Experts' corner

Chris Fulop

A Forbidden Spotlight On Madison

Madison Regionals Left Standard With A Best Deck And A Few Fun Surprises! PLUS! A Bad Deck!

06/08/2018 by Chris Fulop

Hello again everyone!

There have been a number of major tournaments since I last wrote an article, so I have a lot to discuss! I also want to examine a deck I put a lot of time and effort into the past month or so that ended up actually being a bit of a bust, to my chagrin. I still feel that there is something to the concept, and have not given up on it yet. Beyond that, there is still a lot to be learned even in failure.

Virginia Regionals is in the books, and it was won by Xander Pero using a Buzzwole GX (CIN; 104) / Lycanroc GX (GRI; 138) deck. It is pretty telling when a deck that is dominating Standard ( Spoiler ) is also taking down an Expanded Regionals. I don't find this particularly surprising though. Buzzwole had a big target on it's head going into the event as the expected "best deck," and it delivered. Coming in second was Wailord, of all things. I did not get to watch the Finals play out, but that matchup feels really poor for Buzzwole, so congratulations to Xander for being able to navigate the match into a win.

In my last article I mentioned I was personally a fan of Trevenant, as it is strong against Buzzwole GX (CIN; 104)  while its weaker matchups were likely going to get pushed from the metagame due to Buzz's presence. Pretty much all of this happened, and Trevenant managed to place 8 players into the top 32. In addition, it put 3 copies into the top 8, although they all lost in the Quarterfinals. I know one fell to Ryne Morgan's Zoroark deck, and I believe another fell to Wailord.

Looking over the lists from the top 32, I actually still prefer my list from my last article over the ones which placed at the tournament. That said, of the lists played, I like Charlie Lockyer's the most. ( Matthew Whitted also made day 2 with a very similar list, opting for a 3/1 Cynthia/Sycamore split opposed to Charlie's 2/2. )

I like the addition of Guzma (BUS; 115) ! I've been a big fan of Counter Catcher in the deck, and Guzma is a less conditional source of the effect that can be searched for with Tapu Lele-GX and re-used with VS Seeker. As I tested my list with Counter Energy and Counter Catcher, my opponents started to adapt and actually bench Exeggcutes to "gift" me prizes to keep the prizes tied. I was certainly still thrilled with that result, but having Guzma feels really strong. I also really like his choice to play a heavier count of Ultra Ball alongside the mandatory set of Mysterious Treasure. Admittedly, discarding cards is very far from free in this deck, but being able to grab a Tapu Lele puts Ultra Ball above its competition. You want at least 2 copies. I still prefer at least some amount of Counter Energy in this deck, but otherwise I am really happy with this list.

I don't want to dwell too much on Expanded though, as things are really starting to heat up in Standard right now. The Regionals in Madison, Wisconsin took place this past weekend, and the results are very, very telling. The Buzzwole GX (CIN; 104)  hype is very much well deserved. Previous tournaments, including Special Events, suggested that Malamar (FLI; 51) /Necrozma decks were at the forefront of the metagame. ( Both builds using normal Necrozma, and Ultra Necrozma had a lot of success. ) I was a little surprised by this because while I did assume that Malamar would be a tier 1 deck, I didn't expect it to have such a strong showing out of the gate. In Madison, it was very clear cut that Buzzwole was far and aware the best deck.

First Place: Buzzwole

Igor Costa won his 1522636th Regional Championship ( and 3rd this year! ) with the following list:

This is quite a bit different than the initial "Stock" list for Buzzwole GX (CIN; 104) /Beast Ring going into the event, although you wouldn't realize it by looking at the Trainers. The Energy is a bit interesting, in that Igor went with a very high FIFTEEN Energy cards. Prior to the printing of Beast Energy, the norm was to run 10 Fighting Energy and 4 Strong Energy due to Max Elixir. Now, the norm is to run 14 Energy, either trimming the 10th Fighting for the Beast Energy, or by actually going down to 3 Strong Energy ( effectively upgrading a Strong ) in order to keep the Elixir odds in tact. Igor just bumped the Energy count up by one, which I do like. There are some cards he skimped on to fit it that I may not be happy about, though.

Before touching on the Pokémon, which is where the real innovation is, I want to briefly touch on the Trainers. This is an extremely standard assortment of cards, with the only change from the expanded being cutting the 4th Choice Band from the list. This feels totally fine to me. 4 was bordering on overkill, and the deck usually does enough damage that it is either safely one hitting a Pokemon, or two hitting it. Choice Band does bump a two hit KO into a one hit every so often, but probably not enough to justify the 4th anymore. The Pokémon selection impacts this decision as well.

The BIG change here is that Igor ( and a lot of other to players at the event: Caleb Gedemer. Joey Ruettiger. Jimmy Pendarvis. Michael Pramawat. Xander Pero. Sam Chen. Ryan Sablehaus.) only ran 2 Buzzwole GX (CIN; 104) ! On top of this, the lists ran 3 baby Buzzwole! This is a major shift from the approach a traditional build takes. On the surface, it is easy to write off Buzzwole as a tech attacker exclusively used when the opponent drops to specifically 4 Prize Cards. Buzzwole is a lot stronger than that though. It is a 130 HP one prize attacker that deals 30 damage for one energy as it's FLOOR. While you don't get the bench damage like you do off Jet Punch, it's base damage is the same. As is the case with Fighting Pokemon in general, you get all of the bonus damage from your Energy cards, as well as Diancie Prism Star, and in this case, Regirock EX as well. Buzzwole is very good at two hitting bigger Pokemon. Think of it along the lines of baby Volcanion.

Buzzwole GX (CIN; 104) 's second attack is also potent! It is clearly worse than Buzzwole-GX's bigger attackers, but it can be powered up wit Max Elixir and Beast Ring just as easily. Assuming you have a Strong Energy, Diance and Regirock, and a Choice Band on it, Buzzwole is doing a base 160 damage! If the Energy is a Beast Energy, that is 170. This is BEFORE any coin flips, where you can get up to 40 additional damage. Yes, Buzzwole GX does more damage, but Buzzwole only gives up one prize card! You can leverage a favorable prize exchange game here easily. Even in scenarios where Buzzwole may come up slightly short on one hit KOs, it will leave something crippled for Jet Punch later on in many cases.

There are really only 3 decks at the moment: Buzzwole GX (CIN; 104) , Malamar (FLI; 51) , and Zoroark/v. ( The 4th best option would be Greninja. ) Buzzwole is already favorable against Zoroark. When dealing with the mirror match and Malamar (FLI; 51) , often times the game devolves into a series of OHKOs between GX cards. Since you really only have to worry about these decks, inbreeding Buzzwole a bit to focus on having a strong game with one prize attackers is worth it. I would not be surprised at all if this shift played a major part in pushing the Buzzwole decks overtop of the Malamar decks.

Igor went very dangerous with his Stage 1 Pokemon lines here, but that doesn't surprise me one bit since he was well known for his 2/1 Garbodor line in previous seasons. He ran a 1-1 Lycanroc GX (GRI; 138)  line and a 1-1 Octillery line, which I guess is the price you pay to fit the 15th Energy and the Regirock-EX. I'm honestly not convinced Lycanroc is even mandatory in these decks anymore, as I feel like people have just kept the deck fairly similar to the pre-Forbidden Light Buzz Roc builds. I am not against the cards, I just think the deck has enough raw power that it may not be needed.

Back to Basics Buzzwole

While most of the top placing lists embraced this new baby Buzz game plan, Will Mantho, the number one seed at 33 points going into round 14 of the tournament ( I believe he entered Top 8 as the top seed but cannot confirm this. ) ran a very stock list of Buzz Roc.

Outside of the particularly low Energy count, nothing here is unusual. Not only did Will finish swiss extremely strongly, he converted it into a 2nd place finish! I think this goes to show that just because the newer Buzzwole GX (CIN; 104)  build had the better overall showing, that it isn't the only way to approach the deck. What I do feel happened is that a lot of the game's very best players all played similar lists and this skewed the results a little bit. I would not be surprised if they would have had similar results with this style of build as well. Of course, this build is very well known, so if that many top players all decided it was better, there has to be merit to it. I just think that Buzzwole is so powerful right now that many different builds can find success.

Getting Third with Greninja

The third place finisher, Jake Ewart, piloted what I consider to be my favorite Greninja list I have ever seen. I don't LIKE Greninja as a deck. I have some issues with how it plays and it's consistency that keep me from really supporting it, but this is the closest I've been to being really happy with a list.

The build is generally focused on consistency without too many gimmicks tacked on. You have a pair of Max Potion and a pair of Enhanced Hammer for utility, which is enough to make an impact in matchups where you want them without cluttering the deck up too much. I see too many Greninja builds either running no Max Potion at all ( I dislike this...I feel like you need an extra turn or two in many games and Max Potion grants this. ) or they run too many random clunky cards. This feels like a very balanced approach towards amplifying consistency while also fitting in the necessary frills without going overboard.

Breaking Down Buzzwole / Garbodor 

In 4th Place we have Ian Robb, playing the third different approach to using Buzzwole GX (CIN; 104) .

At first though, I imagined a Buzz Garb list using Trashalanche Garbodor would be very interesting since the type advantage could give the deck an advantage in the "mirror" match. Unfortunately, I think it is fairly possible for a Buzzwole GX (CIN; 104)  deck to fight this deck without using too many Item cards if it wanted to. As such, it makes sense that Ian didn't take that direction. Garbotoxin is still a really strong ability, and it shuts off Malamar (FLI; 51) , which is a huge selling point in itself. Ian ran a set of Fighting Fury Belt, and alongside Garbotoxin that makes it very difficult for opposing Buzzwole to OHKO your own Buzzwole without Diance. As such, Garbodor actually gives you a nice edge in the Buzzwole AND Malamar matchup.

In order to fit all of the cards necessary to facilitate Garbodor, some things have to give. In this case, the Max Elixir package. You free up 4 spots from the Elixirs themselves, plus you can trim down to 12 Energy cards. The other interesting thing about this deck is that it runs NO Ultra Ball! Instead, Ian is running Nest Ball, Mysterious Treasure and Order Pad. I'm just not sure that all of these cards are better than Ultra Ball. Both Nest Ball and Mysterious Treasure get "most" of the Pokemon in the deck, but I don't think the discards from Ultra Ball are so problematic that the deck needs to settle for "Most". My first reaction to Order Pad is that I dislike the card...I hate flipping cards that work towards consistency. I'm more open to higher impact cards like Crushing Hammer or Super Scoop Up, because they are fairly irreplaceable effects. There are other options for draw power.

That being said, I really like the card in this deck. It can get you copies of Beast Ring, as well as Fighting Fury Belt. It also gets you the one-of
Choice Band. Getting Beast Ring is particularly important since it is this deck's only source of energy acceleration without Max Elixir. Beast Ring is also extra important to be able to grab since it is so timing sensitive.

Zoom in on Zoroark

While Ryan Sablehaus was playing the breakout deck of the tournament, his brother Kyle was one of a number of players using Zoroark Lycanroc GX (GRI; 138) .

Zoroark is certainly in a far worse place now than it was previously, but the card is so powerful that it cannot be ignored entirely. It is still a great attacker, and offers by far the best engine in Standard. It's Buzzwole GX (CIN; 104)  matchup is quite bad, but there are counter-measures which can be taken to try to make it salvagable. Kyle ran Mew EX and Mewtwo, both powerful Psychic type counters which give you some game against Buzzwole.

This is actually still a fairly normal Zoroark build, with a nice slew of one-ofs that give the deck a lot of flexibility in it's play. The Zoroark/Mallow/Puzzle of Time engine is still one of the strongest things you can do in Standard. There were a number of Zoroark/ Lycanroc GX (GRI; 138) lists that made day 2, but most of them finished in the bottom half of the standings, which makes me less confident in this deck going forward.

A Look at Lapras

Finally the last deck I want to go over from the tournament is a Lapras deck piloted by Nolan Freda. Yes. A Lapras deck.

I would call this "Waterbox," but it really is just aggro Lapras. Volcanion Prism Star is a huge addition to the deck because it gives you a discard outlet to put Water Energy into the discard pile so that you can quickly use Aqua Patch to put it back into play. Between Volcanion, Ultra Ball, and Sycamore, the deck has a lot of ways to enable Aqua Patch now. Volcanion is also a pretty reasonable attacker in the deck.

Manaphy-EX, Energy Switch, Aqua Patch and Max Elixir combine to give the deck a nice fluid source of energy starting as early as the first turn. Despite this, I am skeptical of this deck. I just don't see what makes this deck better than Buzzwole GX (CIN; 104) . Both decks are very fast and have access to a lot of energy acceleration. The biggest selling points are that it should start swinging "hard" a turn faster, and it lacks the Psychic weakness Buzzwole does. The maximum damage output is lower, and the deck lacks the cheap, low energy attackers that Buzzwole has. On top of that, Manaphy EX is a major liability on the bench.

I haven't gotten to play this deck, and it was pretty well off my radar going into the event so I can't really give concrete analysis on it's matchups but I really wanted to include it in the article since it is so surprising to see it make day 2. In fact, it put two copies into day 2, between Nolan and Nick Capobianco, although neither managed to convert into the top 16.

Finally, I want reveal the deck I had been working on, which is Decidueye/ Naganadel GX (FLI; 121) . In my Forbidden Light set review I went over how interested I was in Naganadel's GX attack. While Naganadel is clearly designed for an "Ultra Beast" centric deck due to it's first attack, it's GX attack is just extremely powerful and game warping. Being able to re-set the game to 3 prizes a piece felt like a truly degenerate option in a slower deck with a powerful end game.

My initial thought process was to put it into Gardevoir. ( Since I'd spent a lot of time playing that deck I don't think it is a surprise my head went there first. ) Not only does Gardevoir start off slow, often giving up a number of prize cards, but it also has an extremely potent end game once it does set up. Using Gardevoir's Ability, you can even power it up in one turn with DCE. I was pretty happy with the idea. The problem is, I felt like this approach would just be horrific against Malamar. Gardevoir is also just generally terrible against Greninja, and they would be more than well equipped to play this game plan out better than Gardevoir even.

That actually led me towards Decidueye... you could fall behind as much as you'd like, setting up, and spreading damage. Once you reset, ideally you have enough "set up" KOs to win on the following turn. If not, your field is going to be a 210 HP GX, and as many 240 HP GX Pokémon as you could evolve. Not only are those going to be stable, but the deck runs 3 Max Potion to prolong the post- Naganadel GX (FLI; 121) stage of the game.

The first challenge was figuring out how to make the deck set up. Brigette is a natural fit in the deck because you need to fill your bench as equal and reliably as possible. There is a bit of an issue with the deck's game plan that is really important to have to play around... you want to end the game with ONLY Naganadel and Decidueyes. Any additional leftover Pokémon are Guzma (BUS; 115)  targets and liabilities. This means you -really- don't want to have a Tapu Lele-GX hanging around to die if you don't have to. This means I went with 4 Brigette so that I draw it "naturally" as often as possible.

Clearly, this deck has way too many moving parts to possibly run Prof. Sycamore, so it runs 4 N and 4 Cynthia. Beyond that, I'm running 3 Skyla. Skyla helps smooth everything over. It can grab Rare Candy, which is it's primary function. Against Garbodor you can grab one of the two Field don't need a ton of turns out from under Garbotoxin to be able to clear up the Garbodor with Ability damage. This is fortunate because running more than 2 would just not fit. The deck cares a lot about it's Energy attachments ( and does not run a lot of Energy ) so being able to grab the Float Stone is important too. Finally, once set up, being able to grab Max Potion in the late game is crucial.

One of the first problems I realized the deck would have was against Malamar. Malamar can easily OHKO Naganadel GX (FLI; 121) , and a Decidueye back to back. I didn't trust the deck's ability to race against that. This led me to adding a strong Tapu Koko element to the deck, which proved to make the deck much stronger. Opponents usually aggressively Guzma ( or Lycanroc GX (GRI; 138)  ) Rowlets to stifle my set up, which means they ignore whatever my initial attacker is. This is usually either Tapu Koko, putting a bunch of damage into play, or Alolan Vulpix to grab more Pokemon. If they KO my attacker, they ignore my Rowlets, and if they KO Rowlets, they ignore my attackers.

Against Malamar and against Zoroark, the Tapu Koko plus Espeon-EX game plan does a lot of work. While not really a prominent deck at the moment, it is also strong against Gardevoir. In order to fully support Tapu Koko, I'm running a pair of Counter Energy alongside the DCE to power it up. Counter Energy is also actually interesting with Poipole, whose second attack prevents the opponent from taking a prize if they KO it on the following turn for PC. Normally this would just be a stop-gap as it deals no damage, but in this case you are throwing around Decidueye damage so you are actually progressing the game. It doesn't come up that often, but it does come up.

I initially was running 4 Counter Energy and 4 Double Colorless Energy, but realized that a lot of games, I needed to actually attack with Decidueye. Initially I assumed I wouldn't be doing so often. I would have to use attachments on Naganadel GX (FLI; 121) , and I wouldn't be using Decidueye's GX attack in favor of Naganadel's. Not running the Grass at all wound up being too cute. There are games where the opponent keeps you off of Naganadel entirely, and you can still absolutely win those with Koko spread, Ability damage, and Max Potion looping. While the deck features a gimmick, it still can play out as a more traditional Decidueye deck when things go wrong.

Unfortunately, after about 50 games, I was not satisfied with the deck. Too many things would go wrong. I'd play against a deck with Acerola, which was obnoxious. Parallel City discarding the "hanging" Pokémon is a problem. Garbotoxin is still difficult. Sometimes you just get run over by Buzzwole GX (CIN; 104) . You can beat Acerola. You can beat Parallel City. You can beat Garbodor. You can beat Buzzwole. They are just annoyances that compounded a deck prone to being clunky itself. My winrate hovered just above 50% overall, but I found myself having to do a lot of work with a very difficult to play deck for a very middle of the road result. I don't think the deck is hopeless and I am not confident this is the correct 60 for it. I encourage anyone curious to play the deck, and make their own changes to see if they can get better results than I did. Or you could just play Buzzwole. Because Buzzwole is way too good. Until next time!

[+20] okko


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