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Chris Fulop

Coming Into Focus

With Challenge And Cup Results Flooding In, A Clearer Picture Of Standard Is Shaping Up. Find Out What Some Of The Strongest Decks For The 2018-2019 Season Are Looking Like!

09/12/2018 by Chris Fulop

Hello again everyone!

We are a few weeks into the 2018-2019 season, and the Standard format is starting to become somewhat defined. I am sure we will get an even clearer picture of what the top decks look like after Philly Regionals. ( I know, I know, it isn't technically held in Philly proper, but I am certainly referring to it as such like most people are. ) I will be playing in this event. I'm not even "hopefully" playing in it. I've already paid for the trip and registered! I'm hoping to gather up at least a few points, and even more ambitiously, I'd love to snap my 0/8 streak on win-and-ins at Regional or larger tournaments I am currently plagued by. ( I'm going to try to spin this as a positive, because I've uh, managed to position myself to have that many win-and-ins, I guess? )

Anyways, I've told everyone I will be playing again this season full time, and have been grinding out League Challenges and League Cups here in the Cleveland, Ohio area. I'm sitting at 95/??? Championship Points already, which I am moderately proud of. My goal for each quarter is to break 100 points from Challenges/Cups, so while I'm not quite there yet, I've got a pair of finishes for each event and the pressure to at least place is off. I'm going to do a very brief run down of the tournaments I've played in thus far.

League Challenge #1

I played at a Challenge 5 minutes from my house and used Ultra Necrozma GX (FLI; 127) with Malamar (FLI; 51) . This event was using the pre-rotation format. I ended up 5-0ing to take first place.

15/???

League Challenge #2

This was also a nearby Challenge. I played an updated version of Ultra Necrozma Malamar (FLI; 51) . I ended up 4-1, due to a round 4 dead draw against a friend's Buzzwole deck. I managed to buy a bunch of turns by sticking Diancie Prism Star (FLI; 74)  active with a Guzma ( he had no Switch and had a full bench and could not Wonder Tag ) and actually wound up giving myself a position of strength going into the last few turns, but he hit the combination of cards necessary to win at the end. I ended up taking 3rd place after winning round 5.

25/???

League Challenge #3

This was at Ground Zero Comics. I'm using Ultra Necrozma Malamar (FLI; 51)  again, and this event goes very poorly for me. I lose round 2, and round 4. Round 4 was particularly interesting as I played my friend Carl who was using Zoroark Banette, and the game came down to him N'ing me and using a pair of Rainbow Energy to copy my Dawn Wings Necrozma's GX attack. I whiffed the game winning Guzma ( or means to grab a Tapu Lele ) off of the N and he had the game the following turn.

25/???

League Challenge #4

This Challenge was held at Full Grip games, where I have been playing every Wednesday evening as they hold 5 dollar buy-in tournaments weekly. Players such as Andrew Mahone, Frank Percic, Will Mantho and others show up frequently, so it is actually a fairly competitive field for basically no stakes. I've played in 5 of the events, going undefeated in 3 of them, 4-1 in one, and 3-2 in the other. I've played Ultra Necrozma Malamar (FLI; 51)  in all five of the events.

Luckily for me, one of the undefeated runs was their League Challenge. I started 4-0, and got paired down against a 3-1 as I was the only undefeated player. We were in an interesting position where there were only two other tables of 3-1 players, meaning if me and Zach ( My friend I got paired against ) IDed, I'd be a lock for first and he would be a lock for 4th place assuming neither of the other tables drew as well. I was pretty certain even with a loss I would end up in 1st as the only player to start 4-0, but I was clearly happier to lock it up with the draw. ( Zach was also on Ultra Necrozma Malamar (FLI; 51)  )

This 1st place finished upgraded my 3rd place 10 point finish from before.

30/???

I'll admit it was nice to get Challenges out of the way. I hate traveling to events which such minimal stakes, both in terms of CP as well as traditional prize support. I was excited for League Cups to start up.

League Cup #1, Sandusky, Ohio

We had somewhere in the mid-40s for attendance for this event, meaning we had 6 rounds, while being a couple of players shy of actually getting kicker points for the top 16. Quite a few players showed up for this event, including the trio of Michael Pramawat, Azul Garcia Griego, and Aaron Tarbell. Other strong players included Caleb Gedemer, Frank Percic, Ryne Morgan and Will Mantho. I'm certain I'm forgetting a few others too, but needless to say it was not going to be an easy day.

I started 2-0, beating a Malamar (FLI; 51)  mirror match despite going 2nd, and beating Ryne's Silvally Lycanroc deck before losing a really frustrating game against Rayquaza Vikavolt ( a matchup I view as quite favorable ) because I legitimately never see an Ultra Necrozma at any point in the game despite having a really strong game overall, and just lose a game I was probably 95%+ likely to win.

I joke about the wheels coming off after that kind of loss, and that is what happened as I start Marshadow against Caleb Gedemer's Zoroark Garbodor deck, and have to use an Ultra Ball to get Tapu Lele to Wonder Tag. That is a really bad place to start in this matchup, which is the scariest Zoroark matchup. I felt like I played this game really poorly, managing my item count very badly. I was pretty unlikely to win regardless due to my start, but I certainly did myself no favors. I realized I was just not that good at playing against Garbodor in general, and made sure to log more games against it after the event to work on that.

I closed out the tournament with a pair of wins against Zoroark decks to finish 4-2 and take 11th place. The top 8 was a clean cut at 13 points since we had so many players. My friend Josh actually wound up winning the whole event with his "spread" deck. His top 8 opponent went so far as to just not show up and concede, as he was playing Ho-oh and had no answer to damage Josh's Hoopa.

League Cup #2, Galion, Ohio

This event was held in the fabled outdoor depot, where the Cup held this past winter saw players competing in near zero degree temperatures. This time, it wasn't freezing out. On the other hand, it was pushing 90 degree temperatures and the whole experience was absolutely miserable.

Once again, I was on Ultra Necrozma Malamar. Most of the same players showed up. I beat a Lycanroc Buzzwole deck round 1, then beat my friend Chris using Zoroark Glaceon. I get paired against Aaron Tarbell round 3, using Zororoc, and beat him as well. I believe I got paired against a Rayuaza Vikavolt deck in round 4, and this time I draw well enough to beat it. Round 5 I get paired against Pram on Zoropod, and we ID. Round 6 I get an ID against another Malamar player to lock up top 8.

While waiting for top 8 to start, I draw AGAIN against Pram, this time tying him in a game of Ticket to Ride: New York.

In top 8, I get paired against Buzzroc. Game one I was pretty happy with my position, wiping out my opponent's field of Energy and leaving him with a very small hand. Well, he goes off on his turn, hitting all 4 of his Beast Ring and a Switch giving him exactly the board necessary to beat me. ( I wish I remembered the specifics of how the turn played out to make all of these pieces necessary, but I promise a scenario existed, as we were talking about it after the game. ) I end up winning games 2 and 3 though, to move on to top 4.

I get to actually play my round 6 opponent who was on the pure Psychic version of Malamar (FLI; 51) . The other table was Pramawat against Jesse Parker, in a Zoropod vs Malamar (FLI; 51)  matchup. Jesse's build was interesting as he ran Shrines, Tapu Koko, and Shining Lugia as his main threats. I felt like I was unfavored in my top 4 match, as he had a generally smoother engine ( due to being able to fit Acro Bike and more Psychic Energy ) and he also ran Mimikyu and Mewtwo GX. ( which let him have a trump to the Moon's Eclipse GX sub-game of the matchup ) Luckily for me, I won the coin flip, and won game 1 on the back of setting up first. That matters far more than any other aspect of the matchup.

Game 2 I get a pretty wretched start, and he is on the play, and that ends up a bloodbath. Game 3 I am on the play again, and his start is pretty weak. I'm able to kill off Inkays, and he is really just not able to put down any presence at all and has to resort to using Mimikyu to draw 2. One disadvantage the Psychic build does suffer from is the inability to stabilize off of Beast Rings if the opponent is able to pressure the Malamar (FLI; 51)  in play. It isn't USUALLY what decides the matchups, but it does offer up an exploitable opening.

Pramawat beats Jesse in 3 in a really dynamic matchup where both players changed up how they approached the matchup between each game. I play Pramawat, and set up really well game 1 and am able to just ride the momentum to a win. Game 2 I go 2nd, and have a much worse start, and that one ends pretty lopsidedly as well. Game 3 is actually a really good game, and I pull ahead midgame. I get Judged on the last turn, and need either a Metal source, Malamar (FLI; 51) , or Choice Band off of the Judge to win. I whiff those. I have another chance to win, as I can Cynthia and need to hit a Metal Source and my only Choice Band to get a KO on Zoroark using Marshadow GX to Photon Geyser with only 2 Energy. I hit the Metal but whiff the Choice Band.

I was a bit disappointed losing in the finals after being up game 1, but if you would have asked me if I would have been happy with a second place finish going into the event, I clearly would have been.

70/???

League Cup #3 Ashtabula, Ohio

Once again, I was on Ultra Necrozma Malamar, with a few changes ( Rather than list all of my lists from these events, I'm going to just include the current iteration of it at the end of this. ) Once more, we end up with mid to high 40s for Masters, just missing kicker points but assuring us 6 rounds.

Round 1 I get paired against a Darkrai GX deck that wasn't really built competitively. Round 2 I get paired against my friend Nick, who is basically on my exact list. I win the flip, and actually played a really tight game to win. I think I could have played pretty simplistically while just trying to win a race, but I was particularly proud about how I navigated this game. Honestly, it likely just mattered who went first, but I like my spin better.

The third round I get paired against Gardevoir Sylveon, but his start is pretty poor and I jump ahead by two prizes. I actually really don't like to play against Gardevoir. I don't know if I'd call it a "bad" matchup, but they can certainly smash me pretty good if they draw well all game. They are far more likely to stumble as their set up is more demanding, but it is still really scary, and I need four Energy on my Ultra Necrozma GX for a OHKO.

Round 4 was an embarrassment, as I get paired against Jesse's one prize attacker Malamar (FLI; 51)  Shrine deck. Now, this is a bad matchup in general...but Jesse messed up his deck list and walked into the round with a double prize penalty for it. I also go on to win the flip. ( As if this wasn't foreshadowed enough, I very clearly lost this game. ) I open a GX, and have to use Wonder Tag to set up. At this point, I figure I am just going all-in on winning on my turn 5, and hoping he can't deal with all my GXes by then. If need be, I can use Tapu Cure. Well, this game plan was looking okay until I missed a pretty likely turn 2 attack due to missing a Psychic Energy. This set me back a turn, and he clearly had the turn one Shrine for me. I'm at 2 prizes, to his 2, and my set up is better. Now, I'm not sure if everyone reading this is sure how the pre-game double prize penalty works. I still placed out 6 prize cards. They were still functionally in play. I only had to draw 4 of them to count for a win. So while I needed 2 prizes, the actual count was him with 2 and me at 4. As such, I could use Moon's Eclipse with Dawn Wings Necrozma. Jesse had a 5 card hand, and had used one Guzma ( He ran 3 ) and did not run Tapu Lele. With Moon's Eclipse effect active, I put him in a position where he needed one of his two Guzma, one of I BELIEVE three DCE left, and a 2nd Malamar (FLI; 51)  to be able to KO a Lele off my bench for the win out of 6 cards as of his turn. He has it, of course, and gets the win. The matchup obviously plays very differently if I don't open a GX ( I run a lot of GX Pokemon...this isn't unlikely. ) AND have to use Wonder Tag. I wasn't really given much of an option to play a slower more grindy game,even though my build allows for it.

It was POSSIBLE for a 4-2 to sneak into cut depending on how many people draw and how pair ups/downs broke, and with a 3-0 start, I felt like I would be highly favored to be the 4-2 to make it in if it came to that. I got paired against a 4-0 in Corey Scott, who was on Zoroark Gardevoir. I mentioned how I didn't like playing against Gardevoir, but how it was alright because it was clunky and slow. Zoroark Gardevoir is a much scarier deck for me as it shouldn't brick much. I just offer him the draw, which will lock him up to 4-0-1 and top 8. I'd rather face a random opponent round 6 for my shot at top 8 than Corey's deck. On top of this, the pairings led to a very appealing scenario: At the end of round 5 ( assuming there were no draws ) there would be EXACTLY 8 players at 12 points or higher, GUARANTEEING me the pair down to a 3-2. I had a number of friends at 3-2, all of who would have scooped me into cut if I got that pairing. I don't, and instead get paired against a pleasant player from Buffalo, NY who made the trip out. I lose the flip, but he whiffs the turn 2 DCE, and that really swings the game heavily in my favor. My start wasn't great, so I was happy to get that reprieve. I really dislike how I handled the ending stages of the game, but I was in pretty good shape to win and I failed to blow it.

With a really weird path to 4-1-1, I am 5th place going into top 8, and am playing Kevin Baxter with Zoroark uh...toolbox. It had Lucario GX and then a lot of random techs. I get a poor start game one, and have to fill my bench with a Marshadow and a Lele, but somehow I end up winning anyways. Games 2 and 3 are really frustrating as I get better starts, but completely whiff my Beast Ring turns ( which would have given me a really big edge in both games ) Both games come down to me having positions at the end where I'm between 60-70% to draw the cards I need to win, but whiff both times. It was amusing to drop the two games I felt really favored in, but win the game I assumed I was out of contention in.

Kevin ends up beating Magnezone in top 4, and then Corey's ZoroGardy in the finals to win the cup. Congrats Kevin! :)

95/???

Anyways, with my abbreviated tournament reports out of the way, here is the list I have currently settled on for Ultra Necrozma Malamar (FLI; 51) .

4-3 Malamar (FLI; 51) : You want to draw as many Inkay early as you can. 3 Malamar (FLI; 51)  is fine with 8 search cards, and 2 Stretcher to recover them. Beyond this, you have Rescue Stretcher as insurance.

2 Dawn Wings Necrozma GX: You want them for Invasion. You really can't afford this card to be prized. Let me also point this out: This card is often good against Zoroark. This feels like it is counter intuitive, but it is true. If you go first, it is an extremely easy turn 2 attacker, as it only requires one Psychic Recharge and makes itself active. This gets you a turn one KO. Yes, it gets KOed in response, but this is fine! This feeds into your Beast Rings, or puts you behind to be able to copy Moon's Exclipse with Marshadow GX if your position is stronger. Either one of these lines favors you as the Malamar (FLI; 51)  player, and leaves you Malamar (FLI; 51) s unmolested. As a Zoroark player, you generally want your first KO to be on a Malamar (FLI; 51) , and not walk into a Beast Ring turn super early. If you lead Dawn Wings Necrozma, and it get KOed, that progresses the game the way YOU want, as they generally are not good at OHKOing an Ultra Necrozma, and you get the cute Marshadow GX line down the road too. Its also not terrible going 2nd some times, just to see if they'll KO it and give you Beast Rings early. ( as otherwise you're just giving up prizes while trying to set up a turn slower. ) Think of it as playing any of the gambit openings in Chess, where you give up pieces to progress the game in a favorable way so you can make the ground back up later.

2 Ultra Necrozma GX: 2 is fine, both due to space and having a pair of Stretcher, but also because you have Marshadow GX to act as your "third" copy in the late game.

2 Tapu Lele GX: I'm not explaining these boys.

1 Shining Lugia: This is the new one prize attacker for the deck. I really only like it because it can clearly OHKO a Hoopa ( SLG ) which is otherwise really difficult to deal with. All of the Psychic type options can't score a clean KO due to resistance. Oranguru can take it out if energized and attacking, but it's damage output everywhere else is very lacking. The Fighting Resistance makes it pretty decent midgame against Buzzwole decks, too. For matchups where you plan to use the 130 damage attack, you really need to focus on getting a lot of Malamar (FLI; 51)  into play, though.

1 Marshadow: Marshadow is both disruption and a slight source of draw. With 8 search Items able to grab it, you can use it as a hail Mary to dig for cards. Its also a portable Judge, so it breaks up the opponent's hands. It isn't great against Zoroark decks because Trade lets them back into the game so easily, but it can be strong in the mirror match or against other clunkier decks that aren't able to recover as easily from you breaking up their crafted hands. Most importantly, it is really powerful against Vikavolt Rayquaza, which often leads with Rayquaza's Tempest GX as a means to set up. Ripping that new 10 card hand away will often buy you a whole turn, which just blows the matchup wide open. More importantly, most lists of that deck run Escape Rope, and you want to prevent them from crafting a Rope + Guzma play on your Moon's Eclipse turn. Timing the GX attack with a Marshadow is very likely to win you any game in this matchup. Also, as dumb as it is, this is another non-GX Pokemon you can open with against Shrine decks. Not the greatest opener, but still. It actually is a reliable turn 2 attacker against Inkays, though. I've had it come up!

1 Marshadow GX: I was trying to think how best to combat the Zoroark decks. When you get a strong start, or just go first, the matchups are usually favorable, but when stumbling or going 2nd, it can be difficult. The easiest "solutions" are more Beast Rings, Choice Bands, and Marshadow GX. You want Ultra Necrozma GX to be able to OHKO a Zoroark for an attachment plus one Beast Ring. This means either with a Beast Energy, or a Choice Band. The other alternative is just playing multiple Beast Ring in one turn. The problem is, each individual slot devoted to beating Zoroark decks is minimally impactful as you still have to draw that specific card at the right time. Marshadow gives you a whole different approach entirely. You just let the Zoroark player take the lead, and manufacture a turn where you OHKO with a copied Moon's Eclipse, into a 240 hit for a 2nd Zoroark KO the next turn. As a Pokemon, Marshadow is far easier to search out. This game plan works better than trying to jam in multiple Choice Bands, as space is tight.

9 Psychic: Honestly, I'd love 10. MAYBE even 11. You can't fit that, though, as you need Metal sources.

3 Metal Energy: You don't need more than three as the Beast Energy is your 4th source, and Beast Ring lets you grab it fairly easily midgame. You also don't usually lead with an Ultra Necrozma as it is difficult to pull off on turn 2.

1 Beast Energy: Too good not to play.

4 Cynthia: The best Supporter in the format, and a 4 of in literally every deck.

3 Lillie: Lillie is great in this deck. It is very strong on the first turn in every deck, but also a passable card mid game due to all your discard outlets. I had 4 at one point, but cut one in exchange for...

1 Sophocles: I'm not SUPER high on this card, and it can easily be a 4th Lillie or a 2nd Tate and Liza, but let me go a bit deeper into why I am including it. Midgame, it is rare for Lillie to draw more than 4 cards. It is roughly equal in quality to a midgame Lillie in most spots. On top of this, it is a searchable ( with Wonder Tag ) discard outlet for Psychic Energy, which actually comes up a reasonable amount of the time. You also have hands where you are trying to piece together a card you have in hand with something you need to draw, and using Cynthia is a bit awkward there. Having an option to search up in those spots is nice. I think it ends up just naturally being on par with Lillie and Tate and Liza for most of the game, but with it's on niche uses, and due to Wonder Tag's existance, the diversity is worth splitting the cards up a bit.

1 Tate and Liza: This is your 9th "Draw" Supporter, and also an additional Switch. The Switch doesn't come up often, but it does come up, and a random hand of 5 isn't embarrassing altough it isn't strong either.

4 Guzma: You could maybe get away with 3 copies of the card, but you want them quite often since you are a deck that cares very much about the prize exchange. You just want to avoid dealing with one prize knock outs, and want to take out GX Pokemon at every opportunity. Due to a lack of Trade or Instruct, you really rely on your Tapu Lele GXes for netting you draw, so it is less likely you'll be able to use them for Guzma as the game progresses. I like the full set.

4 Ultra Ball/4 Mysterious Treasure/2 Nest Ball: You just really, really want to get your basics out as quickly as possible every game. With Sycamore rotated, you desperately want access to discard outlets for your Psychic Energy.

3 Switch: You need fluidity of your Pokemon. Altar of the Moone is actually just terrible. Every Energy attachment is super important, and Altar of the Moone still often demands an extra attachment to be useful. That is not acceptable. It also actually can backfire as it prevents you from freeing up attached Energy by retreating them off. It's effect also doesn't cheat around the one retreat a turn rule. Switch feels simple, but its been very, very good so far. I'd love a 4th. Altar of the Moone DOES benefit from being a Stadium to counter Shrine of Punishment, but to even TRY to fight that war ( You'll lose ) you need so many copies of a terrible card. I'd rather just concede to the fact that the Shrine will stick.

3 Beast Ring: I started at 4, and I still LIKE 4, but you need space for other cards, and it is less necessary now that the Marshadow GX made the deck as Beast Ring was most important against Zoroark decks.

2 Rescue Stretcher: You often have to discard Pokemon early for Ultra Ball and Mysterious Treasure. Your attacker line is spread thin. Rescue Stretcher is just too important as a wild card for the deck to go under 2 copies of it.

I am almost guaranteed to be playing a list very similar to this in Philly. It is consistant, powerful, and has very few bad matchups against an open field. Where it does struggle is against decks that can leverage non-GX Pokemon and make use of Shrine of Punishment. There are one-prize Malamar lists, spread decks, Buzzwole-Weavile, and Garbodor decks that all meet these criteria. I think the metagame in Philly will be wide open enough though. I also think tweaks can be made to improve those matchups. Fighting over Shrine of Punishment isn't going to work, but adding more non-GX attackers and healing cards like Max Potion or Acerola can do a lot of work.

Anyways, I do want to go over the other decks I consider to be the front runners for the "tier one" of the format.

I view Vikaray and Malamar as the most powerful decks in the format in terms of raw strength. The deck can't attack on the first turn like last format's Rayquaza decks as Max Elixir has rotated, but it has gained a lot in terms of resiliency and stability. The deck is pretty reliable at getting out Vikavolt on the second turn, and even more so with Rayquaza's Tempest GX. ( Barring an N or Marshadow'ing, of course! ) Once it gets going, you'll often get a turn 2 KO, and from there it never lets up. Very few decks can break serve against this deck. A lot of decks that rely on a stage 2 energy accelerator use attackers which discard Energy for damage, meaning you can afford to hunt down that stage 2 Pokemon and KO it. Here, if you do that, you just get beat up by Rayquaza GXes. It becomes really difficult to break up the pressure.

This list is pretty stock, but the three cards I do want to focus on are the Tapu Bulu GX, the pair of Choice Bands, and the Escape Rope. Escape Rope is a switching effect, but more importantly it breaks Moon's Eclipse GX, an attack which can really, really mess this deck up. You get nice spots where you can Escape Rope a Dawn Wings Necrozma GX to the bench, and then Guzma it back active for a KO as the effect of it's GX attack falls off once benched. Choice Band is important as it lets Vikavolt attack for 180 damage. This is fairly useful in the mirror match ( Although admittedly, you usually will end up with multiple Rayquaza in play, meaning they can just Guzma around your attempt at forcing the one prize KO anyways, but if they don't have Guzma it matters. Pairing it with Marshadow's Let Loose is ideal. ) Choice Band also just increases the odds you get higher HP KOs early on, or once OHKOs start flying. Against Malamar, for example, assuming both decks start by OHKOing each other, it can actually be tough to hit 190 against an Ultra Necrozma late game.

Tapu Bulu is good because it is strong against certain cards that otherwise are problematic for this deck. One of the really annoying cards for the deck to deal with is the fairy type Dedenne. When paired with Choice Band and a Lightning type, it OHKOs a Rayquaza for a lone DCE. Zoroark decks can run this package fairly easily, and having a 180 HP attacker in Tapu Bulu which plays around this matters. ( The Choice Bands also let Bulu hit 210 against Zoroark ) Bulu's damage output is also MUCH higher on an empty board, so if you find yourself shy on Energy in the end game, Bulu can outclass Rayquaza's damage output. Bulu also lacks an Ability, making it a strong attacker against Weavile. Bulu's GX attack healing itself is also really powerful against decks trying to two shot it.

Finally, I want to stress how great Let Loose into Tempest GX is as a pairing. It induces such a huge gap in starts that can just blow games wide open. One of the best ways to disrupt this deck is to use Let Loose or Judge against it after it uses Tempest GX, but if you get handed a 4 card hand, the odds you can pull this off...or at least should, as it usually means having a very anemic start of your own in exchange...is really low.

 There are honestly a lot of ways to build a Zoroark deck, from this pairing with Golisopod, to Lycanroc, to Glaceon, to Lucario, to Magcargo, to Garbodor, to Weavile...honestly the list of potential Zoroark builds is very long. What Zoroark deck ends up the best is still up in the air, but I am choosing to nominate the front runner as Michael Pramawat's Zoropod list that he used to top 8 a League Cup and then win one the next day. ( Much to my dismay! ) Since he opted to go public with the list, I am going to include it here.

The core of the deck is pretty simple...a thick Zoroark line and Double Colorless Energy, with a bunch of redundant consistancy. Pram opts for 4 Ultra Ball, 4 Nest Ball, 2 Timer Ball AND a Pokemon Fan Club. I'm curious on his choice of Fan Club over an Apricorn Maker since he runs such a thick Ball line. Fan Club is pretty streamlined and straight forward, but more often than not Apricorn Maker does the same thing ( Grabbing a pair of Nest Ball ) but it has the flexibility to grab Ultra Ball and Timer Ball for Evolution cards too. Fan Club puts cards directly to hand, so it can grab Tapu Lele GX favorably, but if your hand is dead, Maker also can just grab an Ultra Ball to similar function. I don't think the difference is super impactful, but from my time playing Apricorn Maker so far, I've been fairly impressed by it.

Pram supports his Zoroark line with his secondary...potentially primary...attacker, which in this case is a 3-2 Golisopod line. Golisopod is a cheap, bulky attacker that has more or less a non-existant weakness. The card hits hard, and can pull heavy lifting against Fighting decks which may be able to otherwise beat up on Zoroarks. The second package is Tapu Koko and Dedenne. Tapu Koko does a lot of spread damage while also providing free retreat cost, which is super important towards re-setting Golisopods particularly since Float Stone has rotated. With Choice Band, Prof. Kukui, and Devoured Field ( For Zoroark ) the Flying Flip damage from Tapu Koko really adds up and enables cheap OHKO options for the deck.

Dedenne is honestly one of the best innovations in this deck. You already want Tapu Koko, and that satisfies Dedenne's need for a Lightning type buddy. When paired with a Choice Band and a DCE, Dedenne OHKOs Rayquaza GX. This does a tremendous amount of work against an otherwise very poor matchup in Vikavolt Rayquaza. It isn't the easiest to assemble, but Zoroark does provide a shell to actually compile it all together. It also does a lot of work against Ultra Necrozma, unfortunately, as paired with even one use of Flying Flip or a Prof. Kukui, it OHKOs the Fairy weak Dragon type Ultra Necrozma GX as well.

Oranguru is used to re-cycle resources ( alongside Pal Pad, a card I honestly am not super high on, particularly if you already run Oranguru. ) in super grindy matchups. In particular the card excels against spread and Hoopa decks where you really have to navigate a long game. Pram added Enhanced Hammer after experiencing Hoopa problems, and looping them with Oranguru did a ton of work to shore that problem up.

One thing I really like about this deck is that with multiple Acerola, high HP Pokemon, and a pair of Stadiums, you have some decent game against Shrine of Punishment decks. Golisopod is a really tanky Pokemon to try and deal with for some decks. I'm not sure this is my favorite Zoroark build, but it is hard to argue with success and it is really well equipped to do well in an open field.

So the Special Event held in Santa Catarina had 261 Masters participate, and had two decks that really, really stole the show: Buzzwole Weavile, and Buzzwole Garbodor. The decks had very similar game plans: Use Buzzwole as a primary attacker, boosted by Diancie Prism Star (FLI; 74)  and Choice Bands, while using either Weavile or Garbodor to punish the opponent's for setting up to combat them. Lets also point out the other common thread between the two decks: Shrine of Punishment. Both decks leveraged beefier one prize attackers and Shrine of Punishment to beat up on decks that relied on using GX Pokemon.


One of the challenges with these decks is that they can't play ANY EX Pokemon ( as they really, REALLY need to leverage all six KOs necessary to beat them ) and thus that means no Tapu Lele GX for consistancy. Since Buzzwole/Garbodor/Shrine was a break out deck from Worlds, I'm going to focus on the Weavile version here. Not only because it is less "known" as an archetype but because I like the engine it is going for a bit better. The deck uses Magcargo and Oranguru as a way to search out specific cards from the deck each turn. To also pair with Magcargo, the deck chooses draw Supporters which draw off the top of the deck, opposed to shuffle draw. That means Lillie and Prof. Kukui back up Cynthia. Kukui also helps to augment the damage output of the deck as a whole. Since the deck runs no GX Pokemon, there is no way to avoid getting hit by the big boosted damage output from Buzzwole, and the damage output threat is so unbelievably high. 120 damage plus 30 from Choice Band...plus 30 from Beast Energy...plus 20 from Diancie Prism Star (FLI; 74) ...plus 10 from Shrine of Punishment...plus 20 off Prof. Kukui. You can hit 230 damage out of no where.


I really don't think I need to sing the praises of Buzzwole though. Weavile is interesting though. Weavile can be played around within reason, as it's damage output scales off of Pokemon with Abilities in play. The problem is, you are asking decks to avoid playing Abilities OR GX Pokemon. Most decks are not able to avoid doing BOTH of these things. A deck like Rayquaza Vikavolt basically cannot function without walking into big burst damage out of Weavile. Paired with the fact that you're going to net at least one big OHKO at the 4 prize marker, and they have a very hard time beating you.


Sudowoodo is a hedge against Zoroark decks, capping their "base" damage to 100 by limiting their bench. Even with a Kukui, they cap at 120 damage. Zoroark decks with Devoured Field can still hit 130 with Kukui, but that is asking for a lot of pieces of the puzzle to fall into place. It also usually means they have to have multiple Zoroarks to Trade into these plays...making Shrine even more damage, while also boosting Weavile's damage output.

Regirock is a Buzzwole alternative with a different weakness, and also a clean answer to Tapu Koko ( it otherwise requires a Kukui or Beast Energy for Buzzwole to one shot. ) as it hits for 120 with a Choice Band ( to key it's attack ) and a Diancie Promo. Both Regirock and Buzzwole, when paired with enough buffing damage modifiers, can cleanly knock out a Zoroark GX.


One thing that concerns me with these decks is that they are exploitable. They can be played around within reason, and there are just decks that can beat them if they want to. I played maybe 10 games with this deck on PTCGO since receiving the base list for it and I found myself paired against a lot of decks I just felt really helpless against. Malamar with non-GX attackers felt really, really unwinnable if they just kept themselves to one Malamar at a time. I got paired against Empoleon, and that was also basically unwinnable. I feel like the decks are great if the metagame is full of GX centric decks with almost no healing, but now that this strategy is firmly on the radar, it gets a lot harder to stay dominant. It'll be interesting to see how much respect these decks command going into Philly

Buzzwole Lycanroc isn't anything new, but it is still really powerful. It also utilizes the Magcargo/Oranguru/Acro Bike engine, much like the Buzzwole Shrine decks. The deck is still fast, super aggressive, and resilient due to how powerful Beast Ring is. There isn't anything groundbreaking here, but I do like the addition of one Double Colorless Energy. Honestly, this is to provide an easier way to attack with Lycanroc GX once you have used your GX attack, as FCC is a bit hard to reach if you have to use manual attachments. Due to Smooth Over, it is pretty easy to grab it. It is somewhat clear, but I do want to point out how good Smooth Over is with Beast Energy. Magcargo also makes the one of Energy Switch and Acerola pretty powerful. 


While these are what I consider to be good example of decks that are starting to define the format and see wide play, I don't want to overlook some of the other decks that are seeing various amounts of success too. Other decks that are worth familiarizing yourself with include:

Zoroark Lycanroc
Empoleon Swampert
Magnezone
Metagross
Psychic Malamar
Shrine Malamar
Zoroark Garbodor
Vikavolt Tapu Bulu
Garbodor Buzzwole Shrine
Hoopa Spread
Beast Box
Gardevoir
Ho-oh

We'll see a much better definition of this format after the completion of Philly Regionals, but this is a pretty solid primer for what to familiarize yourself with now! Anyways, come say hello to me at Philly...its actually my birthday on Sunday, so feel free to wish me a happy birthday as well! ( Singing is welcome. ) Until next time!

[+14] okko


 

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