12/18/2018 by Chris Fulop
Hello again, everyone!
Anyone who knows me, or has been reading my articles recently, knows that I love playing Malamar. Honestly, whenever Pokemon prints cards in this vein, I find myself gravitating towards them. Blaziken. Eelektrik. Bronzong. I love Pokemon which offer Energy acceleration, and Pokemon which grab the Energy out of the Discard Pile are even more alluring because once set up, their decks are extremely self sufficient and hard to disrupt. Malamar decks, in various iterations, have proven to be tier one contenders all format so far. There are "traditional" all Psychic builds which have generally drifted towards a build similar to Rukan Shao's "Gaskan" deck. Next, you have builds running Ultra Necrozma GX and Metal Energy. Dalton Diderot ( as well as myself ) has been championing this build all season, and managed to make Top 8 of Roanoke Regionals with the deck. Finally, there are "spread" versions of the deck using Shrine of Punishment, Tapu Koko, and Giratina as a primary game plan. These builds have tapered off a bit in popularity, but still see success.
Recently, I have started playing a version of Malamar that is really, really outside of the box. Prior to the release of Lost Thunder, I had been firmly entrenched in playing a slightly tweaked Gaskan list. With the release of Lost Thunder, the obvious addition to the deck was Giratina as a replacement or compliment to Deoxys. The card was incredible as it hit 130 damage, had 130 HP, resisted Fighting, and brought itself back over and over and over again without putting any additional pressure on you to draw into Rescue Stretcher. There are matchups where you just want to loop Giratina the entire game.
One of the big selling points on Giratina is also it's Ability, Distortion Door. Placing a pair of Damage Counters on the opponent's Bench is clearly good, and adds up over the span of a game, but it is a bit stronger than it looks at first glance even. It helps Malamar decks hit some pretty key numbers. Necrozma GX hits for 190 damage with 3 Psychic Energy attached to it, which is 10 shy of a OHKO on both Lycanroc GX and the extremely popular Lost Thunder release Alolan Ninetales GX. Not needing a 4th Energy ( or a Choice Band ) against both of these fairly aggressive Pokemon is a big deal. With the surging popularity of Stage 2 decks as a result of how good Ninetales is at enabling Rare Candy decks, Gardevoir GX saw a big spike in play. The extra 10 damage takes a fresh Gardevoir from 230 HP to 220 HP, putting it in range of a Necrozma with 3 Psychic and a Choice Band.
This sort of bench spread damage also clearly gets even stronger in a dedicated spread version of Malamar. Unfortunately, I'm not huge on that deck's position in this format. One of the interesting things to me is that Malamar with Spell Tag saw some pretty strong success in Japan, but has been more or less a non-factor in the metagame since Lost Thunder's release here. Having tested the deck a bit, I was pretty unimpressed and also found that to fit enough of a gimmick in the deck to truly utilize it, you had to give up a lot of speed and consistency and that it was not wort it.
This whole train of thought actually took me back to Ultra Necrozma GX. Yes, Ultra Necrozma's big selling points had always been it's 190 HP ( A big deal as the gap between 180 HP and 190 HP is enormous. ), its lack of Psychic weakness ( Although now a weakness to Fairy is actually a huge problem! ) and it's ability to use Beast Ring. One thing that people don't really pay enough attention to is Skyscorching Light GX. Once the total collective prize count between both players drops to 6 or less, Ultra Necrozma can place 6 Damage Counters on all of your opponent's Pokemon...Ultra Necrozma GX is actually the best "spread" attacker available to a Malamar deck, and one that the spread decks had never really experimented with due to it demanding an additional type of Energy and those deck often playing DCE in their builds.
So where does Skyscorching Light truly shine? Well, one matchup where it is absolutely degenerate is against Lost March. Natu has 40 HP. Jumpluff has 70, and Skiploom and Hoppip both fall at 60 or less. Marshadow has 70. With even a little bit of help ( Such as by Distortion Door. ) all of these Pokemon get OHKOed by the GX attack in one fell swoop. The matchup is hilariously lopsided. Going into Roanoke Regionals, Lost March had been deemed more hype than viable, but since the event, the deck has gained a lot of popularity and success, so having a near autowin in the matchup is a very big deal.
One matchup where Ultra Necrozma had historically been disadvantaged was actually in mirror matches. Generally speaking, by having to fit Metal Energy, Beast Rings, and other cards to take advantage of Ultra Necrozma, the deck was just a little bit clunkier or slower than an all Psychic build. Most games would come down to who took the first prize while having any sort of real set up, and while more often than not this just came down to winning the opening flip, this condition was more often met by the Psychic builds.
With Giratina, this changes actually quite a bit. Not only does looping the deck's non-GX attacker become easier, but the Distortion Door damage adds up over the span of a game. Malamar only has 90 HP, and 3 uses of Door puts a pair of Malamar in Skyscorching Light range! First, in a game that often comes down to one player simply being a Prize ahead in the exchange at the end of the game, you can break serve by taking 2 KOs to close out the game. On top of this, a Psychic Malamar deck has Marshadow GX and Necrozma GX as OHKO options. Both of these are weak to Psychic Pokemon. They can't afford to ever pre-emptively bench these cards as they will get OHKOed by Giratina. This means, if you do get to Skyscorching Light and take out a few Malamar ( But maybe not win the game off of it. ) you are generally also locking them off of any kind of OHKO on Ultra Necrozma as they won't have enough Malamar left to power up a Necrozma in one turn.
The card that really blows this matchup open is one I am porting over from the spread Malamar decks: Tapu Koko. Tapu Koko is a great opener with it's free retreat cost, and since Ultra Necrozma's 2 Retreat Cost forces the deck to play Switch over Escape Board, it interacts really well off the bench to enable both the Switch and Guzma. Tapu Koko paired with Distortion Door takes the Skyscorching Light plan from a cute gimmick to a truly reliable game plan against a lot of matchups. While pulling off 3 Distortion Door to set up a pair of Malamar is asking for a bit to go right, pulling off one Flying Flip and a Distortion Door or two is really easy to do, and actually makes it possible to take out an entire field of Malamar/Marshadow/Chimecho/Oricorio in one big turn.
Clearly Tapu Koko is huge in the Malamar mirror matchup, and honestly just slams the door shut against Lost March, but it is also generally good against all of the decks that try to leverage one prize attackers. Against those decks, the general game plan is to just use Giratina every turn and hope to either take the first KO or that they stumble, since it is really, really difficult for you to. The problem is, some decks either won't stumble, or have more than 130 HP. The deck isn't actually played, but Alolan Exeggcutor had a lost of hype with Lost Thunder's release and actually was a really challenging deck for Malamar as it was able to OHKO all of your stuff while Exeggcutor's 160 HP was too high for Giratina to OHKO in return. The plan in that matchup was to pull off a Flying Flip and then that puts Exeggcutor in range of a OHKO alongside Distortion Door. It also threatened to put Lurantis into Skyscorching Light range, while also pressuring them to evolve Grovyle to avoid hanging them to the GX attack later in the game too.
Finally, Tapu Koko was really interesting against Granbull, which unlike Exeggcutor, is absolutely a matchup that matters. They are slightly more reliable at the turn 2 KO ( And you have to try NOT to open with a GX, as they can OHKO all of them. ) but much more likely to stumble over the span of a game once the KOs start flying. NORMALLY, your way to break serve in this matchup is to pressure their Magcargo if you can as without them they really struggle to empty their hand reliably. In games where they get multiple out early, you can start to place Distortion Door damage on them, and after your third Giratina, you can Skyscorching Light both of them and take 2 prizes and jump ahead to win. In cases where this won't earn you a win, it also protects you from a return KO a decent percentage of the time as they struggle to empty their hand. In games where you end up REALLY far behind, you can try for the Koko Giratina Hail Mary gimmick. Often times, they will get out 2 Magcargo and 2 Oranguru. A pair of Flying Flip ( This DOES require Rescue Stretcher. ) and a pair of Distortion Doors on the Oranguru gives you 4 Prizes off a Skyscorching Light. This is hard to pull off, but can jump you ahead TWO prizes in the excange if you recognize it is your best chance to win early. Focusing Guzma on Oranguru/Magcargo while using Flying Flip can be strong as it forces them to get it out of the Active position every turn and can gum up their turn quite a bit.
By running Ultra Necrozma, you have a really strong spread plan without giving up some of the raw power level that the dedicated spread decks do. There is one other card that is really good that you also gain access to, and that is Registeel from Celestial Storm. I first started playing this card in a Metal/Spread toolbox deck I wrote about previously. When Alolan Ninetales GX started finding it's way into a ton of decks, I immediately revisited the card. For MCC, you do 60 damage, and 120 if they have an Ability. Ninetales has an Ability, and is weak to Metal, so you get to OHKO it with a beefy one prize Basic Pokemon.
On top of this, Gardevoir had gained a lot of hype going into Roanoke Regionals, and Registeel also OHKOs it. Now, a lot of the builds at the tournament ran a 1-0-1 Solgaleo GX ( Promo ) and that takes away Metal weakness. That is a problem, but not a crippling one. You are playing a Malamar deck. In general, there is no incentive for them to prioritize getting out a Solgaleo GX early, and they usually do not unless they know you run the card, and basically every person I play has had to pick up the card to read what it does, so that is unlikely. Even then, you can either kill Cosmog, or even just Photon Geyser the Solgaleo at some point.
Outside of being a silver bullet for Metal weak Pokemon, Registeel is a great Hoopa counter! It plays the same role that Shining Lugia did, in that it does 120 for 3 Energy on a non-GX. Registeel is worse than Lugia for this role as it does require a Metal Energy, and most of the decks that run Hoopa also run some contingent of Energy removal effects, so you have a finite number of Hoopa you can kill with the card. It is best to try and KO around Hoopa with Guzma and let them think you can't OHKO it and thus they leave only a Hoopa in play so you can try and bench them with the first use of Registeel. Otherwise, you just get to chew through them with Giratina. ( Worth noting, if you can pull off Distortion Door on a benched Hoopa, you can put it in OHKO for Giratina even with it's Psychic resistance. )
Finally, Registeel can be interesting in the Malamar mirror. It has 120 HP, and it's Exoskeleton Ability reduces 20 damage whenever it is hit. On top of that, it has a Psychic resistance. This puts it out of range for non-GX attackers to OHKO it, and that can really be leveraged too. It does 120 damage to Giratina, which then hangs it to future Distorion Door damage. You can also use it to Guzma KO Malamars, as there are not really good, clean answer to it out of a Malamar deck. I'll happily take them two hitting it, or exposing a two-Prize attacker into it.
The last unusual addition I do want to talk about for the deck is Zebstrika. Zebstrika's Ability lets you discard your hand and draw a new hand of 4. An early Zebstrika lets you get some really busted starts, and also lets you avoid potential dead hands in the mid-game. It protects you from disruption such as Judge and Marshadow. While discarding your hand can be a problem for a lot of decks, it can be beneficial in this deck as a means to discard Psychic Energy, or Giratina. To fit Zebstrika, I run a 1-1 line, as well as Ditto Prism Star which also acts to thicken your Malamar line.
Here is the list:
Ultra Necrozma Malamar
- 3x Malamar
- 4x Inkay
- 1x Ditto Prism Star
- 1x Blitzle
- 1x Zebstrika
- 2x Ultra Necrozma GX
- 1x Dawn Wings Necrozma GX
- 1x Marshadow GX
- 1x Tapu Lele GX
- 1x Tapu Koko
- 1x Registeel
- 1x Giratina
- 1x Oricorio
- 4x Cynthia
- 4x Lillie
- 3x Guzma
- 4x Ultra Ball
- 4x Mysterious Treasure
- 2x Nest Ball
- 2x Rescue Stretcher
- 2x Beast Ring
- 3x Switch
- 9x Psychic Energy
- 3x Metal Energy
- 1x Beast Energy Prism Star
Lets break it down card by card.
4-3 Malamar: You always run as many Inkay as you can, and this deck also gets Ditto to be a functional 5th one. Normally I am a proponent of running all 4 Malamar, but when you run Beast Ring you have some resilience to getting your Malamars KOed early. Plus, space for the Beast Rings has to come from somewhere, and in this case it is the 4th Malamar. You still run 2 Rescue Stretcher despite the fact that Giratina can loop itself, so you can feel a bit better spending the Item on getting a Malamar back.
1 Ditto Prism Star: A great wildcard that can evolve either into Malamar or Zebstrika. I'd still run this even if I didn't have a secondary Evolution line as it is worth it just as an extra Inkay.
1-1 Zebstrika: Zebstrika is just a bit of consistency added to the deck. Unlike Gaskan, you don't Marshadow or Acro Bike, and need something to fill in that void. Marshadow is good, but it eats a bench space and without the Acro Bikes, it actually gives you a dead hand a decent portion of the time too. If I am using a bench space, I'd rather have continuous draw like Zebstrika. Acro Bike is a bit low impact, and this deck has too many moving parts you don't want to accidentally have to discard. I even tried adding a few copies of Sophocles, Sightseer, or Tate and Liza to the deck and they were all also pretty bad. Zebstrika isn't incredible either, but its better than the alternatives, or no extra draw.
2 Ultra Necrozma GX: This is your main attacker, and you want access to multiples in the games you use it. On the other hand, the deck is built to reduce to odds you open with a GX Pokemon so that against decks which try to leverage one prizers against you you can avoid having them as liabilities in place. The deck runs 10 non-GX openers, and only 5 GX Pokemon.
1 Dawn Wings Necrozma GX: One of the best decks out of Lost Thunder is Blacephalon/Naganadel, and this card is absolutely incredible against them. Just like the Vikaray matchup previously, this is the trump card in a matchup that is otherwise just a series of OHKO haymakers. Moon's Eclipse GX is a stupid attack, and sways the Blacephalon matchup narrowly in your favor. On top of that, it is really strong against all of the random mill decks. They were extremely popular in Roanoke and prior, although they clearly are not seeing play at Cups and League Challenges. They simply don't function in Best of One events with a 30 minute time limit. As a result, I honestly believe the metagame we see at Regionals and bigger events will be quite a bit different than we have been seeing at Cups. Dawn Wings is also clearly really good with Guzma and Switch as your way to reset your attackers.
1 Marshadow GX: Marshadow is your Zoroark counter, even though you actually do okay against it otherwise anyways. Being able to fall behind and copy Moon's Eclipse for a OHKO and then protect your Energy and OHKO a second Zoroark is just so unreasonably swingy. Going into Roanoke, Zoroark Control was the break out deck, so I expected to deal with a lot of Zoroarkd decks in general and Marshadow is too good not to play. It also acts as an additional copy of Ultra Necrozma GX. On that front, it also can be superior to it. It is not weak to Fairy, nor is it an Ultra Beast, so it is a great way to address Alolan Ninetales GX. It is also a better attacker than Necrozma against Gardevoir. Against decks that run Sceptile, you can still pull off OHKOs even in the face of Sceptile's anti-Ultra Beast Ability.
1 Tapu Lele GX: You never want to bench a Tapu Lele if you don't have to, but its a necessary evil. Wonder Tag is a necessary safety net. Oddly enough, this card isn't an atrocious attacker in the deck either. The deck lacks good two Energy attackers, and Energy Drive isn't terrible. Its never Plan A, but it comes up a bit. I've said this a bunch before, but Tapu Cure GX is also good! I've used it more than you'd think, and no one really expects it either.
1 Tapu Koko: I covered earlier most of Tapu Koko's uses, and while it is really good, I'm not sure I'd run more than one because there are matches you don't want it, and it takes up a bench space.
1 Registeel: I also covered this card's uses early, and this is very much only a one-of in the deck as a hard counter.
1 Giratina: Giratina is your main attacker against one prize decks. I started at two copies, just to prevent it from being prized, but I trimmed it to one pretty quickly. Being able to recur itself indefinitely is so strong. You can afford to run one copy because the deck is so proactively powerful that even if you do prize it, you can just swing for the fences with your other attackers. You have to be a bit greedy on numbers to fit everything you need.
1 Oricorio: This card is more or less necessary to make the Energy count work. 9 Psychic is pretty low, and so is 3 Metal Energy. Oricorio is the glue that makes the Energy functional. I hate benching it, as bench space is at a premium, but it is such a necessary safety net that you have to play it.
9 Psychic Energy/3 Metal Energy/1 Beast Energy Prism Star: The Psychics and Metals are at the bare minimum counters you can accept. I actually heavily debated cutting the Beast Energy for another Energy card in here as it isn't super important for numbers and doesn't work with Marshadow or Registeel at all. It feels absolutely incorrect not to play it, and I haven't had the strength of will yet to trim it.
4 Cynthia/4 Lillie: These are the "good" Supporters, and you have to run all 8 copies of them for the deck's consistency sake.
3 Guzma: I'd really like 4 of these, especially since you are at times prone to discarding them, but you just can't fit the 4th unfortunately. If I could run a 61st card, it would be the 4th Guzma for sure.
4 Ultra Ball/4 Mysterious Treasure: Like Lillie and Cynthia, these cards are just mandatory 4-ofs. They are too important towards finding your Pokemon, but also they are your discard outlets for your Psychic Energy.
2 Nest Ball: You actually want more consistency and search than the 8 cards above, and I prefer Nest Ball over Acro Bike or Friend Ball which are the alternatives. With the Zebstrika line, Registeel, Ditto, and Tapu Koko in the deck, you want more outs to drawing your non-Psychic/Dragon types as Mysterious Treasure can't cover them. I'd love a 3rd copy of this card even, but it can't fit.
2 Rescue Stretcher: You run a lot of very thin Pokemon counts, and you have a lot of discard effects. Two of these is pretty necessary to not be stumbling a lot.
2 Beast Ring: I'd love 3 of the card, but had to trim it back down to 2. There are too many different game plans going on that do not involve Ultra Beasts to go too heavy on it, and Zebstrika does do a lot of work to help dig towards them.
3 Switch: You need ways to manipulate what Pokemon is active, and the deck has too many higher retreat costs to try Escape Board. Switch is also really good against the stall decks. Finally, a lot of players do not expect a higher Switch count in decks and just assume you can't have them if you've already played two. This may be less true now than before as I've seen more and more players "switching" to Switch in their Malamar lists.
Now lets cover some of the omissions from the deck that were considerations.
Marshadow: I run 19 Pokemon already. There are a lot of utility Pokemon I'd love to run, and Marshadow is certainly one of them. Unfortunately, I'm already running so many different ones that I can't really keep adding more. There is also a point where running too many Pokemon just clogs your hand.
Chimecho: Also a victim of already running too many Pokemon, I'd love to run the bell too. This card is really good against the Ninetales/Swampert engine decks as they don't have a lot of ways to answer it and also run very few actual draw Supporters once locked by Bell of Silence.
Necrozma GX: I have actually added this card at times to the deck, as it is a good attacker against Gardevoir decks. Having 180 HP, a Psychic weakness and totally purging itself of Energy makes it hard for Gardevoir to OHKO. It is also not an Ultra Beast so not weak to Ninetales. One of the problems you face against the Gardevoir deck is that you need 4 Energy for a lot of your big KOs, and due to Ultra Necrozma's weakness and Marshadow GX's low HP, you struggle to be able to power up for that KO over two turns. Necrozma can avoid that. It is also good against the mill decks as it can OHKO Pokemon without using Metal Energy. Those decks usually beat you by running you out of Metal and then denying you OHKOs, but one Necrozma fixes that entirely.
Finally, lets look at the matchups!
Vs Lost March: You are extremely favored here. You can win some games just chaining Giratina, but otherwise Distortion Door, Flying Flip and Skyscorching Light are just backbreaking for them.
Vs Blacephalon: This is your standard OHKO vs OHKO matchup. If you fall behind you can catch up with Moon's Eclipse GX. You do want to try and position your Eclipse turn for a time when you don't have any benched GX Pokemon for them to Guzma. One thing to also take into account is they can hit 190 damage on their 3 prize turns with Naganadel with a Beast Energy or a Choice Band. If you can line up Moon's Eclipse on that turn, do so. The main way I lose this matchup is getting hit by a dirty Let Loose out of Marshadow. There isn't a ton you can do to play around that, but if they play it early, knowing most lists only play one and thus you are safe for the rest of the game is worth paying attention to. Setting up Zebstrika protects you from late game Marshadows. While you generally use your GX Pokemon for OHKOs here, Giratina looping isn't bad either. They don't run healing to punish you for two hitting a Blacephalon, and discarding 3 Energy to KO a one prize attacker isn't free. While I am talking up all these advantages you have, this matchup is very close, even if it is slightly favorable for you.
Vs Gardevoir Ninetales Swampert: This matchup is really close, and depends on lists and their familiarity with your list. If they do not know to go for Solgaleo GX early, you are very favored as a result of Registeel. If they do know, you struggle against their best starts, particularly going second. Your best draws will beat their best draws, though. This is a matchup that can be made substantially better by adding a Chimecho and/or Necrozma GX. You have the tools available to make this favorable if it is a major concern.
Vs Decidueye Ninetales Zoroark: This matchup is pretty bad, and by far the deck's worst matchup. Ninetales is a real threat, as it can answer Ultra Necrozma very well, but it also takes 4 Energy to OHKO. Registeel can answer the Ninetales, but once they transition to other Pokemon, Registeel is pretty anemic. They generally should be pressuring your Malamars, as Ninetales can put 70 on a squid and hang it for Decidueye later. Ideally they skip past your Beast Ring turns entirely, and then when your Malamars go down, it doesn't matter how many KOs you've taken by that point, as its easy for them to keep you off future Malamars and you can't rebuild Energy since most of your KOs purge off your Energy. I've won a number of games in the matchup when I've started really well, but it feels like I'm winning only a quarter of the games, which is really bad. I considered the rammifications of Chimecho, using it to stifle their set up until you are fully set up with attackers ready to "go off" and win, but they run the water type Alolan Ninetales GX, which does not have an Ability, and it is also very good against you and makes the Chimecho plan pretty bad. I even humored running a Machoke to play off of Ditto, but I don't believe it is good enough, nor remotely reliable.
Vs Granbull: This matchup is slightly unfavorable. You need to avoid opening a GX and really need to take a turn 2 KO with a Giratina. This game plan also doesn't work if they run a copy of Bodybuilding Dumbells, which has actually fallen out of favor. I addressed the slightly unorthodox ways to beat this deck at the start of the article, so you have ways to win even when things don't go smoothly. Granbull can always just self destruct mid or late game too, so even when you fall behind, look for potential holes in their set up you can pressure that may make them miss a KO turn or at least force them to need more moving parts each turn, as making them chase pieces will increase they odds they miss something over the span of a game.
Vs Psychic Malamar: Flying Flip, Distortion Door and Skyscorching Light gives you a huge edge in the mirror match, but games can also just play out like a traditional Malamar mirror match when you open stronger than your opponent. I used to list the mirror match as a knock against Ultra Necrozma, so it is nice to swing the matchup back around.
Vs Ultra Malamar: Honestly I haven't tested this matchup yet, and I'm looking at this more as a match against a list more similar to Dalton's than in regards to an actual mirror match. I assume both decks can play the same OHKO similarly, but this deck can also pull off the GX attack gimmick if the board offers it. I'd be surprised if this wasn't slightly favorable for this deck.
Vs Spread Malamar: Okay, this may actually be a bad matchup, depending on how they play it. If they overextend their bench, you can certainly set up a Skyscorching Light, and they actually just have a worse spread game than you. If they are smarter and keep a thin bench, then it gets interesting. You have Skyscorcing Light, but they have more Kokos ( if they KO yours ) and Tapu Lele promo. I haven't gotten to play this matchup as it is pretty unpopular, so I am theorycrafting as I go here to be honest
Vs Sceptile: This matchup is really favorable, as long as you don't prize your Marshadow GX, in which case you have to KO their anti-Ultra Beast Sceptile. ( This can be down with Distortion Door and a Giratina attack. ) This seems to be a deck that is actually gaining some steam, so I wouldn't be surprised to see more of it. If you run the normal Necrozma GX, it gets even more favorable.
Vs Meganium Swampert Greninja: This is a new deck, and the goal is to use Alolan Ninetales to set up Swamperts and Meganiums, and eventually start looping Greninja GX off of Super Boost Energy. The end game is emptying your entire deck, and just looping this gimmick. If it sounds like a load of nonsense, it is, but it actually works pretty well. Normally they bank on 160 HP non-GX Pokemon being sturdy enough to stave off most decks offense, but Malamar can still OHKO them pretty easily. This deck does run a 1-0-1 Slaking line. Slaking shuts off the opponent's Abilities when active, and they hide behind it in between Greninja loops once it goes back in the deck. ( In case you didn't think the deck was greedy enough yet! ) So its super duper hyper turbo mega combo finish is really impressive, but its not like the deck's draws are perfect, so that isn't something you expect to happen that often. This deck IS a bit of a new quantity, and I haven't played too many games against it, but I believe it is slightly favorable. Oh, also, the deck LITERALLY cannot beat Bell of Silence, so a Chimecho single handedly sweeps them, although I'm honestly not sure how easily you can take 6 prizes off of them in 30 minutes. You'd have to take roughly 36 turns, so at some point you have to just transition into attacking normally. I assume you'd want to just take a two prize lead and then swing for the fences.
Vs Buzzroc: This matchup is extremely favorable. You have type advantage against most of their attackers. Lycanroc gets to be a threat for one turn, and even it is easily answered with an Ultra Necrozma GX. This deck isn't really popular anymore, though. Many of the more recent builds run Alolan Ninetales GX, which gives them a bit of game against you, but Registeel is a great counter for that too.
Vs Zororoc: This matchup is favorable, but not lopsidedly so. You have good OHKOs options for their attackers, as Marshadow GX is just very good vs Zoroark, and Ultra Necrozma is such a good catch all. Even the aggressive starts where they can pressure Malamars put them in danger of your Beast Rings. These are the kind of decks that Ultra Necrozma preys upon.
Vs Passimian Koko: This is another matchup I haven't played a ton of times. Giratina is...kind of good against them? It answers all of their threats really well, but the self damage isn't negligible in this matchup. That said, the self damage can actually be really beneficial as well! You can use it to gift your opponent prizes, which really throws off their Counter Energy plans, and it can also be used to take damage off the field that can be Lele's around later. Dawn Wings Necrozma is actually a really good attacker too. Even with Shrine of Punishment, its going to stick around and get a lot of KOs. The matchup gets a lot murkier when you are forced to bench a lot of stuff just to set up, though.
Vs Zoro Control: This matchup is basically not losable. They can't OHKO your relevant attackers and Marshadow gets to go crazy against them. Their disruption does very little against Malamar, and running actual Switch makes it almost impossible for them to meaningfully disrupt them. I'll put it this way: I've beaten this deck prizing all 3 of my Malamar before. Now, the bad part about this is that this deck was a bit of a flash in the pan. I don't think it is good anymore, and I don't think anyone is going to play it.
Vs Unown Hand: This matchup is...favorable? You have energy recursion, you have all the OHKO options, even on Hoopa, and you have all sorts of Switching effects between Guzma, Switch and Dawn Wings' Invasion. Despite this, the matchup is super grindy and there is a lot of play to it. I've screwed up a lot of games in this matchup, but I've always felt like I was likely to win if I played better. There is honestly just too much to this matchup to break it down briefly like this. Even if I did talk about it, it is a matchup you just need to play reps of to get used to.
Vs Vikaray: This matchup has always been good for Malamar decks. You can score OHKOs and have Moon's Eclipse. The deck isn't that popular anymore, but it does still show up and I think it may actually be a decent choice still. I feel like it certainly deserves a higher metagame share than it gets.
Anyways, I have used this deck in 4 tournaments so far, to varying results.
Heading into Roanoke Regionals, I played in a 5 round League Challenge. I beat a Lost March round one, beat a Buzzroc round two, beat a Blacephalon round 3, lost to a Buzzroc Ninetales round 4 that I had to get -really- unlucky to lose to, and then beat a Blacehalon round 5 to get 4th place and bring my total CP up to 135.
I was really impressed by how the deck played. I had actually borrowed a Blacephalon deck for the tournament to play, but at the last second decided I wanted to try out my crazy Ultra Necrozma brew. It did so well that I put some addition work into it going into Roanoke. I was still considering Blacephalon for the event as it was a really safe choice, but I expected a lot of people would come to the same conclusion and having an edge in that matchup with Malamar felt like a good thing.
I drove down to Columbus to catch a carpool out to Roanoke with Kevin Baxter, Deon Lunsford, Riley Hulbert, Adler and Beckett Pierce and Trey Reese. I played a few games with Blacephalon and quickly ruled it out as an option and just settled in on Ultra Necrozma.
R1 vs Jimmy O'brien with Decidueye Zoroark
I got paired against Jimmy O'brien round one, which isn't exactly where you want to find yourself in such a large event full of less experienced players. To top it off, he is on Decidueye Zoroark. He wasn't running any Ninetales himself, which was huge for me! We both get really wonky starts in the first game, and I thought I was pretty far behind, but actually end up taking it. Game 2 he more or less rolls me, but I play it out because I don't like the matchup and want to eat into time for a potential Game 3 as I'd be happy with a draw here. Game 3 is going pretty well in his favor, and time is called. He is at 2 prizes to my 4 on my turn 2. I Guzma up a Decidueye, and use Skyscorching Light to KO a Zorua and a Rowlette. He was put in a spot where he needed to hit his last DCE, his last Choice Band, and two replacement Pokemon for his bench. With Trades, he'd see all but the last 3 cards in his deck. He had one more Zorua and MAYBE another Pokemon I wasn't aware of left. It turns out he'd need to draw his Rescue Stretcher. He ends up whiffing on all of the pieces and we wind up with a draw. I technically would have won the following turn, but I can't really complain as he was probably favored to get the KO on turn 3.
R2 vs Slowking Shuckle Hoopa
His deck used Slowking and Mars to disrupt my hand while hiding behind Hoopa and Shuckle accordingly. I got out a Zebstrika early both games, and he couldn't really keep me off of cards. This deck really matched up poorly against me, and I was able to just slowly take all 6 Prizes both games. I actually really liked his deck, it just was not well equipped to deal with Malamar very well.
R3 vs Zoro Control
I played against Zoro Control, which I said is basically an auto-win for me, and both of these games went pretty according to play. There were a LOT of stall/control decks at this tournament and I faced a bunch of them thankfully.
R4 vs Blacephalon
I won a competitive game one, and fell to a dead draw off of my opponent's turn one Let Loose going second game two. Game three I lost off of whiffing quite a few likely draws for a bit of a frustrating loss. I had a turn where I had a Cynthia to find a Metal Energy, out for Oricorio, or a Beast Ring to likely lock up the game, and whiffed on all of those.
R5 vs Zoro Control
Another match against Zoro Control, and another clean 2-0 sweep of it. Sadly this was my last pairing against it.
R6 vs Gardevoir Ninetales Swampert
I won game one with a good start going first, and was able to not reveal that I had a Registeel in my deck, as I saw he did have Solgaleo in his deck. The second game he got a really good start and I was struggling, and I packed it up to have time for a game three. UNFORTUNATELY, my game 3 hand was QUITE bad, AND my opponent OPENED his Cosmog, despite not going for it the previous games early. I opened my Oricorio, too. I end my first turn only with Oricorio active, and a Ditto on my bench with a Psychic active. My opponent retreated into Vulpix and grabbed a Ninetales and a Solgaleo. Yuck. I have an Ultra Ball on my turn, and have a really, really tough decision to make. I could grab a Malamar or a Zebstrika, and Cynthia, OR I could grab a Zebstrika and bench the Koko in my hand and pitch my hand and PRAY I draw a Guzma so I could Guzma KO the Cosmog with my Oricorio. I didn't see how I win against his start the "fair" way, but thought I COULD win if I could leverage Registeel. I take the longshot, grab Zebstrika, and pitch the Cynthia. I HIT the Guzma, and a Nest Ball, and grab an Inkay. I KO Cosmog, go down a few prizes as I set up, and actually pull off the sweep with Registeel to win the match.
R7 vs Mike Catran with Unown Hand
Well, I lost 0-2 here, feeling both games were super winnable. I walk into getting my Dawn Wings Necrozma GX locked after Articuno strips all of it's Energy away. I had to burn two of my Switch early on, but I still could have played more conservatively and been in a really good position to win. Walking into Articuno could have been avoided. Game 2 I'm rushing to try to close it out and make a few really bad mistakes, but I wanted to try to play for a match win, not a draw here. Terribly played games on my end.
R8 vs Blacephalon
I get Marshadowed going 2nd again and lose the first game. Going first game two I'm able to win a fairly safe game, and I manage to draw really well to win game 3 after what looked like a really lopsided series of starts in my opponent's favor to keep my day 2 dreams alive.
R9 vs Jon Eng with Buzzwole Ninetales
I get paired against Jon's Buzzwole Ninetales deck, and draw well enough to win a pretty favorable matchup. Jon's draws were not particularly good, which really just put the games away. I finally break my win and in curse and sneak into Day 2 as the 32nd seed with 19 points.
R10 vs Malamar
I go second and my opponent's start was a lot better than mine. He puts down 4 Inkay, and I'm able to two shot a GX with Giratinas before actually pulling off the Flying Flip/Skyscorching Light blowout to take out all of his Malamar/Inkay to win. The second game I have a really bad start, and consider scooping, but hes burning a lot of Guzma early and I find myself in a really good spot to Moon's Eclipse him with Marshadow GX and then Photon Geyster the next turn to win unless he has a 4th Guzma while his Lele is on is bench already and he has a fairly decent size deck still. He has the Guzma to force game 3. He opens Lele, and has a weak first turn and I've already gone off kind of and put 100 damage on the Lele with an Ultra Necrozma. Time is called and there is no way for either of us to win, but I was probably 90% to win from that point. Its what I get for chasing that second game, though.
R11 vs Gardevoir Ninetales Swampert
I win the first game off Registeel gone wild, and lose game two to a strong start out of him and a quick Solgaleo GX. Game 3 I'm in really good shape, and again am in a spot where I Cynthia and need to hit a Beast Ring, Metal Energy, Beast Energy, or a means to get an Oricorio. Of course, I whiff the Energy and Rings, but do hit a Mysterious Treasure, only to find the bird is prized, and I lose. ( Time was getting tight going into game 3, so I wasn't taking the time to check all my prizes, although its not like I change my play any knowing Oricorio was prized. )
R12 vs Azul Garcia Griego with Gardevoir Ninetales Swampert
This is an absolute throttling as my draws were average, and he set up really well and also knew I had Registeel and to get Solgaleo GX out ASAP. Neither game was even competitive and I believe we were done in about 20 minutes.
R13 vs Rob Stephens with Shuckle Sceptile
I get paired against my friend Rob, who was using Shuckle Sceptile stall. I win a comfortable game 1, and realistically game 2 isn't going to finish, but I play a bit too aggressively trying to go for the win and almost deck myself needlessly, but do end up actually taking all 6 prizes anyways in what wound up being a close game.
R14 vs ??? with Quagsire Naganadel
With a win, I'm top 64. With a loss I'm top 64. My opponent knew our situations and we both decided to ID since there was nothing on the line for us.
56th Place, t64, 185/550
Next I played in a small League Cup with the deck, beating a Lost March, a Blacephalon and a Lost March before IDing another Blacephalon, thinking I had good enough breakers for first...except my one Lost March opponent just LEFT instead of telling the TO that he was dropping, and got a loss for the round opposed to locking his breakers where they had been, causing me to take 2nd. So that was great.
2nd Place, 197/550
Next I played in a League Cup, with one change. I cut the Blitzle for a Necrozma GX to help the Gardy matchup out a bit.
R1 vs Passimian Koko Weavile
Opponent dead drew midgame allowing me to win a game that I thought my start suggested I shouldn't win.
R2 vs Granbull
I open a GX and am pretty far behind. I actually have the opening to win off multiple Flying Flip into Skyscorching Light but can't find my Rescue Stretchers and lose.
R3 vs Blacephalon
I win the roll and am able to leverage that into an unexciting win.
R4 vs Buzzroc
Another favorable matchup where I draw well enough to just stay ahead of them and use type advantage to win.
R5 vs Zororoc
I'm paired vs my friend and we decide to ID and play our win and ins the next round.
R6 vs Vikabox
I'm paired against a Vikavolt deck with an assortment of non-Rayquaza attackers and the Stadium which reduces 30 damage on Grass and Lightning Pokemon. I'm able to OHKO 3 GX Pokemon to get the win even in spite of the damage reduction.
I'm 8th seed going into top 8 and get paired against my friend Brady's Blacephalon deck.
Top 8 vs Blacephalon
I lose the first game after pulling ahead a bit when Brady Marshadows my hand with a big return KO away and proceeds to Beast Ring three times and most importantly counters his own Ultra Space with his Heat Factory ( I drew a Beast Ring off his Let Loose, but needed to be able to use the Ultra Space to grab Dawn Wing's Necrozma to Moon's Eclipse to KO his Blacephalon. ) I have a Cynthia, need to hit either Ultra Beast and a Beast Ring, but fail to hit the Ring again off Cynthia and lose. I win game 2, and game 3 is looking really good, but he topdecks a Beast Energy to pair with Guzma to KO my Lele with his Naganadel on my Eclipse turn ( He had used 2 Guzma and had his Lele benched already ) and I don't have a Guzma or Stretcher for the Lele back to just win off a Guzma on his bench. I Cynthia, and draw a Guzma off of that, and have a chance to buy another turn to get the win with Inkay's Hypnosis but he wakes up and wins.
Top 8, 222/550
I really think this deck is strong, but it is also really fun and challenging to play while giving yourself an edge against players who do not know what exactly it is you are trying to do. This Standard format feels really wide open and healthy and I've been enjoying playing it quite a bit. Now I just need to secure at least another top 8 finish at a League Cup for the quarter before I go to my next Regional in February!
Until next time!
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