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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.

Hoopa was the tentpole of stall decks for months now because of how good it's Ability is. So many decks are just ill suited to actually damaging it. The problem was, decks were being built with more of a mindset to being able to beat stall decks. ( The fact that this deck is running the Ultra Prism Oranguru itself is a testament to this. ) Left unopposed, most decks carried the tools to at least attempt to grind out a stall deck. In this case, the deck aims to leverage how hard Hoopa is to KO with applying actual pressure.

Hoopa's attack is easy enough to power up with Double Colorless Energy and Max Elixir. Fighting Fury Belt ( and the occasional Reverse Valley! ) makes Hoopa a slightly less anemic threat. Hoopa's 80 ( maybe as much as 100! ) damage doesn't seem like a lot, but most decks don't have a lot of attackers able to take them down. Since the deck uses all non-EX attackers, it is really difficult for most decks to be able to actually grind through 6 fairly hard to KO attackers, especially if you get to successfully use your Acerolas.

The rest of the Pokemon serve niche purposes. Oranguru ( Sun and Moon ) is primarily draw power, but it is also a totally reasonable, if not good attacker in this deck. Oranguru ( Ultra Prism ) is your counter to mill decks, but also gives you additional resources in your grindier games. Giratina is strictly to counter Greninja, which is otherwise unwinnable. I'm going to be honest, I'm pretty sure Greninja is a pretty bad matchup even with Giratina. Mewtwo is a good attacker against any Pokemon that piles a ton of energy on itself, plus covers Giratina's weakness to Fighting. Tapu Koko's spread attack is great at setting up multiple Pokemon with damage to make up for Hoopa's below average damage output.

One of the problems I have with this deck is that it has some absolutely atrocious matchups. You can't beat Gardevoir ( Gallade is a comical beating ). You can't beat Magnezone. Garbodor is a real problem because Hoopa's entire strength stems form it's Ability. To make matters worse, decks can skew their lists to be able to beat this deck. If any of the Lycanroc decks add a single copy of the non-GX Lycanroc, it sways the matchup heavily. With Hoopa gaining a lot of hype after this event, you can absolutely expect players to avoid playing decks which are super cold to the card. I think the deck itself is very good, but should be avoided for the short term until it falls off the radar again and the metagame is soft to it again.
With Hoopa making the adjustment towards a more normalized approach of playing Pokemon, the new resident mill deck mantle was taken up once again by Sylveon GX.

Sylveon mill isn't anything new. It actually shares a decent number of similarities to Aggro Hoopa. Sylveon embraces the dedicated mill plan far more wholeheartedly than the new Hoopa build, but also is capable of applying pressure as well. Rather than try to lead with attacking, it will transition mid game.

Sylveon aggressively attacks the opponent's energy supply through Crushing Hammer, Enhanced Hammer, Team Flare Grunt, and Plumeria. The Lusamine loop paired with Sylveon's first attack makes it so the deck has a limitless amount of disruption and a true inevitability. Max Potion and Acerola ( And of course the Puzzle of Times! ) make it so Sylveon is really hard to actually KO.

One of the easiest ways for a deck to try and combat the deck is to stock pile a bunch of energy onto one attacker. The 1-0-1 Gardevoir GX is a great counter to any Pokemon that gets out of hand ( Assuming you can't find a way to re-set it with Sylveon's GX attack if you get it to the bench. ) Gardevoir is also cute in this deck because it's GX attack can restock the deck with 10 cards if you ever really need it. The last Pokemon the deck runs is one Hoopa, since as addressed before, it is really difficult for certain decks to beat. It is even harder to deal with when you are aggressively attacking their energy. The rest of the deck consists of utility cards and a toolbox which are great in conjunction with Magical Ribbon and Puzzle of Times.

I joked last article that I had finally made it a full article without writing about a Gardevoir list, and that streak ends now. I actually feel like Gardevoir is really well positioned again. To back this up to a degree, Rahul Reddy did pilot the deck to a League Cup victory recently. Despite my recent resistance to the Max Potion build of the deck, I feel like returning to them is a necessary evil. I still haven't abandoned a lot of the progression I made with the deck recently, and am currently running this hybrid version of the deck.

This is a list that pairs the superior draw ability of a 2-2 Octillery line with the sustainability that Brokevoir was known for. Admittedly, you only have 2 Max Potion, but that is generally enough. I started at 3, and trimmed down to 2 once I added the Skyla...which has been absolutely awesome so far. Because of the Skyla, I was able to trim down to 2 Max Potion, 2 Field Blower, and 1 Super Rod. It freed up a lot of space, while also gelling the deck together nicely. It has done a very good job of increasing the odds of a turn 2 Stage 2. It also makes the one-of Parallel City much pallatable.

I've opted for a 3-1 Ralts split, in favor of the Fairy type since I want to hedge against Espeon Garbodor to the best of my ability. Espeon Garbodor is not a bad matchup, but I do expect it to be popular. Since I am rounding down on the number of Field Blower I am running, I went for a 4-2 split in favor of Cynthia over N. Normally with Octillery I would favor N, but Cynthia is -much- better when under Ability lock. Being a Gardevoir deck, you out gun most other decks, you don't need to rely on the disruption in other matchups so hedging for matchups where you are heavily disrupted is preferrable.

Gardevoir has solid matchups against Buzzwole, Zoroark and Lucario decks, ranging from 40-60 to 60-40 depending on what the builds look like. You are extremely favored against Hoopa, and can beat Sylveon. You are favorable against Vikabulu. The deck has good matchups against the new emerging metagame, which makes me even more excited to pick it back up again. If you remember in my last article, I was really high on Ho-oh...unfortunately, the raise in popularity of Hoopa, and Vikabulu, has really dampened my excitement over the deck. I still think it is a really strong deck, but it isn't the most well positioned right now.

Finally, the archetype I have taken a liking to recently has been Magnezone. The deck has a near auto-win against Hoopa, and Sylveon. It is also extremely favored against Gardevoir. While traditional logic has dictated that Magnezone is a clunkier, inferior version of Vikabulu, the fact that Vikabulu is a successful tier one option at the moment should parallel fairly well to Magnezone. I feel as if the advantages Magnezone does have over Vikabulu are particularly alluring at the moment. The challenge is trying to figure out exactly how to build the deck, as it requires far more moving parts to fall into place than Vikabulu does. Therefore, merely mimicking the same engine isn't exactly going to work. Here is the current list I've been using.

I'm running a "full" 4-3 Magnezone line. ( I say "full" because if Vikabulu has shown us anything, its that stage 1s are not necessary. The popularity of Espeon EX has gone way down, and justifiably so. I don't feel like Espeon EX is well positioned. ) Unlike Vikabulu, I'm going for a Brigette engine. That means 3 Tapu Lele GX. You really want to be able to reliably hit it on turn 1. Like Vikabulu, I am carrying over the 2 Skyla to help draw into Rare Candy more often. That works well with the 3 Tapu Lele as well.

Attacker wise, I have 2 Dusk Mane Necrozma GX, a Dialga GX, a Solgaleo Prism, and a Mew. Mew is a bit of a wildcard in that it can act as any of your attackers. Because of this, I feel like 3 Dusk Mane Necrozma is unnecessary. ( Especially since the Super Rod can recover your attackers ) Dialga GX is a good source of supplementary draw power, and it's GX attack is one of the most unfairly things you can do in the game. I'm running 1 Choice Band ( obtainable with Skyla! ) so you can hit 180 damage with it. It allows you to win games you could otherwise never be able to compete in.

One of the big problems with Dialga GX is that you have to invest 5 Energy into it, and after it gets to use it's GX attack, it is relegated to doing an "impressive" 80 damage. You have to then transition into a real attacker afterwards, which asks a lot of the deck. Mew lets you copy Dialga's attack, and with the same attachments, shift into Dusk Mane's damage output. It also conventiently only gives up one prize. Mew is also awesome because, being a Psychic type, it can copy Dialga's GX attack to do 300 damage against Buzzwole or Lucario, completely swinging those matchups.

Dialga is really important against Vikabulu. While Magnezone is less likely to attack on turn 2 than Vikabulu, it can jump ahead in prizes if it "gets going" second because of the free turn. It isn't lopsided or anything, but it is favorable.
Solgaleo Prism is a great attacker ( again, only giving up one prize ) and is also a great surge of energy mid and late game, especially if you are unable to keep a Magnezone in play, or are stuck under Ability lock. The card does a whole ton of work against Espeon Garbodor. With 160 HP and Psychic resistance, it is really difficult to actually KO for Espeon. With the Choice Band, it can hit the 190 mark too.

The hardest part of building a Magnezone deck is trying to figure out how to handle the Energy. Vikabulu has it easy: Vikavolt is able to just yoink it all out of the deck. Magnezone has to first draw into it, and then also be able to reliably recover it. I'm running 3 Mt. Coronet and a 1-1 Starmie line to be able to recover Energy directly to hand. Super Rod helps recovering some of it too, but not in quite the same context.

I'm running 9 Metal Energy and 3 Professor Letter. Letter is a great way to draw into Energy early in the game. Unfortunately, you also need a reasonable number of actual energy to work with too. I started at a very low 7 ( and 4 Prof. Letter ) before bumping it to 8, and now I am up at 9. It still feels on the low end. It is incredible just how Energy hungry this deck is.

One thing which is really challenging with the deck is managing bench space. You use Tapu Lele frequently. You want Starmie. You have attackers to balance. You can use Mew with them. You need Magnezone. ( Clearly ) You want Oranguru as a possible safety net as the game progresses. It took a number of games before I got used to actually juggling all these demands, and you need to learn which cards are most important in each matchup.

Anyways, the format has shown it is continuing to evolve, and there are a ton of viable decks. We'll be getting a new set coming out later this month, so it will be interesting to see what those cards do to the format. Until next time!

[+21] okko


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