Experts' corner

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Chris Fulop

Looking At Worlds And Beyond

A look at the results from the 2018 Pokemon World Championships and nine new post-rotation Standard decks!

08/29/2018 by Chris Fulop

Hello again everyone!

I'm sitting here, writing this while watching the World Championships being streamed from Nashville, TN. Despite watching a lame duck format, I've been focusing all of my testing on the upcoming 2018-2019 Standard format. In my last article, I showcased multiple decks I had started to test that I thought would be strong. (Note: I included Energy Search in my Malamar list. Somehow, Energy Search is NOT actually going to be Standard legal, so that card would need replaced by either an additional Psychic Energy, Metal Energy, or an Energy Loto. I don't think anyone is going to blame me for believing that card would just always be in circulation, I hope.)

This article I cut straight to the point. I include every single list (besides those in the previous article) that I have tested so far. I won't be going as in depth about the builds and matchups as I normally would, as a lot of these lists are understandably in the exploration stage and are far from refined. Also, there are a LOT of decks.

I do want to go over a few overall trends I've been finding in testing so far, though.

Malamar is the defacto "deck to beat."

Malamar is resilient and extremely powerful. It lost very little with rotation, where as most other decks have taken quite a hit. None of the port over decks are particularly competitive against it so far in testing (this means Zoroark builds, Buzzwole, and Rayquaza in particular). Most decks are either less stable, slower, or less powerful. A deck's Malamar matchup is absolutely the litmus test for a deck's viability. This doesn't mean that Malamar will settle in as the best deck in the format, and that decks with a bad Malamar matchup cannot be played. The metagame's starting point is absolutely Malamar, and from there it will evolve with "decks that can beat Malamar," and then things should open up from there.

All of the Supporters besides Cynthia and Guzma are very bad.

Cynthia is an above average Supporter. It is significantly worse than either Professor Sycamore or N was, and it is now the standard bearer moving forward. I've been trying to find what the strongest companion Supporters are and thus far all of them have been varying degrees of terrible.

Lillie is interesting, and actively very strong on the first turn of the game. Without N, hand sizes stay more stable, so you draw less cards off of Lillie than you may have last format. Streamlined decks with a lot of fluidity in their hands still like this card. If you can play both Ultra Ball and Mysterious Treasure, Lillie is above average. Clunkier decks full of evolutions will end up with far worse results with it.

TV Reporter and Sophocles are both underwhelming. If you have a deck that wants to discard cards, I believe Sophocles is the superior option. If you do not want discards, I think Hau or Underground Expedition are both better than TV Reporter.

Copycat has been really bad. Hand sizes often sit between 3-5 cards and very rarely get huge. To make it worse, it is really easy to play around Copycat if desired. This is less of an issue if Copycat is not widely played, but if you expect Copycat to be popular in your area, it is worth burning cards out of your hand to hinder Copycats.

Judge should be played in most decks. Judge is not great. It isn't a strong draw card, and it isn't a strong disruption card, but it is one of the only disruption cards available. There are not a ton of ways to come back when behind, and Judge is still a way to break up huge stockpiled hands that can be built up. Zoroark decks LOVE Judge, too, and should be played as a 2 of or more as you get so much additional draw power due to Trade.

Tate and Liza is good in Malamar. If you are playing a deck that really cares about switching, this card is totally reasonable. The draw mode of the card is poor but playable. I wouldn't run more than a copy or two of it though.

Zoroark decks also get access to Mallow. Mallow is very, very good. Since Zoroark decks need to run more attacking options going forward, it isn't easier to run Magcargo, which would otherwise render this card more obsolete.

Steven's Resolve is a card I want to experiment more with in Stage 2 decks. It is a near guaranteed way to draw into a turn two set up in a world without N. It is still weak to Judge. I also think this card could be really strong in Decidueye-GX decks in particular, since the deck's set up continues to be super demanding all game, and much of it's damage output is independent of attacks.

Hala is actually interesting too. I want to explore decks that use either Drampa-GX or Rayquaza-GX for their GX attack to set up while enabling Hala as a premium draw Supporter for the rest of the game. This strategy also invites a "Lass/Eeeeeeek" type gimmick (in nod to Lass and Neo Genesis Cleffa) where you Judge on the first turn and follow it up with your GX attack to assure a strong hand going forward.

Professor Kukui is actually pretty decent alongside Magcargo, if you play a deck that cares about the damage boost even a little bit. Something like Buzzwole comes to mind, as this engine can offset the damage lost by losing Strong Energy.

Apricorn Maker is actually a much better replacement for Brigette than I thought it would be. If you run some sort of mix of Ultra Ball, Nest Ball and Timer Ball, you can grab two Basic Pokemon off Nest Ball, mimicking Fan Club. It is far more flexible though, in that it can grab one Nest Ball and an Ultra Ball. It can even grab 2 Ultra Ball mid game when you do not need any more Basics. If you don't have the cards in hand to pitch to a pair of Ultra Ball, running a lone copy of Timer Ball as an alternative is good. I've been liking this engine in Zoroark, in particular. It feels like Zoroark gets all the good fringe Supporter options, doesn't it?

Anyways, now lets get to the decks!

 

Rayquaza loses a lot with rotation. Well, mainly it loses Max Elixir, but that is an extremely important card in the deck. I've talked about Rayquaza/Lanturn as an option going forward (feeling particularly unexcited about it), but this is another interesting approach to the deck. Rather than relying on Lanturn to conserve Energy, this build runs Pheromosa-GX and Xurkitree-GX as Ultra Beasts to Beast Ring onto. Once the first Rayquaza goes down, you get to explode with Beast Rings and more than likely be set up for the rest of the game in terms of damage output.

Energy Switch lets you relocate these Energy onto a Rayquaza. Pheromosa is also a very strong late game attacker to sweep with as well. Xurkitree is a pretty safe target to store Energy on as well because of how obnoxious its Ability is against a lot of decks. I'm still not super sold on Rayquaza moving forward, but this is an alternative build to the deck.

 

I've tried to look at how to port over Buzzroc, since it is one of the most powerful decks in the field. The big losses to look at are Strong Energy, Max Elixir, and Octillery. That is a lot of the skeleton gone, although the core strength of "Buzzwole-GX plus Beast Ring" is still there and worth exploring. My gut actually tells me that Buzzwole is better supported by more of an Ultra Beast gimmick (my attempt at Beast Box in my last article still feels like a better fit for the card), but it's foolish not to explore what is one of last format's best decks.

Luckily, the deck isn't super demanding on resources, and thus can survive the loss of Octillery. I'm actually going with a Magcargo/Oranguru engine, alongside Acro Bike for additional draw. The deck is primarily Basics and Items, and I actually suspect the deck can empty its hand size frequently enough to pull off the Magcargo/Oranguru draw gimmick well enough. One thing worth noting here is that since you do not run Max Elixir to be able to go off super aggressively, it is probably better to save Acro Bikes for midgame to pair with Magcargo to smooth your draws.

The loss of Max Elixir isn't the biggest deal due to Beast Ring and just accepting a slower game plan, but it is felt when trying to power up Lycanroc-GX as an attacker. In this case, I'm relying on Multi Switch to be able to get Lycanroc powered out of nowhere. Pairing it with Beast Ring is still a powerful play.

Finally, and this may just be terrible, but due to the lack of Strong Energy, the deck does need a bit of a damage boost. In this case, I'm turning to Professor Kukui to offset it. Alongside Magcargo, the "draw two" aspect of the card goes from embarrassing to reasonable draw.

 

Magnezone was a deck that got a tremendous amount of hype upon release, and one that has seen some success at bigger events as well. Still, it has always kind of loitered in the tier two category, if not a bit lower. Decks were too fast, and there was a lot of disruption in the format as well. Decks are slower now, and it is much tougher to disrupt a set up deck now.

Malamar sets the bar for OHKO decks. There needs to be a selling point for any alternative as to why you'd opt to play that over it. In this case, I feel like there really is. Dialga-GX is an incredibly dangerous card. It acts as a sort of trump card against other OHKO decks. Being able to hit for 190 damage (due to Choice Band and Dhelmise) OHKOs most high damage attackers. A Guzma and a Dusk Mane later, and you can comfortably rattle off four prizes in one turn cycle, letting you comfortably break serve against a deck otherwise crushing you. A lot of the cards I've included in this deck are in here to take advantage of this, as otherwise I'd rather just be playing Malamar.

One thing that does stand out in this deck is the really low number of actual draw Supporters. Having established the fact that most of them are just bad, this is a deck that doesn't actually care that much about drawing a bulk of random cards. Once set up, I am completely content by playing Lady or Fisherman on most turns. Drawing four Energy Cards is almost always going to be better than even a new hand of 6 cards. Something else worth noting with this deck is that you can actually use Dialga-GX's first attack as a primary source of draw power while setting up, or if horrifically stumbling. Steven's Resolve is a great first turn Supporter, and Lady and Volkner are both very narrow-purpose plays but extremely good at those roles. Volkner gets you an Item, usually a Rare Candy, and whiffs on the Lightning Energy. Lady is just a guarantee for you to draw your initial salvo of Metal Energy to start attacking.

 

Zoroark/Gardevoir loses Gallade, but the deck still feels like a powerful threat in this upcoming format. Zoroark loses a lot of its damage output and needs a powerful attacking option paired with it. Gardevoir certainly checks that box. In addition, Zoroark loses Puzzle of Time, and thus a lot of its late game power. You can still run Oranguru for Resource Management, but in this deck you don't really need to as you have access to Gardevoir's GX attack to restock your deck with resources.

Max Potion denies the opponent a lot of prize cards and really leverages Gardevoir's 230 HP. I mentioned in my last article how I think that Gardevoir would be a powerful contender in this format, and Zoroark may be the best companion piece for it just due to how much consistancy it offers. Being a viable secondary attacker is just icing on the cake.

 

Decidueye/Zoroark is a deck that saw a brief window of play last format, but may be even better positioned post rotation. It didn't lose a whole lot (Apricorn Maker is a reasonable replacement for Brigette in this deck, especially since you care about getting so many Evolution cards out all game.) Zoroark and Decidueye compliment each other so well. Decidueye needs draw power to get itself out in swarms, and Zoroark needs a damage boost.

One of the questions I do have about this deck is how it will match up against Malamar. The deck has high HP and also a pretty strong spread element which can kill off Malamars. Tapu Koko seems like a huge pain for Malamar builds. I think there is a lot of potential in this deck, even if the build isn't perfected yet.

 

Tapu Bulu is one of the many OHKO decks that I really like going forward. I'll stress this though . . . capping at 210 damage as a OHKO deck is a bit conditional now, as decks featuring Pokemon with 220-plus HP is now very common. Still, this deck is really streamlined and resilient to disruption.

This engine is similar to the one that players fairly universally settled on last season, using a Nest Ball and Lillie gimmick to set up. Now we get to add Steven's Resolve as a one-of (I am totally fine using Tapu Lele to grab a Resolve on the first turn to nearly guarantee I have the turn two attack) and Volkner as a replacement for Skyla.

There is discussion to be had about Rayquaza-GX's role in a Vikavolt deck. Rayquaza and Tapu Bulu are at ends naturally. Bulu purges your field of Energy, where as Rayquaza demands a field of it. There is a strong disconnect there. What intrigues me is that I do feel like this is a deck that struggles with Pokemon with more than 210 HP, and a Rayquaza "Plan B" package may actually be a solution to that issue. My stance is to wait and see. If the metagame emerges where a traditional VikaBulu list falls short, then it becomes worth looking at Rayquaza-GX.

 

"Waterbox" . . . or, in this case, Lapras-GX with a slight support of Articuno-GX, loses a lot of cards in rotation. Manaphy-EX and Max Elixir are both fairly big blows to the deck. What it gains in there place is Crasher Wake (which is a really absurd name for a card or a person) that gives you a pretty reliable set up. Wake lets you pitch two of your FIFTEEN Basic Water Energy to grab any two cards out of your deck. This will almost always end up being a pair of Aqua Patch to let you attack on the first turn. You can either power up Lapras, or in a pinch if you lack some of the switching cards needed to pull it all off, you can use Articuno's Ability to jump active and attack. I'm running a pile of Choice Band, plus Kukui so that Articuno can hit up to 180 damage. Lapras can hit 210, as well. Kukui also works well with Magcargo.

I think the deck can be consistent, and super stable, I'm just not sure that Lapras or Articuno are POWERFUL enough. Being able to get a first turn OHKO is great and all, but it feels like you're still in trouble once you walk into Beast Rings or a field set up of Malamar. As crazy as it is, the deck may just be too far behind the power creep.

 

Espeon/Garbodor/Drampa is a deck that lost Garbotoxin Garbodor. It also feels like one of the better decks to explore to Hala/Judge/Drampa gimmick. Tapu Koko, Espeon's GX attack and Tapu Lele give the deck a lot of spread play.

In order to faciliate the turn one Judge into GX attack line, the deck runs three Drama, three free-retreaters, and three Switch. These Switch (outside of just cleaning up Guzma lines, and conserving Energy attachments all game long) also optimize your ability to get a turn one Espeon active. It feels bad to play Switch due to the loss of Float Stone, but I've just liked how the card has played as a replacement thus far.

 

Ho-oh lost none of its core gimmick, but it did take some big hits with rotation. The biggest loss it took was admittedly Float Stone, but there are clearly alternatives to this. I'm running actual Switches, and a Tate and Liza to accompany the Dawn Wings Necrozma GX. Dawn Wings seems fairly weak without Float Stone, but using it prior to your Switch or Tate and Liza for the reset is still strong. Yes, you could just retreat off a Tapu Lele, but every energy attachment in this deck is so important without Max Elixir in format anymore.

Without Max Elixir, you are pretty much forced to play Salazzle GX as a means to sweep with this deck, as I can't imagine reliably powering up a third Ho-oh. Another major loss the deck does take is the rotation of Volcanion-EX and its Steam Up damage boost. As a result, in order to hit 210 damage (for a Zoroark KO, namely) I'm running a pair of Professor Kukui. This damage loss is also why I am not running any Wishful Baton, which otherwise feels really powerful in this deck. Your attacker is so often just forced to have a Choice Band that Wishful Baton openings are likely to be fairly rare.

As I've finished the bulk of this article, the World Championship's have concluded and we have a brand new World Champion in Robin Schulz, piloting his Zoroark/Garbodor deck to a victory over Jeff Kolenc's Psychic Malamar list in the finals!

Now, there aren't deck lists available from the event yet, and the format is now in the rearview, but I do want to discuss some of the more interesting points from both days of the event.

First, to the surprise of I would hope absolutely no one, the most popular decks played at the event were Buzzwole/Lycanroc and Zoroark variants. Zoroark/Garbodor was extremely popular, but so were other variations although they tended to skew towards more controlling variants. Takuya Yoneda, from Japan, piloted a very interesting Zoroark/Gallade deck (foregoing Gardevoir and Fairy Energy entirely), and while lists as a whole have not been made public, I do have access to his list.

 

Gallade gives the deck a firm edge in Zoroark mirrors, while also playing the role of "watered down Magcargo" as its Ability functions well with Trade. This gives you a strong one-prize attacker that also inherently lends itself towards giving the deck strong controlling options. Gallade is a trump for Zoroark. Mew-EX is a trump for Buzzwole. Sylveon-EX is a trump for Rayquaza-GX.

He ran a really spread out array of tools within the deck, letting the deck be extremely flexible. Something that is really worth focusing on is the heavy amount of Energy denial in this list. two Crushing Hammer, one Enhanced Hammer, and one Team Flare Grunt pressure Energy in play, while Team Skull Grunt can strip it out of an opponent's hand.

The big breakout story of the first day of Worlds was the emergence of a Buzzwole/Garbodor deck. While we have seen Buzzwole/Garbodor before, this deck could not have been much different from the list players are accustomed to. This deck opted to play literally zero GX or EX Pokemon, forcing the opponent to take six KOs. It used baby Buzzwole backed by Strong Energy, Diance Prism Star, and Choice Band as the primary attacker before shifting into Trashalanche Garbodor as the game progressed for more damage. To augment this damage, it ran Shrine of Punishment to slowly grind out EX and GX Pokemon.

The deck had an excellent showing day one of the event, although it failed to capture the same results on the second day despite seeing widespread play. This deck approached the metagame in a similar way to how the Zoroark/Gallade deck did: a strong Fighting type attacker to check Zoroark decks, a strong Psychic type attacker to check Buzzwole decks, and an attacker which was really strong against Rayquaza decks.

I do want to discuss Rayquaza-GX's performance in this event as well. I've voiced my opinion that I think the card is not worth its hype. I haven't changed that opinion. None the less, it is impossible to ignore the fact that there were two copies of the deck that made it into the top 8 of Worlds. I'm still not convinced it actually beats anything (I am THAT low on the deck) but well, score board I guess. It feels very close against Buzzwole, horrific against Malamar, and its performance against Zoroark feels like it very much depends on how much the Zoroark deck chooses to respect the Ray matchup, as cards like Sylveon-EX and Trashalanche Garbodor are very good against it. It is also a fairly high-variance deck that has a truly miserable mirror match.

A card which had a bit of a breakout performance in Rayquaza decks this weekend was Marshadow, with Let Loose. When benched, it Judges both players, giving them a new hand of four cards. This is great to play alongside a Supporter for disruption, but in the case of the Ray deck, it is also additional draw power! I mentioned Judge plus Rayquaza's GX attack, and Marshadow serves a similar purpose on the first turn too. I do feel like the deck needs a strong disruptive element to try to be competitive, and I'll admit Marshadow fills that role well. The fact that it can be grabbed by Mysterious Treasure is just icing on the cake.

Before I go into the most talked about deck from Worlds, I want to talk about the re-emergence of Greninja at the event. Greninja managed a top 8 showing, although a lot of other Greninja players did poorly with the deck choice as well. I spoke with a few players championing Greninja for Worlds a few weeks before the event, and I wasn't really sold on it, but the fact that the deck feels very strong against the breakout day one deck in Buzzwole/Garbodor really added to the viability of the choice in my eyes.

Finally, the feel-good story of the event was Klive Jun Jie and his Zygarde deck! Klive was playing in his first ever World Championship with a deck that came completely out of left field. While Zygarde has seen some extremely fringe play, no one had really taken it seriously as a viable tier one option. It turns out that being a Fighting Type (and thus getting all the powerful support the type has) without a weakness to Psychic leaves a card fairly well positioned in this Standard format!

It also turns out that Zygarde's GX attack was a bit of a trap, not because the attack isn't good, in fact it is great. The problem is, the attack is SO good that it lured most players towards the Supporter Bonnie, which let you reuse the attack multiple times over the span of a game. I feel like the fact that this clearly advertised gimmick failed led to a lot of players abandoning the card in testing entirely. Luckily for Klive, he kept with the card and in his first World Championships appearance, secured his second appearance by making it all the way to the semi-Finals.

I'll close out with the deck I would have played at the tournament, or Nashville Open.

 

The deck is strong against Buzzwole, EXTREMELY strong against Rayquaza, and ranges from 50-50ish to strong against Zoroark builds. (It is hard to give a blanket statement because the decks vary so greatly.) It is slightly unfavored against other Malamar decks, horrific against Greninja, and surprisingly competitive against the Buzzwole/Garbodor deck. You want to avoid benching GX Pokemon to the best of your ability. Malamar OHKOs Garbodor and does 120 against Buzzwole. Hoopa's spread attack can pick off hanging Buzzwole or set them up for KOs as well. Ultra Necrozma's-GX attack functions similarly. Both GX Pokemon are sturdy enough to avoid giving up easy KOs. Tapu Cure GX can do a LOT of work as well to spare you from hanging GX Pokemon. I'm sure additional tweaks can be made to strengthen that matchup even further if needed.

Anyways, until next time!

[+19] okko


 

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