Experts' corner

Chris Fulop

The Closing Stretch

With The North American Intercontinental Championships Less Than a Week Away, The Metagame Is Coming Into Focus! Let's Take A Look!

07/04/2018 by Chris Fulop

Hello again everyone!

I know I've said this type of thing often...and I know more often than not, it leads to me not actually attending the event...but I have officially registered for the North American Intercontinental Championships at the beginning of July.I deal with varying degrees of depression...something I don't normally draw much attention to for various reasons, but it really impacts my drive and motivation to travel to tournaments. I'm not looking for sympathy or pity, but I do feel I owe my readers some transparency as to why I have not been traveling to many events the past few years. That all said, I have registered for the event, paid for my room, and am locked in on this one. All that is left now is to figure out what deck to play, right?

Recently, the metagame had boiled down into arguably four viable archetypes: Buzzwole, Malamar, Greninja, and Zoroark. I'd even go as far as to seperate the tiers between Buzzwole and Malamar from Greninja and Zoroark. Not only do I feel like the prior two are objectively stronger decks, but I also felt that their metagame shares were higher and thus the more important archetypes to be prepared for.
No matter how well positioned Greninja is, it feels like it's player base has a low ceiling. There are almost never that many people that are willing to actually play the deck. Part of that is consistancy issues, part of it is difficulty to play, and perhaps there is just a lingering stigma attached to it that keep the average player from wanting to sleeve it up. I don't want to play it, but I've always have very opinionated views on certain archetypes and chosen to shy away from particular decks.

Zoroark is interesting. Even with proper tech, it really struggles against Buzzwole. On the other hand, it is still a stupidly powerful card and has pretty good game against the rest of the format. It has the best engine the game has to offer. As Buzzwole dominates less and less of the metagame share it has, Zoroark becomes a bit better. Zoroark gets this undeserved stigam of being a dumb autopilot deck due to how fast, consistant and powerful it is. It's Ability does really feel like cheating. That said, it is actually one of the harder decks to effectively pilot close matchups. There is a difference between being so strong that you can win in spite of subpar play, and being easy to play. Zoroark has a lot of options, and can be very grindy against certain decks. Of the top decks, it is the one I would feel least comfortable audibling to at the last second without proper testing uner your belt.

The Regional Championship in Sheffield shook things up a bit though. The stranglehold that Buzzwole and Malamar seemed to have on the format loosened a bit, as the top of the event saw a greater degree of diversity. Here is the top 8 from that event:

1.) Seb Symonds- Zoroark Lycanroc
2.) Magnus Kalland- Zoroark Golisopod
3.) Marc Lutz- Buzzwole Garbodor
4.) Ryan Moorhouse- Malamar Necrozma
5.) Juraj Schrojf- Buzzwole Lycanroc
6.) Luke Williams- Zoroar Lycanroc
7.) Tomas Just- Espeon Garbodor
8.) Tord Reklev- Buzzwole Lycanroc

Two things of note: Marc's Buzzwole Garbodor list ran Trashalanche Garbodor and sources of Psychic Energy and Ryan's Malamar list use the Psychic type Necrozma opposed to it's newer Ultra version. I've focused on the Sheffield Regional, but there was also a Special Event in Mexico City. I'll almost always weigh a Regionals over a Special Event ( And an IC over a Regionals ) but it is still worth looking at the top 8 from this event as well.

1.) Pablo Meza- Zoroark Golisopod
2.) Caleb Gedemer- Malamar Necrozma
3.) Eder Jarillo Soto- Zoroark Golisopod
4.) Juan Espinola Ortega- Zoroark Golisopod
5.) Abraham Morales- Malamar Necrozma
6.) Christopher Schemanske- Buzzwole Garbodor
7.) Gerardo Farias- Lapras
8.) Ryan Bruckner- Malamar Necrozma

The first thing I need to stress is that this event only had 36 Masters, so take the standings with a grain of salt. None the less, we saw 3 more Zoroark Golisopod decks place in the Top 4 here. There are 3 Malamar Necrozma decks as well, all of which are using the Psychic Necrozma GX as well. I wrote in prior articles that I really preferred the Psychic version to the Ultra alternative, and I'm not surprised to see the shift towards this build. To round out the top 8 were have Christopher Schemanske's Buzzwole Garbodor and Gerardo Farias's Lapras. I was pretty cold on Lapras in my last article, and I'm still not really sold on the deck being great, but it is reassuring to see it persist with some degree of success after becoming a known quality. I don't think the deck is necessarily bad, but I also just don't see the allure over one of the other top decks either.

I want to look at the biggest resurgent deck from the event, which in my eyes is Zoroark Golisopod. There were a number of players to use the deck, but I want to look at Pablo Meza's list, as it was the list that I like the most, and he is a player I am very familiar with the skill of. Here is his 60 cards:

A 4-4 Zoroark line is pretty standard as it is both the engine of the deck ( You'll see the deck plays so few draw Supporters since you are relying so much on Zoroark to provide your draw for you. ) and a fantastic attacker. A 3-2 Golisopod line is all you need, as more often than not, it doesn't get KOed very easily and you are able to heal it. You want extra Wimpods to make sure you are able to facilitate that loop. 3 Tapu Lele GX also help enable the toolbox of Supporters you run while also increasing the odds you see a turn 1 Brigette. Lele is also a pretty decent attacker in this deck.

Mew EX is your Buzzwole counter, and it also is pretty good at abusing the Psychic weak GX Pokemon in Malamar decks. This is one matchup where I do think the Ultra Necrozma build may be better suited. Tapu Koko is just a nice free retreater and a random source of 20 damage that has various uses. This is a card that I don't think is critical against many of the best decks but is so useful overall that it is a nice insurance against decks that have higher HPs that escape your OHKO range otherwise. Being a one prize attacker is another big selling point because your other attackers are GX/EX Pokemon.

So much of this deck is built around options. Puzzle of Time is at it's best in Zoroark decks, and the whole list gets crafted around this fact. Between Tapu Lele and these Puzzles, you don't need redundancy in Supporters. You'd rather have a variety. This does come with a bit of a risk. You are really weak to Garbotoxin, and run 3 Field Blower as insurance. Counter Catcher and Enhanced Hammer both perform at their best here due to the Mallow/Puzzle of Time gimmick.

One card I do really want to talk about is Parallel City. This card is good against both Malamar decks and Zoroark decks, and I expect it to see more and more play going forward. While clearly enough people picked up on Zoroark being a strong choice for these events, the average players was likely unaware. I think Parallel City will be more widespread going forward.

While talking about "Zoroark" decks, lets look at Seb Symonds' Sheffield winning list!


Again we have a full Zoroark line and the expected 3-2 Lycanroc line. Just like Zoroark Golispod, this is far from a "new" deck, and this list doesn't really reinvent the wheel, it just tweaks it some for a very defined metagame headed into the event. Clearly Zoroark needs to go over the top to be able to compete against Buzzwole, and the Mew EX plus Mewtwo ( Evo ) package gives you enough game to be able to do this. It also seems like Buzzwole Garbodor was preferred over a traditional more aggressive build and that feels like it would certainly be beneficial to Zoroark decks overall.

The Trainers are fairly standard for this deck, but there are a few inclusions worth focusing on. First, the two Parallel City. Not really out of the ordinary, but I do think they had to be important towards the deck's success. Timer Ball is superior to Evosoda in the Lycanroc build because it puts the Evolution into your hand. Since Lycanroc GX keys off of coming into play from the hand, this is important. Normally I would rather have a safe, reliable one evolution off of Evosoda if this didn't matter, but Lycanroc mandates the Timer Balls instead. Multi Switch is great in this deck because of how easy it is to search out and re-use. It makes powering up a Lycanroc GX much more reasonable. While Lycanroc is a servicable Fighting attacker here, I am curious to see how one Buzzwole ( non-GX! ) would do in here. It may not be necessary, but if Zoroark decks continue to raise in popularity I wouldn't be against having that extra insurance for the matchup. Seb only ran 2 Guzma, due to Puzzle of Time, and of course the Lycanroc GX. A little lower than I am comfortable with, but not unreasonable. I still think I'd play the safer 3 though.

The last card that I am just unsure about is Delinuent. I've never been a huge fan of this card unless your deck was designed to be very disruptive and grindy. I don't consider this to be one of the better Delinquent decks. I honestly cannot tell you what Seb's logic behind including the card was. I'm not saying this to undercut his choice, as he very clearly knows his deck well, I just don't know what his thinking was when it comes to including it.

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