Experts' corner

Chris Fulop

Storming Into The New Standard

Chris takes an early look at post-rotation Standard!

08/15/2018 by Chris Fulop

Hello again!

While the 2017-2018 Standard format hasn't quite run it's course, the World Championships and Nashville Open will see players compete with a cardpool ranging from XY-BREAKthrough up to the brand-new expansion, Celestial Storm. Many players, however, are looking ahead to the 2018-2019 format. This format will see the cardpool restricted to the Sun and Moon expansion onward. While most of the newer Pokemon have been what has defined the recent Standard metagame (the power creep continues), there are a lot of tools which will be leaving the format that will change the way players build decks. Lets look at some of the most important cards that will be getting the boot!

Professor Sycamore: It has been a while since we have not had Professor Sycamore (or his spiritual predecessor, Professor Juniper) in Standard. Sycamore was unarguably the best draw Supporter in the format, unconditionally giving players access to a new hand of seven cards. While losing Sycamore will hurt every deck, it hurts decks which really care about discarding cards early on, such as Malamar decks which relied on the good Professor to reliably dump Psychic Energy to use for Psychic Recharge.

N (FCO; 105) : While I cite Sycamore as the best draw Supporter in the format, I will stand by my stance that N was the best Supporter...Trainer...potentially Standard. Not only a great early game Supporter which helped boost opening consistancy, N warped the entire game around its disruption. N forced many games to a luck of the draw point at the end of the game, but it also prevented players from recklessly stockpiling massive hands, leaving themselves with the resources necessary to craft their upcoming turns carefully. While I hate the idea of any card which effectively forces a player to take a random one-card hand at any point during a game, I also understand that N has been really important at keeping games from snowballing.

Brigette (BKT; 161) : Brigette has been a cornerstone of evolution decks all season. Getting three Pokemon on your bench on the first turn of the game almost guarantees setup. I believe most decks can craft an engine without it that won't impact them too much, but the main deck that takes a bit of a beating by losing this card is Zoroark. It will certainly impact Zoroark's speed and consistency. I'm not buying into the idea of playing the card's "replacement," Pokemon Fan Club.

Octillery (BKT; 33) : Octillery is a draw engine that has been a staple of the Standard format as well. Between Stage 2 decks, and Buzzwole decks which use Brooklet Hill to smoothly get out Remoraid, Octillery has been everywhere. Octillery both offset the damage done by N and let decks aggressively leverage it. It helped decks get away with playing utility Supporters such as Acerola and Guzma while still seeing more cards. While Octillery is no longer needed to protect against the rotating N, the card will certainly be missed. While trying to port over Buzzroc, for example, I was struggling to figure out how to fill the void left by the lack of this octopus. Oranguru is still legal, but that card was almost EXCLUSIVELY an anti-N option while offering very little proactive draw power.

Fighting Fury Belt (BKP; 99) : While Fighting Fury Belt's play waned since Field Blower was printed, the card was still very strong, seeing four-of play in Buzzgarb decks. The loss of this card, coupled with the loss of Parallel City and Garbotoxin Garbodor make Field Blower a much less desirable inclusion in decks.

Parallel City (BKT; 145) : Parallel City was such a well-designed Pokemon card. While the damage reduction half of the card was never super important, being able to cramp the opponent's bench or being able to discard some of your own Pokemon which sat as liabilities led to some very interesting plays from this card. It helped keep degenerate decks in check to some degree. Like N, it allowed players a bit of play-from-behind ability against better set up opponents. Unlike N, I don't even really have any complaints about this card being in format. It will be a card both Zoroark and Malamar decks will be thrilled to see leave the format.

Garbodor (BKP; 57) : This Garbodor has been an oppressive disrupting card legal for what seems like forever now. With Field Blower printed and Guzma being in format, Garbodor was very powerful and some pairing of it was almost always a tier one option, but it was kept in check from being too obnoxious. I felt like it did a good job slowing down or stopping some of the most degenerate decks. Now the big Ability-based decks have one less enemy. Being able to cut Field Blower entirely for space should really benefit decks like Malamar, Magnezone, Decidueye, Vikavolt, etc. Alolan Muk is the replacement for Garbodor, but shutting off Basic Pokemon has far from the same impact. It may disrupt engines for setting up, but it doesn't stop the energy acceleration Pokemon which is a big deal.

Max Elixir (BKP; 102) : Yikes. This card's rotation should really impact the format. Aggressive decks that aren't just keying off of Double Colorless Energy get a lot slower, and a lot less resiliant without Max Elixir. Buzzwole takes a big hit. It still has Beast Ring, sure, but it can't have the same explosive starts it did before. A Pokemon like Lapras GX could have been poised to really shine post rotation but losing Elixir really hurts its speed. I'll actually miss this card because it helped strengthen a subset of decks that wanted to be aggressive and could afford to play a lot of Basic Energy cards. The deck-building cost for the card was not close to free, and I felt it carried more decks to viability than anything else.

Float Stone (BKT; 137) : This one kind of snuck up on me. Float Stone was the switch effect of choice. This will make decks a bit clunkier but shouldn't end up being a major deal. Decks that REALLY need to have switching effects have other admittedly worse replacemenet cards, and other decks can likely just do without them. Guzma's built-in switching effect gives decks a safety net at the very least. It does mess with Malamar a bit due to its strength alongside Dawn Wing Necrozma-GX's Invasion, but they can play Altar of the Moone to offset this.

Evosoda (XY; 116) : Evosoda really only saw play as a compliment to Ultra Ball in evolution decks as a one- or two-of, and it can be replaced by other options such as Timer Ball. The loss of it isn't negligible, but it isn't backbreaking for any decks either. As of right now, decks look to be getting a bit slower and clunkier across the board, and players will likely just need to accept that.

Greninja (BW; 162) / Greninja BREAK (BKP; 41) : Greninja tapered off in the latter bit of the 2017-2018 format, but it was still always a boogeyman that haunted the format. Not only was it an on-and-off-again tier one threat, but it attacked in a fairly unique way. One of the best one-prize-attacker decks is leaving the format. It is also one of the best disruptive decks, as Shadow Stitching was extremely degenerate when its damage was augmented by the BREAK's Ability. Both of the "turn off Ability" threats are leaving.

Volcanion (STS; null) / Volcanion EX (STS; 26) : While these Pokemon feel a bit outclassed compared to newer releases, they were big-time players for quite awhile and should at least be mentioned for their exit. There aren't a ton of great Fire type Pokemon left in their wake, either, while Metal type Pokemon look to only be getting more and more dangerous.

Mr. Mime (GEN; 52)  Mr. Mime didn't see much play, but it was a great silver bullet against spread decks. I don't expect I'd want to play Mr. Mime, but the fact it is leaving does make any good spread decks which exist much harder to counter.

Espeon EX (BKP; 52) : Espeon's devolution game was obnoxious and very powerful. The card was great with cards such as the promo Tapu Koko, Decidueye, Latios, and Yveltal BREAK. While Yveltal BREAK does rotate, a lot of stronger spread options stay in format. Espeon-EX would likely have stayed a popular roleplayer if it stuck around.

BANNED Puzzle of Time (BKP; 109) : Honestly, the only deck(s) that used Puzzle of Time were Zoroark decks, but man did they make great use of it. The loss of Puzzle of Time will hurt but far from cripple Zoroark. They will not have quite the same toolbox game they did before and will have to actually narrow down what utility cards they want to focus on using now. Zoroark is losing a lot of tools across the board though, and I'm not sure how well a conventional Zoroark deck will hold up post rotation. N and Parallel City were SO important towards the deck's ability to keep up with more powerful opposition.

Professor's Letter (BKT; 146) : Professor's Letter is an underrated, great card. Admittedly it requires a specific deck to want it, but Malamar Ultra Necrozma is a frontrunner for one of the best decks post rotation, and losing Professor's Letter is actually a really big hinderance to it. Even decks like Magnezone want to be able to draw Energy cards early, in multiples, and will miss this card.

Skyla (BC; 134) : Skyla rarely saw much play. It was maybe included as a one-of here and there. Still, Skyla could have potentially seen a spike in play post rotation with the huge void left by the loss of Sycamore and N.

Super Rod (DRV; 20) : This is another card that kind of gets looked at as just being always in format, but it actually leaves now. There are enough ways to get Energy back in format, and if you want to get back Pokemon, Rescue Stretcher is just better anyways. There will be decks that would like specifically this card, but it is replaceable.

Team Flare Grunt (XY; 129) : Flare Grunt didn't really see a lot of play outside of really dedicated disruptive decks such as Sylveon-GX. Still, the card is very good, and does hit those decks really hard.

Team Rocket's Handiwork (FCO; 112) : I love a good Raichu lock deck! Unfortunately with Devolution Spray rotation, this deck is dead, and alongside it one of the few shells that would actually like to run this card.

Strong Energy (FRF; 104) : This is a HUGE loss. Without Strong Energy, Buzzwole-GX loses so much of its damage output. Jet Punch just doesn't hit nearly as hard as it used to, and without Max Elixir, the card's ability to use Knuckle Impact and Absorbtion is hit too. Despite this, I think Buzzwole was so powerful that it still remains a viable attacker. Cards like Lucario-GX, Zygarde-GX, and baby Buzzole fare worse in my opinion.

Regirock EX (FCO; 43) : While decks now have more or less embraced just running a Diancie Prism Star as their damage boosting Pokemon of choice, I think this card would have seen a lot of play to offset the loss of Strong Energy. With Fighting decks no longer being able to play Octillery, they will have extra bench space, too. Too bad it's gone.

Mew/Mewtwo/Mew EX: While all very different Pokemon, they have been used primarily as Psychic type counters for Buzzwole decks. They also keep Necrozma-GX in check to varying degrees. All of them rotate. Mewtwo gets a replacement in Deoxys out of Celestial Storm, but that is still able to be played around to some degree. This does really impact a Zoroark deck's ability to compete with the Fighting decks, even if they got weaker.

Clefairy (EVO; 63) : Clefairy would have made a great inclusion in Malamar, Magnezone, Vikavolt, and Gardevoir decks if it didn't rotate. Malamar still has access to Mimikyu, but that is a huge downgrade.

Gallade (BKT; 84) : I feel like Gardevoir is positioned to be one of the better decks going forward. It loses the Psychic type Ralts and Kirlia which made Mysterious Treasure so good in the deck, but beyond that it kept most of its pieces besides Gallade. Gallade was VERY good; don't get me wrong. It isn't replaceable. Yet I think the rest of the decks in the format get hurt more than Gardevoir does and that it is still going to be pretty strong going forward. I think you can beat Zoroark even without Gallade, too.

Hoopa (STS; 51) : Steam Siege Hoopa is Malamar's best one-prize attacker, but the promo Mewtwo and promo Dawn Wings Necrozma are servicable replacements.

Manaphy EX (BKP; 32) : Manaphy really only saw play in Lapras/Water Box builds, but it fulfilled a pretty important function for them. Between its rotation and the loss of Max Elixir, the potential archetype has a lot to replace. Aqua Patch and Crasher Wake make for a cool little gimmick but I think too much overall was lost.

Starmie (EVO; 31) : While it's two most notable partners, Volcanion and Greninja, are rotating, Starmie had the potential to be paired with Magnezone or even something gimmicky like Alolan Dugtrio. As someone who is way too invested in making both of those decks work, I will miss this card.

Zoroark (BKT; 91) : Zoroark decks haven't actually been playing this card, but it was still an option on their table.

Now that we have looked at the important cards that will be LEAVING the format, I'll do a brief review of Celestial Storm to see what new cards should make an impact!

Celestial Storm Review

Banette GX (CLS; 157) : Banette-GX is not a great card. Its damage output is low, and Shady Move is cute but low impact in this day and age. Its GX attack is moderately strong. Despite my criticism of the card, I think it is actually a pretty nice role player. It does a lot for Zoroark decks, as it is very strong against Buzzwole due to type advantage and resistance. Zoroark also doesn't do a tremendous amount of damage, and Shady Move can help offset that. Also, Zoroark doesn't ever use its GX attack, and without Puzzle of Time, it will struggle to get back DCE, as well as various utility cards. Tomb Hunt gives the deck some late game sustainability. Also, acknowledging the finite amount of DCE available, Banette can be a decent late game attacker for a Psychic Energy if you do run out. I'd be very surprised if the card saw much play outside of a pairing with Zoroark, or as a direct Buzzwole counter.

Blaziken GX (CLS; 153) : Blaziken-GX was rumored to get printed alongside it's non GX counterpart with Firestarter ( Psychic Recharge for Fire types ) but only the GX made it into the set. This more or less makes Blaziken an unplayable mess in Standard for the time being. Will it even be good with the Blaziken printed when the whole package is Stage 2 Pokemon and Malamar does it just as well while being a Stage 1? Despite my clear personal Blaziken bias, I really fear it will not be.

That said, there is talk of the card in Expanded. The idea I've heard thrown around is using Ho-oh GX to reanimate a bench full of them, and then to use Blacksmith to keep powering them up. With Expanded being hit with a pile of bans, the format MAY slow down enough for this gimmick to be competitive. I feel like the barrier of entry into Expanded is so high that I can't be optimistic about a clunky game plan like this being format warping or anything. I don't see how this beats Night March, for example. Still, it is a cool enough gimmick.

Rayquaza GX (CLS; 109) : Rayquaza is the BIG hype card in this set, and has results from Japan to support the hype. Going into Worlds, the card has a lot going for it. Rayquaza has 180 HP and a weakness to Fairy. ( Which is a bit depressing against Gardevoir. ) For LGC Rayquaza does 30 damage for every Grass and Lightning Energy attached to your Pokemon. To help accomadate this demand, Rayquaza has an Ability that mills the top 3 cards of your deck when you bench it from your hand. Afterwards, you may attach a Basic Energy from the discard pile to it. Worth noting, it doesn't have to be an Energy you flip with it's Ability. This not only boosts your damage output, but brings Rayquaza closer to being able to attack. Prior to rotation, access to Prof. Letter and Prof. Sycamore make it so that it is pretty easy to dump Energy into the discard pile early on. Clearly you also run 4 Max Elixir. With this, it isn't that unrealistic to be able to attack on the first turn with a Rayquaza.

Post rotation, that changes a lot. It is harder to get Energy in the discard pile early. Without Max Elixir, you can't really pull off a turn one attack very easily. One of the other problems with Rayquaza is that it tapers off as the game progresses. Once a Rayquaza or two fall, the deck's damage output should drop drastically.

There are two cards which do pair really well with Rayquaza though. The first is Latias Prism Star (CLS; 107) . For one Energy, you can attach one Basic Energy card from your discard pile to one of your Basic benched Dragon Pokemon. This card is hilariously clearly designed to work with Rayquaza. Pokemon loves to hold our hands on archetypes, and it does that rather well. Now, on the first or second turn of the game, it should be difficult to actually get enough Energy discarded to really go off with this, but it is a great rebound mid and late game. Worth pointing out, with the deck being all two-prize GX attackers, if they KO the one-prize Latias Prism Star, it doesn't really factor into the exchange, so it is rather free.

Of course, besides this, we have Lanturn. Lanturn is clunky as a Stage 1, but it's Ability soaks up Energy off of KOd Pokemon, so it helps preserve your damage output even when Rayquazas go down. This admittedly feels really strong, particularly if you actually go for the Energy Switch route as it becomes a nice battery for you. The deck really wants to be streamlined and aggresive though, so fitting in evolution lines comes at a cost, clearly.

I feel as if pre-rotation, Rayquaza is quite the force to be reckoned with. I am a bit nervous that post rotation it is not good enough. It should have a poor Malamar matchup and it is weak to Gardevoir. These are two of the more hyped and easily ported over decks that players will start with.

I do want to mention the idea of pairing Rayquaza with Vikavolt. Vikavolt DOES work well with Rayquaza, but it doesn't really play to any of Rayquaza's strengths. I feel as if Vikavolt still combos better with Tapu Bulu GX. You could run some of both, but I think that is poorly thought out as Bulu doesn't synergize very well with Rayquaza as it purges itself of Energy so often that you never hit the critical mass that Rayquaza demands.

Articuno GX (CLS; 154) : I love this type of Ability. Articuno's damage output is on the lower side. Its GX attack is not bad but situational. I love being able to loop Articunos though against decks which struggle to actually OHKO it. Articuno GX could certainly see play in some type of Waterbox deck, even though I have stressed that I felt that deck would have lost a lot of tools with rotation. I wish Articuno, a bird and flying type, would have been granted resistance to Fighting to help it against Buzzwole. If that were the case, it would be quite good against both Zoroark and Buzzwole.

Mr. Mime GX (CLS; 156) : Mr. Mime is bad. Its Ability is too easy to play around. Choice Band is played in almost every deck, and it turns any even amount of damage odd. Mime's attack is also easily played around and managed. Its GX attack relies solely on the idea that you can actually leverage its Ability to be difficult to break through, which just isn't going to ever happen. MAYBE there is some sort of stall deck that could benefit from Mr. Mime GX, but as long as tools are available to easily manipulate damage, Mr. Mime isn't going to be much of a role player.

Electrode GX (CLS; 155) : I've heard this card get hyped, and I am sure it is all based on memory of how awesome the original Electrode ex card was. While this card is very similar in spirit, it is far worse. First off, context: Energy acceleration is far, far more abundant than it used to be. Attaching five Energy before was a MASSIVE shift in game state. Now it means less. Previously, big, tanky Pokemon could actually survive for a bit. Now, OHKOs are so common that you get less mileage out of these Energy, too. Games go by so quickly now. It is less about games of attrition, and more about just chaining KOs. You don't get the leeway to make up for the loss of two prizes from using Electrode's Ability. There wasn't a Guzma legal before. You had to try to grind out prizes. Also when the original Electrode was legal, cards like Pow! Hand Extension and Scramble Energy existed. You also had Rocket's Admin (N now is rotating) to take advantage of the prize gap.

Electrode may have been good if you could attach the Energy to an EX or GX Pokemon, but that restriction is honestly just too much. It just doesn't feel like it could possibly be worth two prize cards. MAYBE it could be useful as a 1-1 line in a Rayquaza deck as a late game burst of Energy once Pokemon get KOed, but even then it doesn't work if they manage to KO just two Rayquaza.

Finally, its GX actually great. Unfortunately, it is its GX attack. The original Electrode ex had a similar attack, but as it's normal attack. If the GX did too, even if slightly weakened, it would gain a lot of value. I like the idea of this card; I just feel like every part of it is just tweaked weak enough to make it too low impact.

Stakataka GX (CLS; 102) : What a ridiculous Pokemon. I clearly saw this Ultra Beast for the first time ever at a Prerelease. I actually think I love its design. As for the card itself? I also think I am really high on it. Having an Ability that reduces damage done to all Ultra Beasts by 10 is great! Especially with most anti-Ability effects rotating. Plus the Abilities Stak! (Yeah. I had to.) Reducing incoming damage by 30 even is a huge deal. Because of the fact that Stakataka's attacks are not great (its GX attack is good, but you still have to progress the game to the point where it is worthwhile), so it has to be paired with other primary attackers. The best Ultra Beasts are Buzzwole-GX and probably Naganadel-GX. Both are low-energy attackers with huge HP. I'd want to try this guy out in some kind of Beast Box deck, but I won't pretend that I really have the best skeleton for such a deck yet. I'd be a bit concerned that the deck doesn't really have great answers to Malamar or any other sort of big OHKO deck, though. I think you would have a field day with any slow deck!

Palossand GX (CLS; 82) : I'm going to just write this guy off as bad. Its normal attacks are extremely uninspired and just feel weak compared to any of the competitive Pokemon. 210 HP is nice, and Grass is not a terrible weakness to have, especially since as a Fighting type it can be supported by Buzzwoles. The problem is, it competes with all of those Pokemon. This card just doesn't measure up with Buzzwole-GX, Buzzwole, Zygarde-GX, Lycanroc-GX, Lucario-GX. It is just very mediocre. It has a nice, expensive excessive damage OHKO GX attack, but for four Energy, you could do a lot better in this game.

Scizor GX (CLS; 158) : Scizor is...unusual. It is a 210 HP GX with a good weakness and also a strong Resistance. Its GX attack is really strong against certain decks, and its Ability will often lead to a big burst of damage. Steel Wing makes Scizor even more difficult to actually KO, as once it starts attacking it has an effective 240 HP. If you pair it with a Frying Pan, it gets even harder to KO. Figuring out how to navigate KOing it can be really difficult too, as if backed by healing you end up in this spot where you want to try to two hit it without triggering its Ability. But you don't want to wind up tapping it too lightly so that it can be healed into three-hit-KO range.

My fear with Scizor is that with its strength laying in its resiliance, it will just not have the answers for decks that can OHKO it. Admittedly, it can reach an effective 270 HP with a Pan, but thats still OHKOable for as few as four Energy on an Ultra Necrozma-GX, or five on a Necrozma-GX (as the Psychic Resistance actually factors in here). Losing disruptive cards like Garbodor, N, and Parallel City really prevent this Pokemon from being able to compete with more degenerate decks, unfortunately. Still, this card is somewhat exciting and should really benefit from a sharp decline in Field Blower.

Shiftry GX (CLS; 14) : Shiftry is interesting. Matching hand sizes is not difficult to pull off. With Choice Band you are doing 210 damage. With 240 HP, Shiftry is a tough KO. Its first attack is beyond serviceable as a lead, as we have seen with Espeon-GX. Shiftry has a great weakness as Fire is one of the worst types right now. Where Shiftry struggles is that it is a Stage 2, and it requires two attachments to attack. Due to the conditions of its attack, it also makes it difficult to abuse Guzma as you are stuck using your Supporter for the turn to match hand sizes usually.

I always underrate these types of GX attacks, too, as I dislike how they don't really help you take prizes, and I do feel as if the game is simplified pretty heavily towards valuing the prize exchange over all else. Still, openings present themselves often enough that I should be valuing its GX attack higher. Shiftry strikes me as an extremely fair card and, again, one that struggles against decks which can OHKO it. 240 HP is a lot, and you do basically OHKO anything back, but Shiftry's limitations actually come from Energy attachments more so than anything else. You can only power out a Shiftry every two turns, and there isn't really an effective way to cheat that.

Alolan Raticate GX (CLS; 85) : Alolan Raticate is very gimmicky, as it's sole purpose is in some sort of Tool gimmicky deck, such as the newest generation of Rotoms. Unfortunately, I don't think that deck has any potential. The lack of Fighting, Dark, Metal, and Fairy Rotoms is a legitimate problem against some of the best decks in the format. Raticate actually covers the Dark issue, but there are still a lot of holes. Even if you want to use Raticate to help get your Tools into the discard pile for Rotom to attack, you can't actually facilitate this until the third turn of the game which is just too slow. You don't even have Sycamore anymore to pitch them all. The card is cool and gimmicky, and maybe one day playable in a deck, but right now the tools (I had to, again) are just not there.

Latios Prism Star (CLS; 108) : Latios does 50 damage for each of your Dragon evolution cards for CC. Easily powered by DCE in Standard or Double Dragon Energy in Expanded, this card is really, really effecient. You need to have a deck that gets out a lot of Dragon type evolution cards, though. Perhaps you could run this in Garchomp Lucario, a deck that actually may end up being a lot better post rotation once all of the other decks get weakened quite a bit. I know I keep referencing the Malamar test, which is basically asking whether a deck can keep up with a deck that is threatening OHKOs so reliably, but a deck full of one-prize attackers that eventually start OHKOing things is actually one of the best ways TO do that. If there is a viable Dragon evolution deck, this card is an absolute monster.

Latias Prism Star (CLS; 107) : Latias was designed to work great with Rayquaza-GX. I mean, maybe there are other Dragon basics it could pair with, but none really stand out in Standard. In Expanded you get more options, but even then none of them really synergize greatly with this. Great card, clearly, it just has a very narrow home.

Jirachi Prism Star (CLS; 97) : Jirachi is such a hard card to evaluate! It is clearly ONLY useful for it's Ability, which lets you cheat ahead on prizes when it is taken as a prize. (We can effectively ignore every other aspect of this card.) It will end up prized roughly one in 10 games. ( It is less than this due to the fact it is a Pokemon and the implications of opening with it and mulligans and such.) Then you have to write off the last prize each time as it doesn't do anything when trapped there. So it makes a difference in 5/6ths of 1/10th of games. Except those games where youre stuck dealing with two-prize KOs, in which case some unquantifiable number of games Jirachi does nothing if it is your second-to-last prize either. I've heard people have very different opinions about the strength of this card, and I honestly have no idea myself whether this card ends up making a huge impact or if it just doesn't see play at all.

Magcargo (CLS; 24) : Magcargo is a reprint of the Magcargo from the 2005-2006 formats, with the Ability to stack a card on the top of your deck each turn. All it then takes is any means of drawing a card that turn to be able to abuse this engine. The first place people went with it was Zoroark due to it's Trade Ability. Pre-rotation, there is a LOT of hype behind it being slotted into a deck similar to the one Tord Reklev played at the NAIC. Let me start off by saying this: I don't think that is BAD. I am just concerned that it is unncessary.

One of the biggest selling points for Zoroark to me is that it is so consistent. It was this without Magcargo. Magcargo almost seems like overkill to me. The deck's faults weren't from it's inability to get the cards it wanted or needs. You need to devote anywhere from two to four spots of your deck on Magcargo, and I think the deck may just benefit more from allocating those slots elsewhere. There is such a thing as redundant consistency, as there are severely diminishing returns.

I'm not trying to use this as a rallying cry that Zoroark Magcargo is bad, as maybe it just ends up being fantastic, but I do think that there is a real chance it is a bit of a trap. I'm more interested in its Ability in other decks that actually really need the consistency boost. I do think this is one of the strongest cards in this set, if not the strongest, and with so many good support Pokemon gone, I could see this guy really stepping up big in a lot of decks.

Slaking (CLS; 115) : With a void left in Ability-stopping Pokemon, Slaking has appeal. He is bulky, hits hard, and his Ability is one sided. Unfortunately, since it only works active, it is very soft to Guzma. A lot of decks don't need constant use of Abilities to function; they just need key turns. Still, I actually think this card is potentially quite powerful. It does ask a lot: Its a Stage 2 Pokemon, needs three Energy to attack, and it does discard an Energy card every turn. You also need some reliable way to bench it each turn to reset. The upside is there, and you can probably do alright even if you stumble with the card some, but it has a lot of moving parts. Luckily, without N or Parallel City, that is less of a downside than it may have been in the past. I could see running it with a thin Malamar line and Dawn Wings Necrozma with Altar of the Moon. I'd have to see how consistant a Slaking deck can be made as it feels like it would be really clunky.

Ludicolo (CLS; 38) : Ludicolo benefits greatly from it's pairing with Magcargo, which is a nice throwback to the original Ludicargo deck. Ludicolo's damage output is actually very competitive, but it is still somewhat controllable by the opponent, although its floor is still not bad. It still suffers from being a Stage 2 Pokemon, even if the Ludicargo combo is able to help offset that inherent clunkiness. I don't think the deck feels powerful enough, but I'm very interested in any deck that gets to play a game based solely around one-prize attackers.

Lanturn (CLS; 50) : Lanturn's lone role would be paired with Rayquaza-GX, being able to soak up Energy off of dying Pokemon to keep Rayquaza's damage output high. Lanturn is also not an atrocious attacker, as it can do 140 damage. As a one prize attacker, it can play the role of your seventh prize in Rayquaza decks. Assuming you run Choice Band, you can hit for 170 damage, which is a KO on opposing Tapu Lele-GX. Outside of this specific deck, though, I would be very surprised if this card saw any play.

Deoxys: Deoxys is your new Evolution's Mewtwo. It gives DCE decks a counter to a fully charged Buzzwole-GX. It also potentionally has a role in Malamar decks. Clearly Malamar doesn't really need the help against Buzzwole (especially with all of the cards Buzzwole decks lose in rotation), but you want a one-prize attacker, and I think Deoxys has merit in the discussion alongside Promo Mewtwo and Promo Dawn Wings Necrozma. It deals more damage than Mewtwo and discards less energy than Necrozma. I do believe it is the third most alluring of the three, but it is in the discussion.

Celesteela (CLS; 100) : Celesteela here gets the gimmicky prize-keyed attack, but it is an extremely powerful attack. You get a brief window to hit for 160 damage for a lone Metal Energy. With Choice Band, you can hit 190! There are some decks which may technically be able to power up the five Energy necessary to attack normally, too. Celesteela has merit in Ultra Necrozma Malamar decks, Magnezone decks, Metagross-GX decks, and even Beast-Box-style decks, as it can also be powered with Beast Ring. It has 140 HP, can carry a Frying Pan, and can be defended by Stakataka as well. A weakness to Lightning and Resistance to Fighting only makes the card more appealing. I think this card is a lot better than the hype going into this set would suggest.

Acro Bike (CLS; 123)  A reprinted Acro Bike may be the best card in this set. Acro Bike has historically seen varying degrees of play. It has been fantastic in some of the more degenerate Item draw-based decks, and it has also had periods of time where decks just didn't have the space to play it. Right now, post-rotation, we will be playing a format relatively weak on draw due to the exit of Sycamore and N. A card like Acro Bike feels far more worth including when the Supporters alone don't feel very strong. There are also decks like Rayquaza and Malamar which actively want to put cards into their discard pile as well.

Copycat (CLS; 163) : The reprinting of Copycat has gotten the most attention, Trainer-wise, but I think this card is actually fairly poor. I am much happier to see the return of Acro Bike. So far in my testing, hand sizes just don't get high enough for Copycat to often feel very good. A lot of turns end with three-five card hands, and those are just not new hands I want to shuffle and draw into. Zoroark decks have gotten slightly larger hands. With decks initially playing a lot of Copycat, it is worth adjusting your play to avoid leaving lucrative hand sizes. It isn't too difficult to reduce your hand size fairly arbitrarily over the span of a game. Using Ultra Ball and Mysterious Treasure slightly more aggressively is a great way to cripple opposing Copycats. You can get your Pokemon a bit earlier now too since you don't have to play around N. I'm still trying to figure out what Supporters are good besides Cynthia, as everything else has felt very underwhelming.

Friend Ball (CLS; 131) : Friend Ball is a card that saw far less play than it should have in the 2004 format. As players retroactively re-explore that format, the card turned out to be extremely strong. In this format, there are more types, and the types are spread out more. There isn't a card like Dunsparce that is in most decks and important card to see early. I don't expect Friend Ball to see play in this upcoming Standard format unless the metagame is very unhealthy and we see a very narrow metagame. There are just better options.

Lisia (CLS; 137) : Lisia searches your deck for a pair of Prism Star cards. Most Prism Stars are Pokemon, and therefore fairly easily searched otherwise. Lisia is one of the only ways to search up Trainer Prism Stars, and more importantly, Energy Prism Stars. So far, the Prism Star Trainers are Supporters, meaning you end up having to wait a turn to see them if you grab them with her. Lisia is also stuck competing with Tapu Lele-GX's Wonder Tag on that front, and it is a battle she cannot win. Being able to grab Beast Energy (or, I guess, Super Boost Energy) is a big deal though. Buzzwole decks have lost Strong Energy, and otherwise cannot reliably see this card early. Being able to Lisia for a Beast Energy and a Diancie Prism Star is a fantastic turn one play for a Buzzwole deck. The problem is, you want that almost exclusively on the first turn, suggesting multiple copies of the card. The downside is then that you only ever need EXACTLY one copy of the card played per turn as future uses are pointless.

Shrine of Punishment (CLS; 143) : Welcome back, Desert Ruins (HL; 88) ! This card is basically an exact reprint of the card which was a multi-format defining Stadium. The problem is, in 2018, Pokemon have substantially higher HP, and games go far fewer turns. A lot of attacks simply one hit Pokemon. Ten damage between turns carries far, far less weight than it did over a decade ago. There will be certain grindier decks that may use this card, but the card more than likely won't see much play.

Sky Pillar (CLS; 144) : I generally don't like defensive Stadium cards like this, but with Mr. Mime rotating, there aren't a ton of answers for bench damaging effects and Sky Pillar does fulfill that role. I expect Field Blower to see minimal play, so a Stadium may legitimately stick. It depends on how many spread-style decks end up seeing play.

{card 4778}: This card feels really good. Ignore the weird Metagross synergy where you don't have to end your turn as I'm just not sure that is ever worth building around. Even in a Metagross-GX deck, where you can freely add in the non-GX Metagross, I'd be surprised if it was ever worth getting it into play over the GX version. By the time you could justify doing so, you likely have already set up to where Resolve's returns are dimished greatly. That said, this is a very powerful turn one- or turn-two play to try to set up. You can't be Nd out of the cards anymore. One of the decks I feel most excited to try this card in is Decidueye! You get to do a majority of your damage prior to playing this, and it gets you access to all the cards for your complex set up. I expect this card to see a lot of play in Stage 2 decks. I did kind of nay-say the Metagross inclusion, but there may be SOME merit to something like a 1-0-1 line even, as the first Resolve can comfortably get you the pieces to get this out and therefore make subsequent Resolves smoother. I think this card deserves a lot of exploration.

Tate & Liza (CLS; 148) : I actually really like this card! I'm biased as a Malamar player, of course. I actually think this is a reasonable one-of inclusion in the archetype. With the loss of Float Stone, benching your Pokemon is not always the easiest. Guzma helps, but it doesn't let you hit their active if you want to. A "Switch" you can grab with Wonder Tag is interesting. Drawing a new hand of five isn't great, but it is actually not as bad as some people act like it is. Cynthia is great, but the rest of the Supporters are lackluster or conditional. In this environment, a card like this is actually viable.

TV Reporter (CLS; 149) : "Draw three" cards are generally not that strong in modern day Pokemon, but the Supporters are currently overall pretty weak. Tack on a discard outlet, which a lot of decks actually benefit from. It competes with Sophocles, which discards two to draw four cards. I think Sophocles is the better of the two cards, but time will tell.

Underground Expedition (CLS; 150) : Underground Expedition is another card that plays a similar role a TV Reporter and Sophocles. It nets you less overall new cards (only two), but it digs deeper, seeing four new cards off the bottom of the deck. This is generally better than TV Reporter and debatable compared to Sophocles. Which Supporter you want will often depends on how beneficial or detrimental discarding cards is to your deck.

I want to take this most to discuss a likely balance we'll be exploring in this Standard format. Currently, the default mentality is that shuffle draw is more important than just "draw 3" type effects. When this is the case, a card like Copycat is actually very weak. If everyone's attempted "core" is Cynthia and Copycat, hand sizes never get very large. I don't actually find this engine to be very strong in my initial testing. If the engines shift more towards draw cards, where you actually just continue to add cards to your hand, Copycat actually gets stronger. Where the engines end up as a result of this relationship will be interesting to figure out.

Anyways, lets look at the decks I've built for the format so far!


Alright, Pokemon wise, I am not re-inventing the wheel. One of the reason "port over" archetypes are so popular at the start of the format is that very little has to be changed. I replaced Hoopa with Dawn Wing's Necrozma.

Since the deck loses Professor's Letter, I'm running one copy of Energy Search. It is substantially worse, but I don't want to have to add a fourth Metal Energy if I do not have to. I'd consider going as high as a second copy of the card, but with the inclusion of the normal Necrozma-GX, the Metal Energy is less important. Four Acro Bike also thins the deck well enough.

The Trainers feature an engine of four Ultra Ball, four Mysterious Treasure, and three Acro Bike. I'd play the fourth Bike if I could figure out a cut to be able to fit it. This is a lot of Item draw, and makes the deck very smooth. As a result of these cards, it is pretty easy to empty your hand down to a small size. As a result, Lillie is actually very good in this deck. It is your ideal turn-one play. It is not difficult at all to draw seven or eight cards off of a Lillie. Even as the game progresses, you can often draw three or four cards off of it regularly. As a result, especially paired with all of the built-in discard from your Items, I think the card is stronger than TV Reporter or Sophocles. That is of course weighing the strength of how powerful seeing it on the first turn is.

The loss of Float Stone means the deck gets to add Altar of the Moone. The card has felt very poor but still necessary. I started with four, but with so few counters being played from what I've seen, I settled at two by the end of testing. I was at three for awhile but cut the third for Tate and Liza.

Anyways, while I prefer the Ultra Necrozma version overall, a pure Psychic version is also more than reasonable.


You can see above how the Ultra Necrozma build of the deck is very, very tight on space as it has to fit in Metal Energy as well as Beast Ring. This build is slightly less powerful, but it doesn't have to skimp on any of the numbers. The difference between Ultra Necrozma and Necrozma-GX isn't that big on paper anymore. Necrozma's Psychic weakness isn't as big a problem with the rotation of Mew and Mew-EX. The loss of Beast Ring hurts though. On the other hand, this deck is better against Gardevoir-GX as its main attacker lacks the Fairy weakness of Ultra Necrozma. With Necrozma's attack purging itself of Energy, it is extremely difficult for Gardevoir to actually KO them.


Gardevoir doesn't change a whole lot from last format. Unfortunately, Gallade rotates, so we are stuck using only Gardevoir-GX. Last season, I was not a very big fan of the Max Potion part of this deck. This season, decks are slower, and things should end up grindier. Gardevoir has less other alluring options, so I am fine fully embracing this side of the deck's options. To give the deck a bit more play, I'm running Sylveon-GX. Sylveon's-GX attack is very powerful, but its first attack is also fantastic for setting up.

Alongside this, you run a pair of Steven's Resolve for the first few turns to get the deck going. With 3 Tapu Lele, it isn't hard to be able to grab a copy of it. Since the deck doesn't benefit at all from discarding cards, I'm opting for Underground Expedition over TV Reporter or Sophocles. I do choose to run one Copycat despite not being very high on it otherwise.


This Rayquaza deck is also running on the Acro Bike, Ultra Ball, Mysterious Treasure engine. Sophocles and Lillie round out the deck's draw engine. Lillie is just as good in this as it is in Malamar, as the deck is pretty good at purging cards from its hand on the first turn. Since the deck wants to get Energy cards into the discard pile for Rayquaza's Ability, as well as Latias Prism Star, Sophocles is very good in here too.

To facilitate Rayquaza reliably hitting its Ability, as well as to maximize the deck's damage output, the deck runs a whopping 14 Energy cards. There isn't really incentive to deviate from an even split on them. Lanturn DOES want Lightning Energy, but it doesn't really come up until the very tail end of the game, where you should have seen plenty.

I mentioned the purpose of Lanturn in this deck in my review earlier. Since Max Elixir is rotating, the deck needs a means by which to get extra Energy into play beyond Rayquaza's Ability. Latias Prism Star is the strongest option, but it forces you to take a turn off of pressure. Lanturn provides a passive boost of Energy over the course of the game.

I don't think too many of the card choices stand out as very unusual besides the Switches and Energy Switch. One of the big selling points of Rayquaza is the potential speed of the deck. Taking into account your first turn attachment and the energy gained off of Rayquaza's Ability, a Rayquaza is one Energy shy of pulling off an attack on the first turn. If you trigger a second Rayquaza Ability and hit an Energy, Energy Switch lets you get the third Energy onto a Rayquaza. You need to also hit the Switch, which is asking a lot, but it isn't impossible at all. Switch just smooths out the deck in general, as paying Energy to retreat is a big sacrifice. Energy Switch just grants a lot of fluidity to your attacking options. It also lets you take conserved Energy off of a Lanturn to put onto a Rayquaza.

One point of note: I am running four Guzma. You don't generally need to use close to that, but the deck discards a lot of cards overall. With Sophocles, eight "Balls," Rayquaza's Ability and even it's GX attack, you pitch a whole lot of resources. Guzma is honestly the only unique effect that you can be extra punished for if you pitch too many of them and as a result sees the full playset sleeved up. This is also a reason the deck runs a pair of Rescue Stretcher. You're also discarding cards off the top of your deck to Rayquaza, so Rescue Stretcher turns those blind mills into resources.

Finally, I want to look at a Beast Box deck. I'm not really sure what the best way to build Zoroark decks going forward will be. Zoropod should still be fine, and is an easy port over. I think Zoroark "Control" gets a lot worse with the loss of so many disruptive cards. I do feel like Zoroark needs a defined secondary attacker now, and can't really rely on just running Zoroark and silver bullet answers. I also don't know how I would want to approach building a Fighting deck going forward. The type lost so many tools that it requires a lot of reworking.

This deck is primarily a Naganadel and Buzzwole deck. Both are very clearly fantastic attackers. Stakataka grants them all some extra HP while filling your bench to facilitate Naganadel's damage output. I'm also going with a small Metal Energy count to be able to attack with Celesteela and even your Stakatakas. With the full set of Beast Rings, and Naganadel's cheap energy costs, powering these guys up is reasonable. Finally, with the Fighting Energy in the deck anyways, it feels like a given that you want to run at least one copy of normal Buzzwole. This deck could end up greedier with additional types, but I think you want to keep with one core type ( in this case Fighting ) while supplementing it with a back up type. ( Metal )

Engine wise, I'm running Cynthia and a pair of Underground Expendition, and a full set of Ultra Recon Squad. By discarding Ultra Beasts, you can draw either 3 or 6 cards with it. With the draw power in the format being somewhat underwhelming, this card is much better than an average Supporter is in most decks. Having 8 premium Supporters is a big selling point of this deck. The deck doesn't have a limitless amount of Ultra Beasts, so you want to keep that in mind. Perhaps the deck needs a Rescue Stretcher or two to keep facilitatng this engine. Ultra Space plays the "Brooklet Hill" role for the deck, but it is actually a lot better than that. You get to put the card into your hand. This fuels Recon Squad. It also just lets you add one to your hand every turn to thin your deck. This does improve your draws over time.

Depressingly, the deck has to run some amount of Switches. There are so many high retreat cost Pokemon in this deck, and you can't ignore that. Guzma isn't going to offer the flexibility you need. I'd love to be able to allocate those spots elsewhere. Dawn Wings Necrozma GX used to solve this problem, but with the lack of Float Stone, and none of the correct Energy to facilitate Altar of the Moon ( even if we wanted to give up Ultra Space for it ) means there is no real way to abuse it.

With the Stakatakas in the deck, the low energy cost of both of the deck's main attackers, and the naturally high HP of them as well, the deck can look at playing Max Potions or Acerola too. I'm not sure if the deck wants those defensive options or if it is better off being proactive. Which direction to take the deck will depend on what the rest of the format looks like when it settles down.

These are the decks I have been working on so far. There are plenty of other ideas to explore too. I'm not even trying to sell these as the prospective BEST decks of the format yet. In fact, I'm actually super low on Rayquaza, for example. That hurts me to say, due to my affinity for the Pokemon itself. The main thing I am taking from my testing so far is that the Supporters are substantially worse than last format, but not to the point where decks become clunky or inconsistant. You just can't get the incredible starts that were fairly common place before.

The last card I want to talk about is Judge. Without N, most decks will not have access to disruption. This should skew how decks are built. In turn, a card like Judge which offers mediocre disruption, can still punish decks which get greedy. Perhaps decks should be running one copy of the card just to have access to in the later turns of the game for when they are confident the opponent's hand has enough to win. It isn't close to an N to 1, but it is something.

I'll continue to explore the new 2018-2019 format, as there are a lot of different options which sound appealing. I still think Malamar is the front runner for the best deck, which I am happy with. In my next article I'll go over as many additional archetypes as I can, while also addressing any notable changes made to these lists as we learn more about how to build decks going forward. Until next time!


[+25] okko


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