It is often even just correct to not attack Lucario and pass. You really don't -know- if your opponent has access to Acerola or not. "Best case scenario" swinging into Lucario GX puts you in danger of it's GX attack, so there is ample deterrent even taking Acerola out of the equation. This is a conclusion that pretty much every player came to eventually before the event, and the deck lists reflect this.

Jake paired Lucario with the most ubiquotous attacker in the format, Zoroark. Zoroark offers a great engine, and quick aggressive pressure. Zoroark is the deck's primary attacker, with Lucario getting big hits in when it can, or is necessary. The other thing that really stands out in this list is the pair of Mew EX, and a Mewtwo. These psychic type attackers give the deck a huge advantage when playing against other Lucario decks, or Buzzwole decks. When you expect a large portion of the metagame to feature Zoroark, Buzzwole or Lucario, this deck has great type coverage against all of those. That adds up to a lot of lopsided matchups. I'm actually beginning to suspect that it may be a bit of overkill.

Ignoring the spicy Psychic type presence, what I really like with this deck is just how streamlined and straight forward it is. The Trainers are all very basic with little fluff. The attacking lines are thick and consistent. With this level of redundancy, it is not surprising that Jake was able to take the list to a top 4 finish.

Another variation was piloted by one of the best players in the history of the game, Ross Cawthon. Ross managed to get in 14th place with Buzzwole/Lucario. Jonathan Paranda, another great Northwest player also took the deck to a top 32 finish.

Rather than pairing Lucario with Zoroark, Ross and Jonathan played it alongside Buzzwole and Octillery. While Zoroark is both a great attacker and a great draw engine, those duties get split up between Buzzwole and Octillery here. Buzzwole is a great attacker on multiple levels. With a full 9 Fighting Energy and 4 Max Elixir, Buzzwole is very much capable of leveraging both Absorbtion and Knuckle Impact. The spreading of 30 ( or more! ) damage around the opponent's field really makes it easy for Lucario to clean up KOs.

While the Zoroark build only ran 1 Regirock EX, this lists runs a pair of them. The extra damage boost applies to almost all of the deck's attackers. The pair of Regirock lets Buzzwole hit 70 damage on the first turn with a Strong Energy for additional reach in terms of what Basics it can OHKO.

Without Double Colorless Energy, the deck doesn't really have the ability to leverage Mew or Mew EX as a good psychic type counter. You could make a case for one of them anyways due to Max Elixir, since the deck already accepts this game plan for Sudowoodo. I think that I value Sudowoodo over a Psychic type, and running too many situational attackers is admittedly dangerous.

The Trainers, much like Jake's deck, are very much in line with what you'd expect with a Buzzwole deck once you accept a lack of Acerola. The one card that really stands out is the Escape Rope. Escape Rope is a really, really tough card to evaluate. It is a 4th "Switching" card alongside the Float Stones, and it has additional uses by forcing the opponent's active to the bench. It also lets you bench your own Pokemon even if it has a Choice Band attached to it. The card feels like a textbook example of a utility card that is a preference call. I'm not a big fan of it, but I trust Ross and Jonathan's judgment on the card. I'm just hard pressed not to find other cards I'd be more interested in playing over it. ( A Mew EX, an Enhanced Hammer, etc. )

Not to be outdone by calibre of player, Michael Pramawat and Rahul Reddy both played identical Lucario Lycanroc lists at the event. Caleb Gedemer won a 30 person Special Event with the same archetype, although the list did deviate quite a bit from this one.

This is the only list running any sort of "looping" the form of Super Scoop Up. The deck is similiar to the Buzzwole Lucario list, but manages to fit in a thin 2-1 Lycanroc line for another great attacker and additional "gust" presence. Super Scoop Up synergizes with pretty much every Pokemon in the deck. Buzzwole is a cheap one energy attacker with a lot of HP that can be looped. You can loop Lycanroc abilities. Clearly it is good alongside Lucario too. It can even re-set a Tapu Lele for another use of Wonder Tag. It is a far more ambitious take on the deck than what we saw from Ross.

The other big change is the addition of Prof. Kukui, which I absolutely love. A Lucario with a Strong Energy, 2 Regirock, a Choice Band, and a Kukui hits 210...such as another Lucario. Kukui also works a lot better when you can pair it with Lycanroc to pick things off. I understand that this is asking for a lot of pieces to come together, but over the span on a long game, it happens.

The card I have yet to appreciate is Lillie. I see a lot of lists with the lone Lillie, and it has just so rarely impressed me. It is mediocre to bad in the mid game. It is admittedly solid when it comes to the N game. It just doesn't seem to come up that often that you can pull it off on the first turn either. With this list only running one Tapu Lele ( which I don't disagree with! ) it makes Lillie even less reliable. Even if you CAN do it, with only one Lele, it is often better to just save your Lele use for a different point in the game.

Finally, on the Lucario front, Christopher Schemanske...and his THREE REGIROCK EX...used what I consider to be the most unusual Lucario GX list.

Chris went ALL IN on the Kukui/Regirock damage out put with his list. He isn't running any Lycanroc presence. While he ran a Buzzwole, it is only a lone copy. On top of this, there are no Max Potion. It is there to soften up targets for Lucario. This deck is aiming to be extremely aggressive, going so far as to run 3 Pokemon Catcher. Catcher is similar to Lycanroc in the prior list, where it can be paired alongside Prof. Kukui.

I like a lot of what the deck is trying to do, but I'm not sure I prefer this over Pramawat's list. They are trying to do similar things, but I like the Lycanroc package over the Catchers. I'm not sure if the Super Scoop Ups are better than the padded numbers for Lucario and Regirock.

Of the lists, which I feel all have some merit to them ( Which comes as no surprise, as they all at least pulled off a day 2 Regionals performance ) my personal favorite is Ross' list. I think that it is the obectively most powerful version, and I just really feel like being able to play the Buzzwole/Max Elixir package gives the deck a lot of raw strength. With Lucario being a top "deck" going forward, and it dealing with a target on it's forehead, having another powerful attacker is alluring.

Despite this slew of Lucario variations, I would argue that more interesting decks popped up at these events. The finals of Portland Regionals saw a 60 card mirror match between winner Xander Pero and runner up Colter Decker's Espeon Garbodor list.

Know what beats Lucario? Psychic types. Know what is a Psychic type? Espeon GX. As is Garbodor. I've not generally been impressed by this deck. It feels really...fair. That being said, it was comically well positioned for Portland. It has a huge advantage against Lucario and Buzzwole decks. This is a bit of a spoiler for the decks ahead, but some of the other decks to see a lot of player/success were Vikabulu ( Weak to Garbodor ) Quad Hoopa ( Weak to Garbodor ) Greninja ( Weak to Garbodor ) and Sylveon ( Weak to Garbodor...although in this case, Trashalanche opposed to Garbotoxin ). It managed to attack pretty much every successful deck at the tournament.

The deck is also not really breaking the mold much, but it does have a few choices worth looking at. The Pokemon line is really standard for an Espeon Garbodor list besides the Tauros GX and Drampa GX. Drampa isn't really outside the box, but Tauros hasn't seen a lot of play recently. I'm actually not entirely sure what the main role Tauros plays for the deck is. The card is inherently powerful, so I won't complain about it's inclusion.

The other thing I am surprised by is the choice to go with 4 N while only running 3 N and 3 Cynthia. One of the things I've noticed about Garbodor decks in general is how awkward N is with them. N is nice because it disrupts the opponent while they are stuck under Garbotoxin. The problem is also that Garbodor decks are also notoriously weak TO N, so it is a double edged sword. I have seen a lot of Garbodor lists run really thin on their N counts.

What actually feels like a major factor here is how Espeon's confusion gives the deck even additional strength and disruption alongside N. Despite the fact that Espeon Garbodor is a "fair" deck, and very grindy ( Which is a trait I don't like in decks ) it is just so well positioned right now that I can't help but label it the best deck going forward.

Another deck that had a really strong performance was Vikabulu, with the most successful list being this one piloted by both Alex Hill and Peter Kica.

Vikabulu is a really powerful deck. The problem has always been with trying to find a good list that keeps the deck consistent. The initial approach to the deck had always been to use Brigette to help get the deck to fully set up, and to also run Octillery as supplementary draw power. In this case, Alex and Peter went for a "Ball" engine instead. ( They also have that darned Lillie! )

The card that really stands out in the deck is Skyla. The card is just absolutely fantastic. It is so important for getting a turn 2 Vikavolt. Honestly, the deck is really low maintenance. Once it gets out a Vikavolt, it all gels together. This build is really good at getting a consistent set up. I actually logged a bunch of games a few nights ago with the deck, and even alongside the Energy Recyclers, I did occasionally struggle with the Energy count. I don't think you can really add more, but it is really easy to run out of Energy if you are a bit careless.

A few notes on some of the more interesting cards in the deck. Mew is a good opener with it's free retreat. It is also a non-EX attacker that swings the prize excange favorably for you. Due to the nature of the deck, the psychic typing is pretty irrelevent. Mew's actual attack does come up if you are ever fortunate enough to naturally open with it, as it can help get you a Vikavolt.

Heavy Ball gets Tapu Bulu, and Vikavolt, and is a great Skyla target. The choice to go with Oranguru over Octillery is a good one. The deck doesn't really need the additional draw power during a majority of the game, despite conventional wisdom regarding stage 2 decks. You just want the extra N protection for the late game. With the way the deck is built, you end up getting a few extra cards over the span of a game anyways.

I love the 4 Choice Band. You just always want to draw the card, and it is basically necessary to make Tapu Bulu a powerful attacker. While you can make a case for running only 3 copies ( I always tried to run 3 ) the 4 has just felt so strong. The deck can't beat Garbotoxin, so it needs to run 3 Field Blower. The deck also struggles against Fighting Fury Belt, so its nice to have insurance against both.
Next, we have the Quad Hoopa deck. The awful, obnoxious, unpleasant to play against Quad Hoopa deck. Unlike prior builds which were dedicated stall/mill deck, this approach takes a more aggressive slant. Three copies of this monstrosity made it into the top 32 of Portland, including a top 8 berth.

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