19. 04. 2017 by Chris Fulop
Hello again everyone! Today's article will focus on a deck I am extremely excited about, and a deck that is not only good in the short term, but one that will only get better with the release of the next upcoming Sun and Moon expansion. This whole article will be dedicated to this one deck in extreme detail because I am convinced it is the best deck in the format. I need to give specific thanks to 2005 US National Champion Seena Ghaziaskar for helping me test this deck and refine it to the point where it is at now.
The deck I am talking about is Mega Rayquaza with Mega Gardevoir. Now, I'm not going to pretend that I am the first person to make this pairing: In fact, I had been fairly critical of the pairing in previous iterations. My infatuation with Mega Rayquaza is fairly well documented by this point, and while I consider the archetype, even beyond this build, to be generally a good deck, I think this is by far the best approach.
"But Chris! Mega Rayquaza has not put up particularly great results at Regionals lately! It can't be that good if it isn't winning!"
Lets address the Donphan in the room, shall we?
Of course it hasn't been winning Regionals: I haven't traveled to any.
Jokes aside, lets actually discuss this. I feel like there is a very big misunderstanding about Mega Rayquaza as a deck. I look at lists, and I watch players on stream, or play against them online, and I feel like everything is outdated. I watch people building and playing the deck like it was a whole format ago ( or Expanded. ) Mega Rayquaza's debut in the game was as an extremely aggressive, streamlined and consistent "turbo" deck. That engine is no longer in Standard. Yet because of this appearance, I constantly watch players try to build lists and play lists as if not much has change. A lot has changed. Playing a worse version of a previously great build isn't the only way to play the deck, and in fact it is a really bad way to go about it.
The deck cannot reliably pull off a turn one Emerald Break. Building to try and accomplish this eats up a ton of deck space. It weakens you against Vileplume as the deck is so reliant on Items. One of the other big enemies of this deck is Parallel City. Even builds that get closer to pulling off a very aggressive build of this deck end up burning a ton of resources early to do so, and they are in turn ill equipped to fight against Parallel City when facing down Ns. ( And Garbodor at times! ) Mega Rayquaza is both not -quite- reliable enough in speed, and is constantly playing a game of resource management with minimal margin for error in some of it's matchups.
What is often overlooked is that Mega Rayquaza is a 220 HP monster that hits for 240 damage. You don't need to be blisteringly fast for this card to be good! Mega Rayquaza plays really well from behind, actually. I see too many players burn through resources on the first turn, drop a Sky Field, fill up their bench, and swing in with a Mega Rayquaza on the first possible turn. Slow down. Hit something with energy. Slow down, build your board, and don't spam a full field of Pokemon that are going to get pitched when Sky Field gets countered and you just threw away a bunch of your Pokemon for minimal impact. Slowing down the early game does wonders towards making the deck's end game stronger. All you need to do on the first turn is attach an energy to a Rayquaza EX, and end the turn with a Mega Evolution. The deck's early game is extremely smooth and consistent if your goal is to just get a turn 2 Mega Rayquaza EX. You can reliably do this without overextending, and without burning resources. You can do this while devoting very few cards towards "speeding up" the deck. I watch some very good players misunderstand Rayquaza's role in this format because it's previous identity was so well defined. I don't mean this to be insulting or just downplaying everyone as an idiot. It took me a lot of time to really come to these conclusions, and a lot of it is because I desperately wanted to FORCE the deck to be good, and I was dedicated.
Another problem the archetype faces is that in general, a lot of the better players shy away from the deck, and I think that stems at least partially from that fact that most Rayquaza decks are handled incorrectly. What allure is there to the deck if the average list isn't terribly impressive? Misunderstandings...USUALLY caused by a failure to be willing to deviate enough from a stock list when that stock list proves poorly positioned...like this are not uncommon. You have players like Jose Marrero who is an expert with the deck consistently put up good results with it. Players who really put the time in with the deck have done really well with it, and talking to them about the deck and it's matchups compared to how non-Rayquaza players view those same matchups yield a stark contrast. I've heard a player site Yveltal as a 70-30 favorite against Rayquaza, while Jose...and myself...view it as 60-40 in favor of Rayquaza. Such a gap in projected winrates is insane. A 30 percent swing is...well, massive.
A matchup like Yveltal Garbodor is really swayed by how well the Rayquaza player knows how to manage it's resources and play for a long game. You don't always need to be the aggressive in these types of games, as you walk into disruption and Ns well before you have a board capable of sustaining your game. It is easy to play Rayquaza in terms of just spamming Emerald Breaks as soon and as often as you can, but that is rarely correct. That being said, I feel like this actually benefits an experienced Rayquaza player, because most players have misleading experiences against the deck, and that works to their advantage. I've certainly played against top tier players who I felt mismanaged their game plan against me, which only further reinforces my belief on this issue.
Anyways, lets skip ahead to the actual deck list, and then a full break down.
- 4x Shaymin EX
- 2x Hoopa EX
- 2x Dragonite EX
- 2x M Gardevoir EX
- 2x Gardevoir EX
- 1x Wobbuffet
- 3x Rayquaza EX
- 3x M Rayquaza EX
- 2x Rayquaza Spirit Link
- 2x Professor Sycamore
- 2x N-supporter
- 2x Skyla
- 2x Lysandre
- 2x Hex Maniac
- 1x Olympia
- 4x VS Seeker
- 4x Ultra Ball
- 4x Sky Field
- 2x Float Stone
- 3x Mega Turbo
- 2x Gardevoir Spirit Link
- 4x Double Colorless Energy
- 5x Fairy Energy
So I have to give credit for the name "Despair Ray" to Seena...who played hard ball and would not let us go with any name but that. Admittedly, I didn't really put up much of a fight as I do feel like it is just too fitting. ( I guess this is better than "Crayquaza", to be fair! )
3-3 Mega Rayquaza EX: This is extremely standard, and unlikely to change in the near future. 4 Rayquaza is not unreasonable, as opening with it is good, but with a secondary attacker in Mega Gardevoir, it is not really justifiable. One of the big omissions from this deck is Puzzle of Time. Without them, and with all of the recovery cards being Dragonite EX, it is worth noting that you do not have any means by which to get back a Mega Rayquaza EX. This isn't as bad as you'd think, because Gardevoir pulls a lot of weight in most matchups as an attacker. You just need to be aware of the fact you can't play too recklessly with your Mega Rayquaza count. It is just one more thing that you want to take note of during games which you don't normally have to pay attention to.
2-2 Mega Gardevoir EX: Mega Gardevoir fulfills a lot of roles for this deck. First of all, it is a hard counter to Mega Mewtwo EX. Mega Mewtwo isn't inherently strong against Mega Rayquaza, but when paired with Garbodor and Parallel City, it is a lot to overcome. Luckily, the deck ONLY has Mewtwos to attack with, and that card gets eaten alive by Mega Gardevoir being a half Psychic Pokemon without the return weakness to Psychic. One Gardevoir usually takes out 2 Mewtwo. A Mewtwo needs 5 Energy cards to get a return OHKO on an attacking Mega Gardevoir, which is not easy at all.
One of the other difficult matchups for Mega Rayquaza is Giratina EX. I've embraced the approach that you just give up trying to win that matchup at all, since even if you devote a ton of space to do so, it is a long shot normally. Luckily, Mega Gardevoir effortlessly OHKOs a Giratina EX and doesn't need to use Special Energy cards to do so, so it isn't hard to power up past Chaos Wheel. Of course, you do need to get access to one of your 2 Hex Maniac to get around Giratina's Ability, but with all of the draw in the deck ( And the 2 Skyla to grab it since it is absolutely a priority in the matchup. ) it isn't hard to do. Darkrai Giratina is really the only Giratina deck seeing play at the moment, and that matchup has proven to be surprisingly positive now. They can't really juggle between Darkrai and Giratina in the matchup very well, because Chaos Wheel only really cripples this deck if the lock is constant. It isn't hard to just shift over to Mega Rayquaza if they transition to a "fair" Darkrai game plan. I expected it to be more challenging than it has been, which is great. Gardevoir took two "difficult" matchups and has made both of them really positive, which is impressive to me.
Mega Gardevoir also is a good attacker against both Darkrai EX and Yveltal decks. While you actually don't end up using it against Darkrai very often due to the fact that Rayquaza is strong against it if they do not play Giratina, and because the matchup plays out very oddly if they do have Giratina. Also, on the Darkrai/Giratina matchup, you actually can use Mega Gardevoir to Despair Ray away some of your bench to stay under OHKO threats from the Salamence EX they usually run. The Dark resistance is not negligible on this card. Most importantly, it does a good job of answering Garbodor. Mega Rayquaza's previous issue was that you had to exposre a Mega Rayquaza into a Garbodor, and it will eat an attack from Yveltal or Mega Mewtwo EX. This sets you back a lot. By being able to get the Lysandre KO with a Mega Gardevoir, it is a smaller commitment that is somewhat expendable in the grand scheme of the matchups. I used to love Raichu in this role, as a safer lead to take out the trash, if you will, before I transition into Mega Rayquaza.
Mega Gardevoir is also great against both non-EX Yveltal. Oblivion Wing hits it for 10, and will get OHKOed back in most cases. ( If it has a Belt, I'll usually just resort to two hitting it. It isn't worth burning so many Pokemon to hit 170. ) Against Fright Night Yveltal, you can also get a pretty easy OHKO, but you also get to discard whatever Shaymin EX they dump 60 damage onto. In the instance where they get bold and try and put damage onto a Rayquaza or another Gardevoir, you usually leave it on the bench, but if the pressure or damage adds up too much, you can dump those too.
That actually brings up another major point: You can close a game out by discarding prize liabilities. Most decks are not too well equipped to actually KO 3 Mega Pokemon. What ends up happening in most losses is that you lose the last 2-4 prizes to a Lysandre on one of your many Shaymin EX or even Hoopa EX. By shifting into Mega Gardevoir to close a game out, you can actually discard these liabilities and cut off an opponent's win condition. This comes up a LOT, and does a huge amount of good towards improving the deck's universal win rate. This is as important as it being a hard counter to some of your worst matchups.
Also, regarding your late game...Gardevoir EX is great at OHKOing Hoopa EX and Shaymin EX of your opponent. This makes it a great clean up hitter in every matchup, and one of the reasons why you can get away with only a 3-3 Mega Rayquaza EX line without any Puzzles. One of the probems you face in disruptive matchups is that when you get hit by a Parallel City, Mega Rayquaza can't even OHKO a Shaymin EX as it caps at 90 damage. If you are at 2 prizes, and get Paralleled and N'd, even without a Garbodor, you need to hit a Lysandre, a Pokemon, and a counter stadium just to get a Shaymin EX KO off the bench. Gardevoir just demands a Lysandre. This is actually a HUGE deal and gives the deck a tremendous amount of extra strength in the late game as dwindling resources and a depleted stadium count leaves the deck in a poor position to recover from a rough N. Against Garbodor, you want to lead with Mega Gardevoir, and in every other matchup, you want to transition into Gardevoir after the strain on your resources make Rayquaza a chore to power out. This also makes the lack of Puzzles ( and a 5th+ Sky Field ) more tolerable, because Gardevoir is a reasonable threat.
Gardevoir is interesting against Decidueye Vileplume as well, because it can clean up your bench for you. With all of the Owl damage flying around, you end up with a lot of prizes sitting around. While you end up losing some damage output, there is definitely a point where a single Despair Ray can set back a Decidueye multiple turns worth of damage. Equally, if not more importantly, you can discard Hoopa EX and Dragonite EX. Both of these are obnoxious Lysandre targets. Dragonite EX has a 3 retreat cost which is a huge risk. Hoopa EX can be retreated by a DCE, but if the Vileplume player runs a Trevenant EX, a Hoopa EX gets Lysandre'd and locked in place for 9 turns and you just flat out lose to it. If they run a Trevenant, you want to either avoid benching Hoopa EX entirely ( Which is really, really hard to do ) or prioritize a quick Despair Ray to get rid of it before it gets successfully locked.
So while Mega Gardevoir serves the role of counter to Mega Mewtwo, Giratina EX and Garbodor, it is just a very good attacker in every matchup! ( Besides well, a rogue Mega Scizor, or something! )
4 Shaymin EX, 2 Hoopa EX: These are just the standard numbers for consistency in the deck. Mega Rayquaza, when played more defensively, is actually an unreasonably consistency deck in the opening turns. I've always been astounded by players questioning the consistency of the deck. Where the deck does face issues is in that it has so many moving parts throughout the game. You need a full bench and a Sky Field in addition to Mega attackers and multiple Energy cards. Replenishing your board is challenging in the mid to late game, but the opening turns of the game with the deck are extremely consistent.
2 Dragonite EX: I opted to go with Dragonite EX over any Super Rod, Karen, or Brock's Grit because of the fact that they are extra Pokemon for the bench, and they work so well with Mega Gardevoir's Despair Ray. In addition, they are extremely good against Decidueye Vileplume. If they counter a Sky Field with Forest of Giant Plants, you can replay a Sky Field ( You have 6 copies of the card if you count Skyla ) and one Dragonite EX or Hoopa EX immediately refills the bench. Also, Mega Gardevoir does a lot of work against the Garbodor decks, so you can get away with leaving your recovery weak to Ability lock.
Dragonite does end up as a Lysandre target in games, but outside of against decks with bench damage ( Decidueye Vileplume, Greninja and Yveltal Garbodor ) it isn't much of an issue. You run 3 "Switch" cards to deal with this anyways, and have the pair of Skyla to get access to them. Against Decidueye Vileplume, Dragonite does end up a Lysandre target and that is dangerous. There are a few ways to deal with this. First, you usually do not bench a Dragonite until mid to late game, so getting a Float Stone on it is tough. If you can get a turn where you can stick a Wobbuffet active and put a Stone on a benched Dragonite, do so. Getting stuck to a Lysandre is one of the ways you lose that matchup. Also, Decidueye can't really pressure your Energy in play and they are not good at KOing your attackers if you set up well enough, so you can actually take the time to put energy onto a Dragonite EX. I end up attacking with it a LOT in this matchup, as 130 and discarding an Energy off their attackers is actually pretty potent! I don't WANT to attack with Dragonite EX, but I end up proactively putting a DCE on a Dragonite frequently to set up my ability to retreat if it gets brought active, and if they go for it anyways, I often just attach another DCE and go aggressive.
1 Wobbuffet: This is your soft counter to Vileplume decks, and it does a little bit of work. I'm not thrilled by the card, but in matchups where they get a KO on something and you can bring it active, you can liberate your hand's items and go off. In a lot of matchups, the Wobbuffet looks like it doesn't "do" a lot, but that is misleading because it forces the opponent to change how they play to compensate for it. It may not blow a game open visibly, but it changes the game none the less. I've had multiple opponents tell me how much of a pain the presence of the Wobbuffet was for how they played the game. The biggest issue for the card is that you don't have a great way to draw into it. You have to burn an Ultra Ball if you have access to Items for your first turn. If they get Vileplume out first, good luck drawing into it. The first scenario happens frequently enough that the card has made a pretty big impact overall.
Oddly enough, I've also used Wobbuffet as something I'll promote as disruption on my first turn, or on any turn I need to "take off" to manually Mega Evolve. It is a 7th prize in this deck, so if I pair it with an N, they have to Lysandre/Rope around it, and they can't use Shaymin EX to draw into these cards. Even if I open with it, I can still use Hoopa EX past it, as it is a Psychic type. I've found the card pretty useful for slowing the game down a bit early on, and it is a frustrating mid game promotion for certain decks too. These aren't selling points for the card, don't get me wrong, but they are nice perks of a card that is otherwise a silver bullet for Vileplume decks.
4 DCE, 5 Fairy Energy: These numbers are pretty much perfect. I wouldn't mind a 6th Fairy Energy but there is no way it gets the nod over a number of other "61st" cards. You just need to end your first turn Mega Evolving a Rayquaza, and making sure you hit an attachment. A higher energy count lessens the amount you have to dig on your first turn, which is good for resource conservation.
2 Prof. Sycamore, 2 N, 2 Skyla: These are your draw Supporters. A majority of your draw will be off of Shaymin EX, and you have a redundant amount of means to be able to get them. N is your safest turn 1 Supporter play to draw a bulk of cards.Skyla is great since your best turn 1 play is just an Ultra Ball. It gets a Hoopa, which gets a Rayquaza, a Mega Rayquaza, and a Shaymin EX. Dumping your two worst cards in hand should assure a strong draw off of Set Up. Skyla also gets you your switching cards, a Sky Field, a Mega Turbo, or your Spirit Links. It can get you key Supporters like Lysandre against a t2 Garbodor, or a Hex Maniac against Volcanion, Vileplume, or Greninja. ( This Hex can turn off Vileplume long enough to Ultra Ball for a Wobbuffet. ) Skyla is great. I've seen lists with 0-1, and I think that is a major indicator of not understanding the deck's function in this format.
Sycamore is just a weak card in the early game for this deck, because you do not want to discard resources. LUCKILY, with Gardevoir as an attacking option, you have much better game if you have to discard DCEs or Sky Fields or other key pieces. The big thing is, you want this card for the late game against N. You don't want to play this in the early game, but when you've used up a lot of your Shaymins, or are under Item or Ability lock, and you have too few prizes for N to be "draw", you need access to a Sycamore.
2 Lysandre: This is pretty standard as well, nothing really to add in for this.
2 Hex Maniac: This card is good against Vileplume ( It leads into a Wobbuffet long term, and liberates your draw power early. With Skyla, you have 4 outs to draw into it. ), Greninja, and Volcanion. You want to see it early in all of those matchups, so a 2nd copy gets a nod from me. I could see only running 1, but I'm more comfortable with the 2nd.
1 Olympia: This is your 3rd "switch", but one that actually works under Item Lock against Vileplume. It also works under Fright Night. I hate using a Supporter for this effect, but it does give you extra copies off of VS Seeker. It is your only means to be able to save a Hoopa from a Trevenant EX as well.
4 VS Seeker, 4 Ultra Ball, 4 Sky Field: Nothing to see here. These will always be 4 ofs.
3 Mega Turbo: You need these to power up your attackers, and I feel like 4 is overkill. Without Puzzles, where I justified only playing 2, I want the 3rd copy.
2 Rayquaza Spirit Link, 2 Gardevoir Spirit Link: Since the first turn of the game will likely end with a turn 1 Mega Evolution, 2 Rayquaza Spirit Links seems perfect, even without the Puzzles. I'll acknowledge it does SOMETIMES bite you, but you just need to make sure you keep this count in mind. Almost never use a t1 Spirit Link even if you can. Err on the side of conservation with your Spirit Links. I mentioned the mid-game Wobbuffet/N play, but if you end up stuck having to end your turn to Mega Evolve, that should be your plan too. 2 is clearly a fine number for a 2-2 Gardevoir line, especially when we have access to Skyla. In most matchups, you don't need Gardevoir until the game progresses since that is when the Parallel Cities start to really cramp your Rayquaza game plan anyways.
2 Float Stone: You want 3 switching cards, and we have an Olympia already. Float stone rounds out the last few spots, because they can be played pre-emptively under a Vileplume and they work really well with Wobbuffet.
Now lets look at some of the "flex" spots in the deck.
"3 Float Stone": Some combination of Float Stone, Olympia, and Escape Rope. Float Stone, especially with Vileplume a major presence, and Wobbuffet in the deck accordingly, is your "best" switch card in most scenarios. I addressed Olympia as well. It is good against Vileplume, too, but it also does provide an actual "Switch" that circumvents needing to retreat, which works against lock abilities or someone who can turn off Tools. It is also a bit better against status conditions, such as that thrown out by Espeon GX. Escape Rope provides a similar utility, and can also be Skyla'd for and played in the same turn. Rope also lets you reset a Regice EX, or any other obnoxious defensive abilities like that. You can then Lysandre back up the Regice and KO it. Otherwise you don't really have a win condition against it. Rope is also good against decks trying to leverage the "7th prize" against you, such as a Volcanion or an Yveltal. If you don't have, or can't justify using a Lysandre, a Rope will often act as an effective Lysandre for the prize exchange at the least.
"1 Floating Supporter": Currently this spot is the 2nd Hex Maniac. This isn't locked in stone, especially with the Wobbuffet in the list. This could be a 3rd Sycamore or N. I know I spoke down about Sycamore, but you don't really need draw Supporters in the early stages of the game, you just need them in the late game more so. Sycamore does seem more appealing to me than the 3rd N. Also, this could end up as a Teammates. Teammates became less appealing with the addition of Skyla, as while it isn't as great, it is good in the early stages of the game. Also, without Puzzles, Teammates does lose a little bit.
"1 Wobbuffet": The Wobbuffet is my personal choice for the last Basic Pokemon I chose to run. Seena is personally a fan of Oranguru in this slot, but I've not been terribly impressed by Oranguru. It doesn't end up actually converting loses into wins as much as paranoia about late game N disasters makes you want to believe. You need to have Oranguru in play, then get N'd to a low number. Then dead draw. Then have access to Abilities. Then draw into a card specifically off of the monkey that actually wins the game. Even Item lock is a problem, because you get stuck with cards in hand you can't dump before using Oranguru. It isn't a bad card, I'm not trying to say it is terrible, but it just always seemed to underwhelm me. This spot could actually end up being a non-Pokemon, but with only 2 Dragonite as recovery, I like having access to more Pokemon. I don't think I'd run anything other than these two in this spot currently, but I don't really -love- the Wobb or the Guru.
"5th Energy": Seena has tried going down to 4 Fairy Energy, but I dislike that. The debate here, in my opinion, is whether or not the 5th Fairy should be a Prof. Letter. The "downside" is that the Letter is much worse against Vileplume, a matchup where drawing Energy is one of the most important factors. In other matchups, the Letter ends up being pretty much synonymous with an Energy. It sometimes works favorably with Ultra Ball, in that it gets you an attachment for the turn, and another to discard for a Mega Turbo. It is also an "energy" which can "fail to find" an Energy and thus draw you an extra card when you Set Up. The main advantage with the Letter is that you can Skyla for it. There are a lot of games where I draw a Hoopa or an Ultra Ball, but have no opening Energy card. Being able to Skyla for an attachment on the first turn is actually strong! The other downside is that you are a bit worse against Hammers and Grunts and stuff. I am on the 5th Fairy right now, but it could go any way at this point.
No Puzzle of Time or Trainers' Mail: Alright, both of these cards end up getting the axe in order to fit the Gardevoir line. First off, this IMPROVES your Vileplume matchup, which I like in this metagame. Trainers' Mail is odd in that it improves speed and consistency a bit, but its a bit unreliable and eats up a lot of space. In a deck that isn't concerned with being too aggressive, they have a really low impact. I was running 4 of these at one point prior to the Gardevoir addition, and they just never felt as strong as their constant inclusion in most lists would suggest they would be. When I just cut them, I barely missed them. I was surprised, but since then I can't imagine putting them back into the deck.
Puzzle of Time is a card I have a love/hate relationship with. I've stressed how necessary they are in this archetype since the start of the format. I stand by that. I still hated them because they are clunky and awkward. Unfortunately, you simply needed them in all of the Garbodor matchups. You need to get back Sky Fields, and Pokemon, and DCEs in these attrition wars. There were too many cards you needed a lot of copies of. Puzzle was just too important. Now, with Gardevoir, not only is fitting Puzzles difficult if not impossible, but it is less necessary! Gardevoir provides 2 additional attackers, both of which do not need DCEs. They are much less reliant on being able to counter a Parallel City. The fact that, regardless of Stadium, Gardevoir can KO a Hoopa or Shaymin, or even just 2 hit anything, makes Puzzles unnecessary. It also just improves most of the matchups which get extra grindy where the Puzzles matter.
Now lets look at the individual matchups a bit more in depth.
Decidueye Vileplume: Win Rate: 60%. This matchup is one that I've devoted a lot of card choices and slots towards. As a result, it is beyond the general coin flip that Vileplume Decidueye vs Rayquaza decks usually are. If you set up, you are very favored. You really only lose once set up if you get destroyed by a Lysandre play. If that is the case, why is it only 60%? Well, because first off, Lysandre plays are common and not that hard to pull off against you. Second, there are a reasonable number of games where your opponent goes first, hits the turn one Vileplume, and your hand just sort of falls apart and you don't get to set up much at all. Those are games you often lose. With the extra Supporters, and the 2nd Hex Maniac, plus Wobbuffet, I've gone well out of my way to mitigate the odds of this. Winning the coin flip also works. This win rate drops off drastically if they run Trevenant EX, although the Olympia does give you an out to it, and you can Skyla for it. With Hex Maniac, you can VS Seeker for Olympia back if they try and re-lock it. ( The goal should, of course, be to just obliterate the Trevenant with Emerald Break on your Olympia turn, though. ) Keep track of the amount of Lysandre your opponent has played. Some lists only run 2, but 3 has become more common and I've seen a top player run FOUR in their list. If you end up playing against Trevenant EX, expect a higher Lysandre count with it. Also do not forget the GX attack on Decidueye. A common end game experience is to get N'd to a small hand size, and have a Decidueye grab back a few Lysandre into their post-N hand. If you can force the opponent to burn their GX attack early, it is good.
Mega Mewtwo: Win Rate: 70%. This matchup was close and competitive as a straight Mega Rayquaza deck. Of course, you lose tools for the matchup to fit Gardevoir, but the Gardevoir does so much work that it swings the matchup upward a ton. It isn't an autowin or close, because it isn't effortless to get out Gardevoirs. In most matchups, you don't need Gardevoir until the late game, and this is a matchup that does kind of demand you get it out early. If you do get it up, you should win comfortably. You can always lose to N, or just getting Garbodor'd out if they get a KO on Gardevoir, too. Still, it is really favorable and 70% may be low.
Yveltal Garbodor: Win Rate: 65%. I mentioned before how I liked the Rayquaza matchup against Yveltal anyways. Yveltal EX is just too underpowered, and can't really OHKO a Rayquaza. Fright Night Yveltal can steal games but way less than you'd think. They need to rely on Garbodor and Parallel to win games, but now the deck has Gardevoir as an attacker, which helps fight Garbodor, and can also do well against Yveltals. Another really important role Gardevoir plays is in discarding your prize bait. I discussed it earlier but in this matchup, where their damage output is overall underwhelming, it really matters. They rely heavily on killing Shaymins near the end. To top it off, they often have to two hit Rayquazas and Gardevoirs, so you can actually retreat your attackers and just dump them to deny prizes. It seems counter-intuitive to get rid of a Mega Rayquaza EX with a DCE on it, but its often right. Because of the loss of Puzzle of Times, you don't gain as much of a % increase due to Gardevoir as you'd think, but it is comfortably favorable.
Volcanion: Win Rate: 55%. Rayquaza is favorable against Volcanion, but not by as much as some claim. Whoever goes first is usually favored. They can force you to deal with baby Volcanions, which is a real chore. On the other hand, you have Hex Maniacs which are a legitimate pain for them. So many of the games come down to Ns and who goes first that there isn't a ton of room for either deck to be a substantial favorite. You OHKO their EXes easily than they do yours, and you have Hex plays, but thats offset by them being able to OHKO a Shaymin with a baby Volcanion with a bunch of EX Abilities. With the loss of Trainers' Mail, your build is a bit slower ( Not by much, and not enough to defend re-adding them! ) and that hurts the matchup a little bit as well.
Mega Rayquaza: Win Rate: 45%. Because you end up diluting your deck with a second attacker line, and less Item draw, you are a bit slower. Its odd, because you actually end up using Gardevoir reasonably, as it can take your last EX KO on their benched stuff, and it is a bit easier to get out then say, a 3rd Mega Rayquaza, so you having Gardevoir does help the matchup some what too. It could be close to 50-50, but other lists are way more likely to spike the frustrating t1 Emerald Break to actually break serve on the games you go first.
Mega Gardevoir: Win Rate: 85%. Not only is Mega Rayquaza just a nightmare for them...they can't OHKO it, even with Kukui, and you effortlessly OHKO them, but their one way to win...steal KOs off the bench, every turn, while also rebuilding...is negated by Despair Ray. I've legitimately never once lost this matchup in my life.
Greninja: Win Rate: 45%. This matchup used to be traditionally favorable, but I've struggled a bit with it with this build. Luckily it isn't very popular, or well positioned. The problem is, without Puzzles, you end up really struggling for Sky Field, which is necessary to get OHKOs on Greninja, and if you fail, you eat a Max Potion for your troubles. You don't get Dragonite access either, due to Shadow Stitching. You aren't like, a major underdog, but you do drop likely a full 10-15% in this matchup losing the Puzzles, and while Despair Ray defensively protects your benched Pokemon from being prize liabilities, it is just so weak to Max Potion that it isn't great. Silent Lab early in the game can also stifle your set up enough to be a problem.
Quad Lapras: Win Rate: 50%. Okay, so the goal here is to literally just go "Sky Field, fill my bench, DCE, Mega Turbo, KO" three times over the span of a game. This should be an easy matchup, but with Skull Grunt and Handiwork attacking energy from your hand, or resources off the top of your deck, it can actually be harder to assemble this than you'd think! Some times you get a Ray off, and they fail to strip both Energy off of it, and you just roll from there, but it is a tough matchup at times. If you ran the 4 Puzzles, the matchup would be a total cakewalk, but without them it suffers some.
Waterbox: Win Rate: ???. Alright, so this is an easy matchup if you don't get Regice locked, and if you do, well, you don't really run any out at all for it. You can actually sometimes force a draw with Sky Return loops, and if they try and Lysandre KOs, they three hit things, and you can use Despair Ray to dump those off as they take 2 hits on them. If they have a bench, you can try and just take prizes around Regice. The matchup becomes easier if you run Escape Rope, or if you opt for Oranguru over Wobbuffet. If you ran a Regice answer, this matchup becomes really favorable, though.
Turbo Darkrai: Win Rate: 60%. This is another matchup where Rayquaza is just naturally good. Gardevoir is not bad either, and it gets to dump your Shaymins which is usually how they end up beating you as 220+ damage is very difficult for them to sustain. The matchup goes down, obviously, if they run Garbodor, but that is not a particularly popular varient at the moment either. At no point would I view it as sub 50% though. Escape Rope over an Olympia would do a lot of good too as a means to play around their obnoxious Oblivion Wing turns. I've seen lists go as low as 1 Parallel City, which is even better for you.
Darkrai Giratina: Win Rate:60%. With Gardevoir to punish Giratina, it puts them in an awkward spot. If they try to go with Giratina, they are in a terrible spot if Gardevoir sees Hex Maniac. If they lead Giratina and it dies, they usually do not have the energy presence to win from there out. If they avoid Giratina, they are just a worse, thinned out Turbo Darkrai, which is 60% favorable. Giratina actually ends up being less of an issue than Salamence does, so learning to properly play around that is challenging. The Giratina player may be best suited playing as a Darkrai deck, and forcing the Rayquaza player into walking into Salamence and trying to win that way.
Vespiquen: Win Rate: 30%. Obviously this is a pretty bad matchup. They use all non-EXes. Most builds run Jolteon against Rayquaza. To top it off, they run an abundance of Klefki. That being said, I am somehow 6-0 against Vespiquen builds. Gardevoir is really good against them! It gets rid of Shaymins, it OHKOs them, and it is not impacted by Jolteon's presence what so ever. I would even argue this matchup would be favorable if they did not have access to Klefki. You come out of the gates faster, and can pressure their attackers and DCEs, and they often end up having to fight past your Ns. I won't sell you on it being a good matchup, it clearly isn't, but its not as bad a nightmare as I initially suspected it would be.
Overall, these win percentages are incredible! Most of the bad matchups can be improved with a bit of tweaking, too, if they get popular. You have favorable matchups against pretty much all of the top decks at the moment.
One thing I want to address is the choice between Gardevoir, which takes up 6 spots of the deck, against Espeon EX, which takes up 2. Jose Marrero champions Espeon, and which it serves some similar roles...good against Mewtwo and Giratina, can sometimes be used to snipe a Garbodor...it is just much weaker as a general attacker in this deck, as Gardevoir is not just a silver bullet tech solution like a lot of people's gut reaction suggests it is when I try and show them this deck. I'm not saying Espeon is bad...If I couldn't run Gardevoir in the deck, I would absolutely be playing the Espeon version. That said, I think it is notably weaker against the field as a whole. Not being able to be powered up in one turn is a real handicap, and even the ability to attack on the first turn with Eevee's Ability is not really great because you want to end your turn with Mega Evolution anyways.
I wanted to talk about a few cards coming out in Guardians as well. I try not to focus too much on un-released cards because I find it takes my attention off of the current format. I'd fallen into that trap too many times over the years, and I now make a concentrated effort to avoid this issue. That said, there are a couple of cards which have gotten so much hype that they can't really be ignored, and for good reason: Tapu Lele and Aqua Patch.
Lets look at Aqua Patch first. It is literally a carbon copy of Dark Patch, one of the most degenerate cards printed in the modern era ( Expanded Era!? ), only it brings back Water Energy instead of Darkness Energy. Energy acceleration breaks one of the few steadfast restrictions a player faces in this game, and is always extremely powerful. When this acceleration comes in the form of a mere Item card, it is clearly going to see a lot of play. While Dark Patch isn't in Standard anymore, we do have Max Elixir, and it is one of the most played cards in the format, providing a lynchpin for a majority of the decks played. In a Water deck, while not strictly superior in every way ( You do still need a means by which to get the Water Energy in the discard pile before accelerating, and Battle Compressor is not in format. ) it is definitely an upgrade. You do not run the risk of "missing", and this also means you do not need to play a many copies of your basic Water Energy cards. With Elixir, decks run a minumum of 9 Basic Energy ( Yveltal Garbodor: A deck running a real risk of whiffing on Eliir ) and with Aqua Patch, you can get away with fewer.
This being said, lets not overreact to this card. Right now, there are really two Water decks in the format: Quad Lapras and "Waterbox".
Quad Lapras is interesting...it is as much a mill/soft lock deck as it is a traditional deck. While builds run Max Elixir as a means to accelerate energy, most lists run less than the full playset, signifying that the card, while useful, is not totally in line with what the deck's "Plan A" is. Would Quad Lapras even embraced Aqua Patch? My assumption is actually no! This is a rare instance where Max Elixit fits more with the shell that currently exists for the archetype. The deck runs no Ultra Ball, and no Professor Sycamore. The deck does not need Ultra Ball, Nest Ball or Dive Ball are better. It does not run Sycamore because it does not want to discard resources for it's long game, and it has a bit of a clash with the "stockpiling" of a hand that Collect offers. The key point to take from this is that the deck does not run the two most popular means of actually discarding cards. In addition, the deck takes great care not to give up KOs. You can run into a lot of games where profitably putting Water Energy into the discard pile is legitimately going to be a challenge! The deck doesn't care a ton about coming out of the gates hot with energy cards, as a lot of times you prefer to Collect opposed to do damage even if the option is on the table. That being said, players are adjusting their lists, and play style, to better suit themselves against Lapras now that it is a known quantity, and as this happens, I think skewing a list to be able to "flip the switch" and go aggressive seems like a natural evolution of the deck. I watched as Phinnegan Lynch played a very methodical and defensive game against Michael Pramawat's Lapras deck with Darkrai. If Pramawat's build had been able to play the aggressive game a bit better, it could have certainly punished Lynch's otherwise "correct" play.
As for "Waterbox", this is a deck that clearly wants Aqua Patch. Not only is the card a likely upgrade, but I suspect we'll see lists than run as many as 4 Patch and 4 Elixir as well. While the deck uses Lapras, the deck is built to play a traditional game of Pokemon and actually be aggressive. While Lapras is the core attacker, it also runs Glaceon EX, Palkia EX, Regice, and Manaphy EX traditionally. The archetype hasn't really gotten a lot of momentum, and I'm confident the "best" build hasn't been found yet. With the release of Aqua Patch, I am sure that everyone will be exploring the deck, and we'll see how it plays out.
That being said, I'm not sure that this deck actually ends up being that strong. I am cautiously pessimistic on this one, which is unfortunate because this is a deck I'd love to be playing. The big problem is that we need to be honest about Aqua Patch's performance compared to Max Elixir. Patch is certainly an upgrade over Elixir...but it is only an upgrade. ( Yes, you can get additional copies now, beyond 4, which is not negligible either. ) The problem is, the issues keeping Water Box from being competitive right now are not addressed by this upgrade. You get a better Elixir, but Elixir is already good in this deck. The deck has issues in that Grass Pokemon are real threats. I just can't see any build of this deck being strong enough against Decidueye Vileplume, even with Patch. Quad Lapras is strong against Vileplume because it runs enough Energy Removal to be able to strip the deck of it's attacking options, and even if you try a hybrid Waterbox build with these options it seems unlikely you'll be able to provide enough energy pressure. You're going to struggle against Mega Rayquaza as well, no matter how reliably you can pump energy into play. The card improves the deck's performance, for sure, but it doesn't really give the deck anything new, which means I still feel like it will fall short. I feel like Decidueye Vileplume, Mega Rayquaza, and Darkrai Giratina are the best decks in the pre-Guardians' format, and two of those at the very least will be good against it. This analysis is again assuming that lists stay somewhat similar to what they look like now.
Tapu Lele changes the dynamic in which every deck will be built. First of all, the new Tapu improves the consistency of any deck. We've all played with Jirachi EX, so the card is very relatable in terms of the impact it will have in terms of consistency. The big differences are that the Tapu has far more HP, and actually has a viable attack. With how powerful decks are now, it is unlikely this will ever be a primary attacker, but it is a nice back up plan for any deck. The other big difference is that this is a GX and not an EX. While a Basic Pokemon, and functionally it will play just like an EX, except in regards to cards which key off of EXes. The main interaction that works against it is with Hoopa EX. Hoopa can't end up grabbing it. In most decks this won't be a major downside, but in Mega Rayquaza and Mega Gardevoir decks, it actually matters quite a bit.
Since Mega Rayquaza and Gardevoir both want wide benches and run Dragonite EX, I expect them to run 2+ copies of this card in addition to Hoopas and Shaymins. You can trim some of your Supporters to fit them, as in most cases ( Not under Hex Maniac, a card which will be more popular and threatening due to this card, or Garbodor. ) these function AS Supporters. In other decks, I expect to see a copy or two, mainly because it lets you convert your Ultra Balls into Supporters. While this improves the draw power of decks...you can reliably choose between N and Sycamore. You can run a lone Teammates that is easily searchable. It also makes cards like Lysandre, Hex Maniac, Pokemon Ranger, Ninja Boy, and Deliquent more reliable. Previously they were all situational cards ( Lysandre to a far lesser extent ) and without Battle Compressor to search them up, they were difficult to line up correctly. With a copy or two of Tapu Lele, all of these cards become much, much better.
The key change to decks that I see coming from this is that I expect certain "Sycamore/N" slots will be shifted into Tapus, but not too many. You don't want to wind up drawing the GX Pokemon while not having the right targets left in the deck, so there is a necessary balance. Tapu Lele can't grab VS Seekers, after all! You can only lean so hard on the card. Also, while we've seen some decks run a nice array of utility Supporters before, I expect this count to jump up dramatically. Tired of getting jammed by untimely Deliquents? Get used to it, I expect it to happen far more often. Decks and cards which are a lot worse against Hex Maniac or Pokemon Ranger will be more questionable choices going forward. I also suspect decks which want to run a more substantial Ninja Boy toolbox will be able to do so. I soured pretty quickly as the format evolved on the Ninja Boy/Tauros GX gimmick, mainly because it was so hard to line up when you needed it, but I expect it to be much better going forward.
My gut reaction is that Tapu Lele is great for the game, and will improve both consistency and options in decks. I'm a bit cautious that the ease by which silver bullet cards can now be drawn into may push some of the more gimmicky decks from viability, which is a problem. I'm also predicting we'll all hate Delinquent even more than we do now: Oranguru may see a spike in play in retaliation if that is true.
I think that Tapu Lele is going to do absolute wonders for the strength of Mega Rayquaza, so I am personally extremely excited to get ahold of them. Since the card is not in the 60cards deck builder yet, seeing how it is not yet released, the list I would use initially to test would be to run 2 copies of the card, alongside a Supporter count of: 2 Prof. Sycamore, 2 N, 1 Skyla, 1 Teammates, 1 Hex Maniac, 2 Lysandre. It doesn't change my numbers that much, but the impact it will have on deck performance will be profound. With decks being able to reliably draw into Sycamores and Hex Maniacs, I do expect Vileplume to take a pretty substantial hit. Vileplume Decidueye is also a deck that may not be best suited to taking advantage of Tapu Lele, either, because bench space is so tight as it is. Decks have already started to embraced Professor Kukui, and that is another card that will benefit from Tapu Lele's printing. As a deck builder, I am certainly excited for this sort of toolbox viability.
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