Experts' corner

Chris Fulop

Anything Goes

With Multiple Regionals Featuring Guardian's Rising In The Books, We Are Left Looking At One Of The Healthiest Formats In Pokémon History!

25. 06. 2017 by Chris Fulop

Hey again everyone!

With "US Nationals", Intercontinentals coming up, there is a lot on the line for a lot of players. Since the release of Guardians Rising, a set which stands to be one of the most influencial sets in Pokémon history, we've seen a lot of changes to the metagame. With Seattle Regionals, we saw 24 of the top 32 decks placed by Garbodor decks. Since then, decks have adapted, slowing down and running less Item cards. We saw the rise of Stage 2 decks, something I never would have suspected. Metagross-GX and Vikavolt decks both saw success the next week, and Greninja and Decidueye Vileplume decks are still present in the format as well. There was a deck that placed in the top 16 at Mexico's Regionals which I have taken quite a liking to as well, which is a Gallade deck. I'll be going over that one more in depth later in the article.

The most important thing to take away from the fallout of the past month or so of Regionals is that the format is not only wide open, but still very much evolving. (For the first time in a very long time, even quite literally!) While the pieces are slowly coming into place, the format is far from solved, which should lead to a very exciting experience at what I am going to assuming will be the largest Pokémon tournament ever held.

Anyways, I want to go over 3 of the decks I've personally been putting the most emphasis on with my testing, and then a few additional archetypes which are a bit newer to the scene that are worth looking at as well.

Mega Rayquaza-EX

The back story on this build of Rayquaza is a bit interesting. I was at league on Tuesday night at Ground Zero in Strongsville, Ohio ( Shameless advertisement! ) when my friend Joey tells me about this 2-2 Lycanroc line he added into his Rayquaza build. I immediately call it terrible, and more or less chastise him for adding a "useless" stage 1 line into an otherwise very streamlined deck.

This was before Seattle, so flash forward to afterwards, and Garbodor/Drampa/Tauros stuff pretty much took over the format. To top it off, Sudowoodo was everywhere, which was a huge problem for the deck. Lycanroc not only could OHKO a Drampa or a Tauros for FCC due to Weakness, but it also was minimally impacted by Sudowoodo's bench limitations. This is a deck that doesn't really have a good GX attack to use either, and Lycanroc's is strong! To top it off, while you don't really need a situtional Lysandre as an Ability as a selling point for the card, it is still a nice cherry on top of a package that is already alluring.

It turns out that Jose Marrero was also on the Lycanroc wagon for the deck, and beyond this we had come to some similar conclusions for the archetype. We kind of met close to the middle on ideas, but ended up pulling away slightly in different directions the more we tested. Let me go over some of the card choices one by one.

3-3 Rayquaza-EX/Mega Rayquaza-EX: This is the normal count, but I opt to run the Dragon type Rayquaza EXes. I just want to be able to avoid a Lightning weakness now that the type is seeing substantial play.

3 Shaymin-EX: With Tapu Lele, Hoopa-EX, and a pair of Rescue Stretcher, I've been fine with only 3 Shaymin-EX. The deck rarely needs to use 4 Shaymin-EX in a game where you don't also have one in the discard already, so Rescue Stretcher acts as a wildcard for the 4th Shaymin that has much stronger application elsewhere.

2 Hoopa-EX/2 Tapu Lele: Both of these counts are pretty standard, and are unlikely to ever change in this archetype.

2-1 Lycanroc-GX: I already covered why I like the line in the deck, but I do want to go over the 2-1 choice. You really don't need too many Lycanroc-GX in any given game, but against decks that you want it against, a 1-1 line is very fickle. It is too easy for Rockruff to get Lysandre'd and knocked out. From there it is easy for it to be kept off the field indefinitely. In most cases, you could argue that chasing Lysandre lets an active Mega Rayquaza go wild, but in many cases, you opt to go with Lycanroc because of Sudowoodo, which makes the Rayquaza plan much weaker the whole time. By adding a 2nd Basic ( which the deck always likes anyways ) you can force out Lycanroc, and you can also loop Lycanrocs easier off the pair of Stretchers.

1 Oricorio: Oricorio is your Vespiquen counter, which otherwise is a bit of a mess for this deck. With Dragonite-EX and a pair of Stretchers, it is very easy to just spam this bird the whole matchup.

1 Tapu Koko: The Promo Koko is a nice hefty free retreat Pokémon, but it also abuses DCE to do 20 against the opponent's whole field. The main roles for it are to counter Gyarados by KOing all of their damage Gyarados (Hex Maniac turns off any Pokémon they run to protect their bench from damage) and to give you a means to finish off 250 HP Pokémon. It is useful against Metagross decks, where you can Emerald Break for 240, then finish it off for 20 while also leaving their entire field of Metagross in future KO range. While Kukui may be slightly better against Metagross and other 250 HP GX Pokémon, Koko is a great opener and also directly counters Gyarados and thus has a wider application which I prefer.

1 Sudowoodo: Sudowoodo is great in mirror match, but is also really important in giving you a chance against the Raichu/Lycanroc deck. You need to keep their bench thin to limit their Raichus and hopefully hunt their puppies. The matchup is actually totally winnable...not good, but attacking with Lycanroc and Tapu Leles and transitioning to a late game Mega Rayquaza if appropriate. It gets a lot harder if they can fill their bench and abuse Raichu.

1 Dragonite EX: Despite the Stretchers, you still want Dragonite-EX as a 1-of in the deck. It is still just such a safe, reliable way to get back Pokémon and re-fill your bench. It has great synergy with all of your Pokémon with Abilities which trigger when you bench them, and also work with the pair of Unown.

2 Unown: I know I have Unowns in and out of the deck for ages now, but the card is actually really great in the deck right now. First off, it fills a bench space. It also replaces itself, and provides a minimal amount of draw power. You effectively get to play a 58 card deck. Unown works really well with Rescue Stretcher as it also lets you replace Stretcher from your hand when otherwise you can't use it.

Unown has great applications with Mallow, letting you immediately draw into what you just stacked your deck with. They help alleviate some of the downsides of only running 3 Shaymin-EX. While I don't run Oranguru, Unowns stockpile on the bench to help give you some strength against late game Ns.

Where Unown actually ends up being an all-star is against Sudowoodo! One of the big problems you face with Sudowoodo is that you get left with only 4 Benched Pokémon...and this often chokes you off of being able to play Shaymin, Hoopa, or Tapu Lele! The deck is built with an engine that relies on using these Pokémon to actually flow, and Sudowoodo not just gimps Mega Ray's damage output, it also just shuts down the deck's draw power. You can sit an Unown on the bench, and when you need to play any of these Pokémon, you can free up a bench space and draw a card. It ends up being really important, because when you think about it, Sudowoodo just ends up making Mega Ray 2 hit things, while likely being 2 hit in return. This isn't a game ending set of exchanges at all, the issue comes from the fact that you are stifled on draw and struggle to continue to set up.

A line I really like is to crack an Unown, and play either a Hoopa-EX or a Dragonite-EX. Then you can play a Hex Maniac (you'll often still have a Sky Field in play, which just was a blank due to Sudowoodo) and you can then bench all the Pokémon you got off of Draggy or Hoopa and actually OHKO something. You can't Hex and then play one of those EXes, so the Unown actually opens up the play frequently. This does make me want a 2nd Hex Maniac.

Unown seems low impact on the surface but actually combines so well with so many other cards in the deck that they play well better than they honestly look like they would.

4 DCE/4 Fighting Energy: Pretty standard counts, even if I do like a 5th Basic Energy that I couldn't fit in this particular build.

2 Prof. Sycamore: This is too good a draw card not to play. While Tapu Lele does help at getting ahold of it, and you don't really want to Sycamore often, it is one of your best late game Supporters, and you often burn through the first one early, and want a 2nd copy to increase the odds you can get it back with a late game Tapu Lele.

2 N: This is also one of the best Supporters in the game, and the same logic applies. I want a copy to grab early game, but also want to include enough copies that it is reasonable to expect to Lele for one late game as well.

1 Skyla/1 Mallow/1 Teammates: These all serve similar functions in that they grab specific cards for you. With Tapu Lele and VS Seekers, I like splitting up between them. Skyla is really reliable early game, and the least conditional to grabbing Ultra Ball and Sky Field and such. Teammates is the best option as your Pokémon actually get KOed, and Mallow is able to grab 2 cards on any turn you can also use Set Up or some degree of Unowns. They all are great, and I don't think I'd want any more than 1 copy of any of them. I'll use this section to discuss an omission of a card I see in a lot of decks: Pokémon Fan Club. I'm just not too high on the card. It isn't bad, I just think it is certainly worse than all 3 of these cards, and I could never justify adding an extra Supporter of similar function.

1 Hex Maniac: Hex Maniac is great in this deck, with so much additional draw power from it's Pokémon. I like 2 copies because, alongside Tapu Lele, it is a lot easier to maintain a chain of them (especially with only 3 VS Seeker) and that is alluring. The card is great against Vikavolt and Metagross GX, as well as Greninja and Volcanion, so it has a lot of uses. Every time I play two, I feel like I draw them too often and they clunk up the deck. Every time I run one, I end up needing them more. I love and hate both counts, so this is far fro locked in stone.

1 Lysandre: I really do like 2 Lysandre in the deck, but wit a 2-1 Lycanroc line, and 2 Stretchers, it is totally reasonable to get by with just one copy.

3 VS Seeker: Originally I started playing with 3 copies as players trimmed them in this anti-Garbodor witch hunt effort where they just started gutting their decks of Item cards. I feel like that was an overkill effort, but the 3 copies of VS Seeker in this deck actually played really well, especially with Tapu Lele. Often I'd need VS Seeker to perform late game Lysandres, and the Lycanroc line alleviated some of that stress on the card as well. VS Seeker also is an awkward draw early on as they do clog hands for your Set Ups. I don't think 4 is bad by any means, but 3 as played well enough and the deck needs to free up space.

4 Sky Field: I'd run as many as 6 of this card if I could, so I just go with the maximum they let me.

4 Ultra Ball: Pretty mandatory in all decks.

2 Rayquaza Spirit Link: I like both 2 and 3 copies, but with Skyla, Teammates, and Mallow to get them, I feel 2 is fine. You really do need to end the first turn with a manual Mega Evolution though. The thinner count is also offset by the fact you have a 2-1 Lycanroc line as back up attackers.

3 Mega Turbo: Also, pretty standard, I don't think this needs explained.

2 Float Stone/1 Escape Rope: I had been doing 2 Float Stone and 1 Olympia for a very long time now, but I've hated the Olympia, and found myself wanting a Rope often. Olympia seems can grab it with Tapu Lele! It can be re-used with VS Seeker! It can be played under Vileplume...a deck seeing a steep drop off in popularity, and a deck you already improve against by just having access to Tapu Leles. Even if Olympia greatly increased the frequency at which you had access to a switching effect, I almost never had the luxury of being able to actually use my Supporter allocation for a turn on it. Like, I am not exaggerating when I say I maybe used it twice in 200 games. I finally just cut it for the Escape Rope which has been really helpful.

2 Rescue Stretcher: I feel like I've justified this count in passing through discussing all of the other cards, so I'll just stress how great a wild card this card ends up being. It just glues the deck together really well. I know Jose was hesitant to embrace the card at first just because it fed Garbodor more Items, but in reality that matchup ends up being way more about Sudowoodo or Garbotoxin than being beaten by the actual Garbodors, and I'm not willing to compromise my performance against the rest of the field due to it. This is especially true as Garbodor's percentage of the metagame continues to shrink drastically.

Overall I feel like Mega Rayquaza is still a very good deck choice in this metagame. The more the meta widens, the better positioned it is. It makes up a small percentage of the field, and as a result, it becomes less and less justifiable for people to continue to run Sudowoodo. As people need to combat more decks, Sudowoodo's presence should decrease.

Rayquaza's "problem" cards...and I use this loosely as they are all combatable...are Sudowoodo, Garbotoxin Garbodor, Vespiquen, Jolteon, and Zoroark. The only deck right now that runs Garbotoxin Garbodor is actually better suited using the Sudowoodo they also frequently run. Vespiquen is actually reasonable, especially with Oricorio. Jolteon sees play alongside Vespiquen, and is oddly of minimal impact in that matchup due to the Ocicorio plan. It is a bigger pain alongside Espeon GX, or any of the other Eeveelution decks, but also manageable. Zoroark is an interesting card, and not that difficult to manage resources around. Unown has been great at this, letting you go wide on your bench for key KOs and then dump down after if you need to manage against Zoroark's attack. Lycanroc is also just very strong against Zoroark decks too.


This deck looks so unbelievably fun. I made a few slight adjustments from a list I saw that placed in Mexico recently. I sadly do not have the player's name available to me, but I know they lost playing for top 8 to a Greninja deck, which admittedly seems like a chore of a matchup.

The basically premise of this deck is to just loop Gallades all game, hitting for as much as 180 damage in one swing with its 130 damage output with a Supporter, plus a Choice Band, plus Prof. Kukui. Taken alongside the spread damage the new Tapu Koko puts out, Gallade becomes extremely dangerous.

The deck's biggest appeal to me is just how extremely consistent it is! With Gallade's Abilty, and a 2-2 Octillery line, you can expect the deck to set up beautifully. Beyond this, ignoring Tapu Lele, who is actually not a very easy OHKO, the deck is all non-EX attackers, and forces the opponent to actually slog through taking 6 KOs. Lets look at the card counts!

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