Experts' corner

Chris Fulop

Narrowing Down Standard

Chris Discusses His Newest Lists For Mega Rayquaza, Mega Mewtwo/Garbodor, and Giratina EX!

13. 09. 2016 by Chris Fulop

Hello again everyone!


If I can be shameless for a moment, I want to toss out a cheap plug for the ARG Circuit Series coming to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma this weekend! On Sunday, September 18th, it will be featuring a $1,000 dollar cash prize tournament! I strongly recommend going if you are anywhere near by, not just for the great opportunity and prizes and a fun time, but to help grow the Circuit so that further support can be added as the tournament series is successful.

I'll start this article off again by focusing on the deck I've been focusing a majority of my testing on, my good friend the Mega Rayquaza. I've always stressed that Mega Rayquaza is the best deck in the format in a vacuum and this stays true. The difference is that now players have started to zero in on the things which actually do a good job of combating it. I want to go over those, as well as what adjustments I've made so far to combat those new problems which are popping up.

First off, we have decks running Raichu and Zebstrika...there are not a ton of good Lightning types in the format right now, so we are limited to these guys. ( I am sure I am overlooking -SOME- options. ) I am not looking at say, Magnezone and it's assorted attackers because that is a whole dedicated archetype, and I am more looking at what Pokemon a deck can splash that help combat Mega Rayquaza. I've seen someone go as far as to run a 4-4 Zebstrika line ( I am not throwing this player under the bus with a name attached to this, I think it is insane, and I am not that mean, but I will say they played at Worlds last year! ) and honestly, if someone is going to go that overboard, it is going to be difficult to deal with. 1-1, or 2-2 lines, on the other hand, can be dealt with.

Next up, we have Parallel City. Parallel City can be really frustrating to deal with, because you do run a finite amount of Pokemon to fill your bench with. With Hoopa EX and Shaymin EX, it isn't that difficult to refill the bench assuming you have access to another Sky Field. ( This is made even easier with Puzzle of Time. ) The bigger problem is when players pair Parallel City with further disruption. Slamming a Parallel City alongside an N later into the game is a major problem. ( This is one of the reasons I like running Unowns in this deck. I really like having just a little bit of additional insurance against N in the closing stretch. )

Playing Parallel City alongside Ability denial is also a major problem. Hex Maniac isn't widely played at the moment, but can be a problem at the right time. The one "up side" to this is that it prevents your opponent from also using N, meaning you can at least stockpile a hand ahead of time that is able to hopefully work past the Parallel City. The bigger problem, and one gaining popularity especially alongside Mega Mewtwo, is Garbodor. Garbodor constantly turns off all Abilities, and without the use of a Supporter each turn, so if they can hit you with a Parallel City, play and N, and have Garbotoxin activated, things can be extremely awkward.

I've honestly considered playing Garbodor, likely as a 1-1 line, IN Mega Rayquaza before, so it isn't that Garbodor is inherently a major problem for this deck. In many cases, it doesn't really do much at all. You set up on the first turn and do not need Abilities beyond Shaymin/Hoopa/Unown providing additional draw power. It does -really- hinder your ability to recover past a Parallel City though. The key to beating this "combo" of cards is to actually make killing Garbodor a top priority even if it messes with your exchange and prevents you from dealing with dangerous attackers even. It seems sketchy at the time, and yes, you can draw out of the Garbodor/Parallel City/N play some times, and Rayquaza is beefy and still does tolerable damage when shy of a one hit KO, but it makes things so much harder.

The next two cards which throw a wrench in Mega Rayquaza's plans are Assault Vest and Klefki. Mega Rayquaza clearly thrives off of OHKOing any Pokemon in the game. Unfortunately, Klefki, when attached as a Tool, prevents any damage it could do. There are ways around this, as Klefki gets discarded after a turn, regardless of whether it actually prevents any damage. Lysandre, or Escape Rope let you hit a non-Klefki'd benched Pokemon. This lets you keep taking prizes and maintaining the exchange, but you lose out on board position as you end up leaving an attacker powered and pressuring you. This isn't the end of the world, but your "best case scenario" is still losing some ground. The problem is bigger when dealing with multiple Klefki, or it being paired with Super Rod or Puzzle of Times. ( Well, honestly, any sort of recovery cards. ) You do have a solution for this in Hex Maniac, but that doesn't stop an already equipped Klefki from doing it's job. It just stops it pre-emptively and at least guarantees to buy you a turn free of Klefki's oppression. The proposed 1-1 Garbodor also solves this issue, but I'm leaning further and further away from wanting to run that. Another solution to Klefki is to run additional attackers which are not Mega Pokemon which allow you to get KOs.

Assault Vest is a problem because it puts a Mega Pokemon outside of OHKO range if you plan on using DCEs. Since Mega Rayquaza builds traditionally only run 3-4 Basic Energy ( And likely have attached a DCE before you see the Vest, which isn't always the case, you can change strategy based on knowing they run Vest. ) it can really slow you down. The one big thing worth noting is that Assault Vest is only scary when put on a Mega Pokemon...otherwise you still OHKO anything else. This means if you run your own Klefki, you can gain enough of an advantage against the Vest decks that I feel comfortable there anyways. You can also just two hit them. I've been preaching the strength of the SR Ancient Origins Mega Rayquaza for awhile now, but being able to hit an EX for 60 with a Rayquaza EX, likely NOT get OHKOed by a Mega with a Vest on it, and then Mega Evolve, heal off all the damage, and get the OHKO is a very real line to undercut the effectiveness of Assault Vest.

Finally, the last problem card is Giratina EX. Giratina EX has a few inherent strengths against Rayquaza. First off, it's Ability prevents it from being damaged by a Mega Pokemon. Hex Maniac circumvents this, but at the cost of your Supporter use for the turn. This means you cannot Lysandre up a Giratina EX and actually hit it in the same turn. ( Well, at least not with Mega Rayquaza. ) This means it almost always gets the first hit in. The bigger problem here is that Giratina EX's Chaos Wheel prevents you from attaching Special Energy, Tools, or playing Stadiums. Now, you can work around being cut off of DCE. Tools are not super important, especially since you get a window to play down your Spirit Links early before the attack starts to lock you. The Stadium lock, on the other hand, is huge.

Without Sky Field, you can only cap at 150 damage, IF you see Hex Maniac. Due to not being able to profitably Lysandre up a Giratina EX, it will hit Rayquaza first, and with both sides at best 2 hitting each other, Giratina wins that exchange. To make it worse, THIS is when the lack of Special Energy attachments actually starts to hurt. It makes chaining multiple Ray together very difficult. This problem gets made way worse if they also make their stadium card Parallel City.

A dedicated Giratina deck is going to be extremely difficult to beat without the use of some specific counter cards. Pokemon Ranger is really awkward, and hard to get to. It also only...kind of, works. You can break Chaos Wheel lock...but not be able to get past it's Ability. Even Marowak, which is a hard counter to Chaos Wheel every turn, doesn't really work that well. It is better than Ranger, because you can evolve Marowak, play your DCE/Sky Field, and then Hex Maniac to get past the Ability. This is timing sensative and Marowak ( or Cubone ) is a very easy Lysandre target.

Another option would be to run a non-Mega attacker which isn't super reliant on DCE to do damage. This is asking a lot, especially since as I mentioned, the deck only gets to run 3-4 Basic Energy cards to work with. You can also try and attach Giratina's energy supply. Jirachi ( Promo ) can attack Double Dragon Energy every turn. I feel like this is a much better solution than trying to play Hammers and such, which are unlikely to be a long term solution to the problem.

Anyways, now that we have addressed some of the problems worth looking at, lets get down to an updated list.

The biggest change to the deck right now is the addition of a 2-2 Raichu line. I've had Altaria and Zoroark in before, but made this swap over. First off, it is very, very good in the mirror match. Ignoring the fact that Hex Maniac lets you get past Altaria anyways, Altaria is seeing less and less play as Garbodor picks up popularity, and Ray decks have more and more threats to answer. Zoroark was another big consideration, but I hated how it was easier to play around.

That said, I do dislike how Raichu really puts you "all in" on a Sky Field plan, making Parallel City even more backbreaking. I think it is worth it though. This deck is very much "all in" on not trying to chase the turn 1 Emerald Break as well. This also means you do not want to even go nuts with Hoopas and Shaymins early on always, as you'd rather "explode" on the second turn when you can attack. This prevents you from overextending and getting your overall Pokemon count chewed away at by an early Parallel City. Even if you CAN fill your bench and have an extremely impressive set up on the first turn, it is better to resist doing so.

One of the big things Raichu does is give you a good attacker to KO Garbodors with. I want to KO Garbodor cheap, and quick, and without exposing an EX in the process. Zoroark is too easy for a Garb deck to play around by minimizing their bench size. I'm focusing somewhat on the Mewtwo Garbodor matchup here, but Mega Mewtwo can OHKO a Mega Rayquaza for 4 energy cards if Rayquaza just attacked. This is not that difficult. Now, they are MUCH MUCH less likely to be able to KO a Mega Rayquaza when it is energyless on the bench, so using Raichu to KO Garbodor forces them into an awkward spot. Unfortunately, they do have kind of cheap easy KO targets in both Shaymin EX and Hoopa EX. This devolves into a kind of convoluted game. You want to KO Garbodor. You also want to bench Pikachu/Rayquazas/Unowns to the bench of your ability. The least amount of Shaymin/Hoopa you can bench while still getting to pressure them off of Garbodor, the better. When they Parallel City you, the plan is to purge your bench entirely of easy EX KO targets for a Mewtwo. I wouldn't refill until you see a turn you can OHKO an energized Mega Mewtwo. It isn't usually that clean a game state, but its something to try to work towards and navigate around. Worth noting, without Garbodor, you can abuse, and re-use your Klefki which is HUGE in the matchup.

One card I have considered adding is a Winona. Now, Winona is pretty bad. It is definitely much less necessary with Hoopa EX being printed. The difference is Winona can grab a bunch of Pokemon even under Garbodor. So lets look at a common game state. Rayquaza player has 9 Pokemon in play due to Sky Field. Parallel City drops you to 3, and if you have the Sky Field, you can then bench one random Pokemon, VS Seeker/Winona for 3 more, and hit the 210 needed to get a Mega Mewtwo KO even under Garbodor. I'm not currently running Winona because I'd want to see a large enough percentage of the field running SPECIFICALLY Mewtwo Garbodor to justify it. Without Garbodor, Hoopa EX is plenty of recovery. Against anything but Mewtwo ( with exactly 210 HP ) the numbers aren't quite perfect enough to run it. Keep in mind a Teammates can already grab 2 Pokemon. ( Or more importantly, a Sky Field and a Pokemon. )

One glaring change is the fact that I am only running 2 Mega Turbo and 2 Rayquaza Spirit Link. I am very confident this is correct. Keep in mind that the deck, or at least in particular this build, is accepting that it is only going for the turn 2 Emerald Break. This means a Mega Rayquaza can be obtained by using the Roaring Skies Mega Rayquaza's Trait to end your first turn by Mega Evolving. ( This will be most games. ) Therefore, the first Mega Rayquaza does not need to see a Spirit Link. You can also get Emerald Break powered by using your two attachments...thus making the first Rayquaza not need a Mega Turbo. When you think about it, neither the Spirit Link nor Mega Turbo will be needed until your 3rd turn. You have so much draw power to see them by then. You also have access to Teammates once the first Rayquaza goes down. Therefore, the 3rd copies, previously considered necessary in builds, are now unneeded. You have plenty of time, and additional resources, to get to them by the now delayed time period you want them. 2 copies will also not backfire because you have Puzzle of Time available to be able to retrieve additional copies. Being able to free up 2 spots in the deck has been great, and one of the main reasons the thicker Raichu line fits.
I've also added a Super Rod. This helps with recovery, and with Parallel City seeing a big spike in play, its now necessary. Being able to shuffle in 3 Pokemon and get them back with a Hoopa EX is really helpful combating Parallel Cities. It also allows you to more realistically maintain a better Raichu presence if you find yourself in a matchup where this is important. I do like taking some of the pressure off of your Puzzle of Time. That is actually one major benefit of slowing down and accepting a slower deck. You don't slaughter your own resources and discard as many Puzzles chasing a start as you used to, and this gives the deck a lot more stability.

I feel like this deck is more than capable of combating people making adjustments to compete against it. The problem is, you have to kind of isolate what it is you need to beat. Parallel City ( and it's various disruptive partners ) and Lightning types are two totally different threats and while I do feel like you can beat whatever you slot answers to, beating both seems daunting. Right now, people seem more set to be running Parallel City than the Lightning types, and I've got the list adjusted accordingly.

I want to go over what I consider to be the "flex spots" in this deck. While I do really like the configuration I have here, it is worth noting these cards are able to be cut. Do not mistake this as me suggesting any of them are trimmable easily, because they all have pretty impactful roles and would require some other adjustments with their removal.
2-2 Raichu: These can be any other back up attackers, EX or not. I like Raichu at the moment. You want to make sure if you remove these that you have a viable attacker against other Raichu and Zoroarks, and also something that can easily KO a Garbodor. Having a "7th" non-EX prize available to give in a game is also really useful and shouldn't be forgotten. Raichu also gives you a good attacker against Pokemon which cannot be damaged by EXes or Basics.

2 Unown: Unown is almost the textbook example of a luxury inclusion, but I do really like it. They provide a higher basic count for Emerald Break. They are an expendable "sacrifice" to buy time, and is great to force Teammates activations. They are draw power, albeit clearly low impact. Their interaction with N, offering a safety net sitting on the bench from dead hands is super important in this format. If you cut them, you do become weaker to N, and likely want to make sure you have not cut too many Pokemon. With the Super Rod, you could likely get away without them and not add more Basics but if you trim the Raichu line, or cut the Klefki too, it gets dangerous. You also would want to add more draw power if they leave. I do not have Trainers' Mail or Acro Bike, and part of this is because I do have the Unowns. Unown may not be a great "pokemon" or a great bit of "draw" but it does benefit from filling both roles and when cutting them that should be addressed.

1 Klefki: This guy is expendable, but I like it. It weakens your Mega matchups if cut. I would not cut it and the Raichus without in turn making major adjustments to win the mirror match because these are your weapons. Klefki also helps against Mega Mewtwo quite a bit, so while yes, it can get hurt by Garbodor ( a war you already choose to fight by hunting them down if possible. ) it is still a great weapon.

As you can see, I've put pretty much every flex spot into Pokemon at the moment. The Teammates are great, and I'd never cut them without a total list overhaul. ( I am not saying there are not other viable Rayquaza builds, but this is the route I've been taking with my testing. ) One Hex Maniac is awkward but it is pretty vital to the deck. The "two ofs" are all pretty well locked in play. I guess I should mention that what I consider to be lateral changes can still be made with non-flex cards. Shifting a Sycamore into an N or vice versa is totally reasonable. ( Although I wouldn't do it ) Making the 2nd Float Stone an Escape Rope ( It helps against Klefki and can be played under Chaos Wheel. It also works better with Puzzle of Time. ) is also reasonable. Shift cards of similar roles around is usually fine.

The biggest issue I do have with this deck is the lack of a clean answer to Giratina EX. Raichu and Klefki make me feel pretty good on most fronts, but I really do want to work on the Giratina game some. Jirachi would be a start, but I'd also be open to other attackers.

Anyways, next up I want to go over an updated Mewtwo Garbodor list, as well as a few Giratina based decks since these are the decks I've really focused on discussing alongside Mega Rayquaza.

So I included a pair of Mega Mewtwo lists last article. I primarily was testing a Garbodorless list, while having done a bit of work on the slower, more disruptive Garbodor version on the side. As a result, having been thrilled by the performance of Puzzle of Time in the first build, I ported them over to the Garbodor build as well. Unfortunately, due to the lack of space and the lack of the easier to KO Zoroarks being a viable lead attacker, Teammates did not also make the transition and as a result the Puzzles were performing a lot worse for me as I tested the deck more. They were not bad enough to immediately stand out as being wrong for the build, but seeing how I think the Garbodor build IS the correct direction to take the deck, I've found them to be too clunky to keep in the 60. I've replaced them with Trainers' Mail, which does help gel the deck together quite a bit.

As I mentioned when discussing the Rayquaza matchup, Parallel City, N and Garbodor give you a viable game plan against the deck. I do miss the Teammates/Puzzle of Time options because that would give the deck so much more game at sticking a long term Parallel City. With only a pair of them and no real way to search them up, you don't have the most reliable game plan if the game gets extra grindy.

There are a few things I am unhappy about with this list, but that comes mainly from a lack of refinement in regards to adding cards which help specific matchups. Right now, most of the numbers are extremely bloated. I feel like 4 Sycamore and 4 N is great, but not necessary with the 4 Trainers Mail. The Mail and even the 4th Mega Turbo are arguably expendable.

The cards I feel like I am missing are some sort of answer to improve the mirror match. It seems pretty much like a crapshoot at the moment, and if the deck continues to surge in popularity I really do want to have something to bring an edge to the match. I am also not happy with the fact that the deck cannot answer a Regice. I know this seems like an obscure issue, but I've had multipl people MENTION that this deck is cold to it, and that makes it a bit of a problem if the counter option is on people's radar. Pokemon Ranger would be a solution to this, but it is particularly awkward and hard to draw into. Pokemon Ranger also helps with the Giratina "issue" in that you struggle against Chaos Wheel if it can keep your Garbodor off of holding a Tool. You are better off than Mega Rayquaza because you can use normal Mewtwo EX as a strong enough attacker in the deck, but being able to break Chaos Wheel with Ranger to sneak a tool into play and get Mega Mewtwo attacking should blow the matchup open.

The last card I'd like to consider is Special Charge. It was on my radar when initially building the deck but clearly overlooked it once I settled on Puzzle of Time. Without them it is much more reasonable. I'm not sure I think it is worth the space even though the idea of getting access to more than 4 DCE is strong. You can't use more than 3 Mega Mewtwo in a game, and the idea you need more than 4 DCE suggests that you are using a 2nd DCE on TWO Mewtwos. ( Allocating 1 DCE per Mewtwo for the example. ) The only reason the addition may be appealing is for games you oddly get stuck discarding them to Sycamore or Ultra Ball. I think that the deck can whether those storms though. You have 4 Mega Turbo as acceleration, and a portion of games you do end up using Shrine of Memories/Mewtwo to play a totally different game plan, or at least to buy time to tank the Mewtwo up without as many DCEs.

If I wanted to make one change here, I would cut a 4th N for the Pokemon Ranger. I also wouldn't mind a non-EX attacker, but nothing seemed to jump out at me enough to include it. I guess I could see running a Jirachi ( Promo ) as it is still going to be good against most of the top decks in the format that I'm seeing played.

Next up, I've been looking into what shells I want to put Giratina EX into.

This is one of the builds I've been testing, and I love it in that it is pretty good at getting a turn 1 Chaos Wheel going. Between Reshiram ( and Switch ) and 4 Max Elixir, it isn't unrealistic to get two "bonus" energy attachments on your first turn. With Fighting Fury Belt, Giratina is an extremely tough KO, especially with it's lock on Special Energy cards, and Tools and a built in immunity to Mega Pokemon.

Also worth noting is that both Reshiram and Giratina EX are totally viable secondary attackers! Giratina struggles against Pokemon which prevent EXes or Basic Pokemon from hitting them, but Hydreigon's attack shreds right through those effects and Reshiram is a good non-EX attacker too in a pinch. Even if you cannot get Giratina attacking turn 1, Hydreigon EX is even easier to power up.

This is a pretty straight forward list at the moment. I'd love to see a 10th Fire Energy, and I really want some forms of healing and energy removal effects. Pokemon Center Lady seems great in here, but even something like Fairy Drop works in here because it keys off of having Fairy Energy attached to a Pokemon, not the Pokemon being a Fairy type and thus it works while you have Double Dragon Energy active. It does 10 less healing than Pokemon Center Lady and cannot be VS Seekered for, but it is not a Supporter. I think if you only get one or two copies I prefer the re-usable Pokemon Center Lady.

I could see taking this same idea and cutting Max Elixirs and Trainers' Mails from the deck, accepting a turn 2 Chaos Wheel plan, and in turn running some amount of energy removal and healing cards. By some amount, I mean a fairly substantial presence though, as we'd have 8 spaces to play with adding them. I don't know which route is better yet, but both have their appeals.

I'm running only 2 Stadiums at the moment, but I'd really teetering on a 3rd. I feel like you need to draw one every game, both to counter other Stadiums as you Chaos Wheel, but also to enable Hydreigon EX's Ability to let you fully abuse Reshiram. I don't think I'd run a 3rd Parallel City, but none of the other Stadiums do seem terribly exciting either. I'd be totally ok with just two copies if I didn't feel it may interfere in my ability to take full advantage of Reshiram on the early turns of the game.

This isn't anything terribly exciting, seeing how Darkrai Giratina was already a deck last season, but it is still the most popular, default build for Giratina EX that I have seen. I don't think the deck is super exciting or anything, and I honestly would be surprised if it settles down as the best Giratina deck, but is safe, and proven, and I've seen it do fairly well at League Challenges so far.

One thing I do like about the deck is that Giratina EX, with Parallel City, is great against Mega Rayquaza. As for Mega Mewtwo, Giratina is pretty reasonable, but Darkrai EX also seems pretty solid. With a lot of 180 HP, and Psychic Resistance, with a Fighting Fury Belt, it has an effective 240 HP against a Mega Mewtwo. It can hit a huge damage cap while only carrying 2 Energy on it's own. That means a Mega Mewtwo is going to need SIX Energy attached it itself to be able to score the OHKO. The Garbodor versions in particular are going to be extremely hard pressed to tank up a Mewtwo that heavily quickly.

To top it off, I love how the deck is fairly explosive. It is proactively powerful and disruptive when need be, and this makes for a pretty safe choice going into a new, open metagame.

I'm looking forward to seeing where Standard takes us, but I also need to start testing Expanded for Regionals, as with the new prize payout I am certainly going to try and hit as many of them as reasonably possible. This is unfortunate, though, in that I've been really liking the new Standard so far! It is such a different format, and everything is new. I LIKE Expanded as a format, probably more than I'll like Standard even, but it still feels...stale, and the lack of upheavel in the format makes it far less appealing for me to explore. On the other hand, I really do love Dark maybe it won't be so bad after all!

[+14] okko

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