Experts' corner

Gabriel Semedo

Rayquaza deserves attention for Worlds - Part II

In this article Gabriel continues his analysis about Rayquaza GX.

08/20/2018 by Gabriel Semedo

Hello again! I'm back to bring the second part of our review on the Rayquaza GX (CLS; 109)  deck. Many people are talking good and bad things about the deck, many saying that the deck is too aggressive and loses to itself by discarding their own resources and others saying that the deck simply is not that good. I still find the deck excellent and it hits head-on against Tier 1 of the current metagame, I believe if players do not prepare properly to face Rayquaza-GX, the deck will amaze the world.

After reviewing the standard Rayquaza GX (CLS; 109)  list in the previous article, it's time to look at the other two more important parts, which are the other deck options to compose the Rayquaza-GX deck and the main metagame matchups. We know the deck has potential, but we must understand in depth how we can adapt the standard list of the previous article to the metagame we expect from the Worlds, so it is fundamental to analyze the matchups and then think of cards that can compose the Rayquaza-GX deck in order to keep the deck strong and prepared against possible threats. There is much to be talked about in this article, so let's get down to business.

Other card options

Cards I really want to fit into the deck

2nd Pal Pad:  Pal Pad (FLF; 92) is really good in the Rayquaza GX (CLS; 109)  deck. In a few turns the deck gets thin and Pal Pad can return two supporters of your choice from the discard to the deck, which means the chance to find these supporters is high. In a deck with uncontrolled discards, I find it interesting to use a second copy to ensure I will get a better use of my Supporters. I might take out a Guzma and add another copy of Pal Pad.

Shaymin (SLG; 7) : I miss a non-GX Pokémon in the deck that can serve as a good attacker. After some research, I came to the conclusion that the best possible attacker for the deck is the Shaymin (SLG; 7)  SLG. If any of my Pokémon gets knocked out, it hits for 30 + 90 damage, totaling 120 damage. With Fighting Fury Belt its damage would reach to 130, which is the damage I need. With 130 damage I can knock out any basic non-GX format, but mostly Baby Buzzwole and that's wonderful. Against a Buzzroc deck with 4 Buzzwole Baby, Rayquaza-GX deck has disadvantage because you have to use Rayquaza-GX to deal with a lot of non-GX Pokémon, but with Shaymin SLG the game can change, since Shaymin will knock out a Baby Buzzwole as soon as a Rayquaza GX (CLS; 109)  is knocked out. The opponent can not ignore the Shaymin SLG because it will be there energized to hit for 130 whenever a Pokémon is knocked out. In addition Shaymin is perfect for knocking out Lycanroc-GX, so the opponent will not want to evolve Rockruff into Lycanroc-GX to use Lycanroc-GX's ability. It is still possible for Buzzroc to divert from Shaymin SLG and knock out a benched Pokémon, but without a doubt the game is already more difficult for Buzzroc with 4 Baby Buzz. In addition to its "Rally Back" attack, we have the "Flippity Flap" attack, which lets you shuffle your hand into the deck and draw 6 cards. It can be useful to setup if you had a bad start. I do not know yet where to fit in the Shaymin. Maybe I would drop a draw Supporter, especially if I already have a 2nd Pal Pad (FLF; 92)  in the list. Shaymin can suffice the one less draw supporter since its attack can help you out if you're drawing dead.

Gardenia (UPR; 124) : This card was suggested by my friend Lucas Vareda. I found the idea very interesting, because Gardenia would also be a great card against Buzzroc. Usually the Baby Buzzwole's Sledgehammer hits for about 70 ~ 100 damage, with Diancie Prism Star, Strong Energy and possibly a Choice Band. Gardenia can heal 80 damage of those  that have grass energy attached, which would virtually nullify a Baby Buzzwole attack on the Rayquaza-GX. This extra turn that Gardenia brings to the Rayquaza GX (CLS; 109)  deck may be a good enough of a game changer for the Rayquaza-GX deck to beat Buzzroc. Other than that the Gardenia has a very good effect that can be useful in several other games. Healing 80 damage is a lot and virtually prevents your Rayquaza-GX from being knocked out on two hits. We still got Pal Pad (FLF; 92)  in the deck, which we can return Gardenia to the deck to be used again.

Marshadow (SLG; 45) : I'm very keen to use this card in this deck for a few reasons. Firstly because it is a "Mini Shaymin-EX", its Ability causes you and your opponent to shuffle their hand into the deck deck and draw 4 cards. This ability will offer extra cards after emptying the entire hand by initial setup. Consequently the opponent also shuffles the hand and draws 4 cards, but for the opponent it is bad to start with an initial hand of 4 cards, even more against a deck as explosive as the Rayquaza GX (CLS; 109) . In short, Marshadow SLG in theory can speed up your setup and slow down your opponent's setup at the same time, without having to spend a supporter for it. The Marshadow SLG is Psychic and can be found via Mysterious Treasure, so access to it is pretty easy. Still speaking of turn 1, after Marshadow SLG's ability, we can use Rayquaza-GX's GX attack to draw 10 cards or use Shaymin SLG, so drawing 4 cards via Marshadow SLG will not be a big problem. Marshadow SLG  only works once, then it used it stays on the bench without being able to offer anything. The ideal world is to discard it with Parallel City to be able to use again with Rescue Stretcher, but it is not so easy to make it happen. I think of taking the SUM Oranguru to put the Marshadow SLG, I would like to keep both, but the deck has no bench space and I have not found room for both yet.

2nd Field Blower (GRI; 125) : Of course the 2nd Field Blower would be welcome in the deck, but I have no idea what to take out from the deck to put that second copy. I would probably get rid of a Fighting Fury Belt. With 2 Parallel City and 2 Field Blower, I think I can do better with the move I'm looking for, which is to use Parallel City to clear my own bench and then use Field Blower and gain two more bench spaces.


Looks good, but I'm not sure if I should play it

Devoured Field (CIN; 93) : Devoured Field's effect is only useful to reduce in one energy the knockouts in 190 hp Pokémon like Buzzwole-GX or Tapu Lele-GX or Lycanroc-GX with the help of Devoured Field + Fighting Fury Belt. I would use Devoured Field instead of Parallel City if I decide to abandon the idea of using 2 Field Blowers and 2 Parallel City to control my own bench. I would use Devoured Field just to get rid of the opponent's Parallel City and take advantage of the two copies of Field Blower from the deck, as the Field Blower loses its meaning without Parallel City. No doubt the Field Blower will always be a useful card in the metagame, but not decisive enough to get two slots in the deck.

Lusamine (CIN; 96) : Lusamine would basically work like a Pal Pad (FLF; 92) , but by returning the Supporter to the hand, for a price to use a Supporter for the turn, which is tricky. In addition it can return Stadium cards and this is interesting if we use Devoured Field and Parallel City together because I can deny Parallel City with Devoured Field from the discard or I can take the Parallel City from the discard and deny the Devoured Field. Finally, Lusamine brings versatility with discarded stadiums and Supporter. If we use two copies of Lusamine, we can do the Supporter and Stadium looping, this would be good to recycle the Gardenia (UPR; 124) . The problem is that Lusamine is a Supporter and that means you will no longer use Professor Sycamore or Guzma in a given turn to use Lusamine instead.

3rd Tapu Lele GX (GRI; 60) : Just for the sake of safety and to gain a bit more versatility on the deck, especially if the deck has tech supporters as Gardenia, for example.


Wouldn't play it, but it's still worth mentioning

Energy Switch (CLS; 129) : Energy Switch will enable you to get a Rayquaza GX (CLS; 109)  with three energies without depending on the luck factor of the Max Elixir. Just as the Energy Switch is used on the Lapras-GX / Octillery deck to ensure you always to have attackers ready to attack, I do not see the Rayquaza-GX deck very different just because the Rayquaza-GX relies on energies on the board to hit a high damage. There were a few times I missed Energy Switch to power a third Rayquaza-GX, but most of the time I thought the deck was well resolved in energy drops with only Max Elixir and the Rayquaza-GX's ability. Energy Switch also opens the possibility of playing other Pokémon on the deck, such as Pheromosa-GX or Xurkitree-GX. I believe that after the rotation the Energy Switch is needed in the Rayquaza-GX deck, since we will no longer have the Max Elixir.

Pheromosa GX (UPR; 140) : Pheromosa-GX would be interesting at two specific times. The first turn of a game and by the end of the game. At the beginning of the game it would be cool to knock out Rockruff with Fighting Fury Belt and Remoraid or at least hit for 30 so later Rayquaza GX (CLS; 109)  can knock out with greater ease. At the end of the game its GX attack would be responsible for knocking out a Pokémon-GX and getting the last two prizes. The problem using it is that it will not be easy to energize it with two grass energies, since it is a card at the end of the game and probably the Max Elixir will already be in the discard pile. To work fine, I think the deck should use Energy Switch along with the Pheromosa-GX, so it becomes a surprise factor that the opponent does not expect and you can power it in just one turn.

I would probably put it in the place of Tapu Koko-GX if it was to use it because the two cards have similar purposes in the deck, although I find Tapu Koko-GX much better.

Xurkitree GX (UPR; 142) : I do not think Xurkitree GX (UPR; 142)  has much to do with the aggressive concept of the deck and therefore would not use it, but surely the deck would gain quite unusual features and would be able to surprise the opponent. Its Ability would be the main surprise, as Xurkitree-GX alone is able to win against a deck that plays special energies only, such as some current lists of Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX. The "Rumbling Wires" attack is reasonably good, deals 100 damage, and discards the top card from the opponent's deck, but I see it being used only if its ability is really strong in a matchup. Its GX attack is extremely situational and will rarely be decisive, but the opportunity may appear and the Xurkitree-GX may surprise once more.

Wishful Baton (BUS; 128) : This card was played in some Rayquaza GX (CLS; 109)  lists in Japan and theoretically makes sense to be part of the deck. If the Wishful Baton works, it will move the three energies from the knocked out Rayquaza-GX to another Pokémon (preferably another Rayquaza-GX), keeping the energies in the field and causing the Rayquaza-GX to continue hit hard. The problem is that Field Blower is very popular in the format and there would be few success cases of this card. Even Buzzroc is currently using Field Blower as it is tricky to let the opponent use their Pokémon Tool freely. Even if the format did not have Field Blower, it still would not be 100% convinced to put the Wishful Baton. Rayquaza-GX deck already powers up very fast and manages to keep up its energies throughout the game in most cases, so I'd say the Wishful Baton is a little unnecessary. I prefer the Fighting Fury Belt (FFB) because the +40 HP can prevent a knockout and this is much more valuable than being knocked out and transferring your energies to another Pokémon. If you stay alive for a turn because of the FFB, I believe you already have the extra time you need to win the game. By staying alive, the opponent does not get a prize and his attacker is still alive and able to strike hard again. Otherwise, the +10 FFB damage helps on multiple cases, as stated above.

2-2 Garbodor (BKP; 57) : We know how Garbodor (BKP; 57)  is strong and annoying and only costs your deck 4 slots. It is capable of damaging the main metagame decks like Buzzroc (Octillery, Tapu Lele-GX, Diancie Prism Star and Lycanroc-GX), Necrozma-GX / Malamar, Tapu Lele-GX, and Zoroark-GX, Tapu Lele-GX). Not to mention that the deck starts to have an autowin against Quad Hoopa SLG instead of an autoloss. With 4 Mysterious Treasure and 3 Ultra Ball it is easy to get out a Garbodor BKP and we have at least 3 Float Stone and 3 Fighting Fury Belt to activate Garbodor BKP's ability. I think the deck would need to make some adjustments to fit the Garbodor BKP well into the deck, but overall the Rayquaza GX (CLS; 109)  deck can fit a 2-2 line of Garbodor.

Even so, I would not use Garbodor BKP in this deck at any moment, only if it is extremely necessary. The deck would need 4 spaces to put the Garbodor BKP in addition to some adaptations, which would make the deck slower and less aggressive. Even if the deck uses most of its abilities early in the first few turns, it is still necessary to use some abilities at the end of the game. In many cases you will need to put down another Rayquaza-GX to get extra energy and consequently +30 extra damage, or Tapu Lele-GX to win. And of course, as I said above, Field Blower is a very popular card and that means there will be a few times when Garbodor BKP will be effective. Without Garbodor BKP I believe that the Ray-GX deck already has great features to beat the main metagame decks, so I'd rather use Garbodor BKP spaces to invest in consistency or some specific tech cards that takes up less space.


Rayquaza-GX vs the metagame. Analyzing the matchups

Buzzwole / Lycanroc-GX with 4 Baby Buzzwole (35/65)

This matchup becomes more difficult the more Baby Buzzwole the opponent is using. That's because the Rayquaza GX (CLS; 109)  deck has only Rayquaza-GX itself and Tapu Koko-GX as attackers. While the Sledgehammer is beating 50 ~ 100 damage, the game is still favorable for Rayquaza-GX, but when you draw the first two prizes, the game becomes much more difficult, which is natural in a game against Buzzroc. Sledgehammer will go on to knock out a GX Pokémon in a hit and this starts to overuse the Rayquaza-GX deck, which needs to keep putting Pokémon-GX to attack. Also has Beast Ring, which will also open the possibility of Baby Buzzwole to knock out a GX Pokémon with a single attack. In short, the exchange is unfavorable. If the Buzzroc player is smart, he will not put down GX Pokémon on the board throughout the game and will save Lycanroc-GX to use in the last round of the game to take the final two prizes with his Dangerous Rogue GX attack.

That's why I want to put cards like Shaymin SLG and Gardenia (UPR; 124) . The two cards would be very good for dealing with Baby Buzzwole. Shaymin SLG can knock out a Baby Buzzwole with the Rally Back attack and Gardenia can heal all damage caused by an early game Sledgehammer. I believe that with these two cards the game will come close to the 50/50.

Buzzwole-GX / Garbodor BKP: (70/30)

Here we have a completely different case, though it's a Buzzwole deck as well. The BuzzGarb deck uses 4 Buzzwole-GX and the deck is totally dependent on them, so now the Rayquaza GX (CLS; 109)  deck will be able to draw two prizes for each knocked out Pokémon and that makes all the difference. The BuzzGarb deck has a very slow start and depends on the opponent drawing 2 prizes to activate the Beast Ring and start being explosive. Rayquaza-GX is explosive from the start and will probably get prizes first. My tip for this match is so you do not get the two prizes without having a good setup. You do not have to rush to get the first two prizes since the BuzzGarb deck is slow and only gets fast if you get two prizes. If you "lose" one or two attacking turns from Latias Prism Star early in the game to ensure a good table, at the end of the game you will be able to knock out a Buzzwole-GX per turn even if the opponent is very explosive, has Garbodor BKP in play and uses N to leave your hand almost empty.

Necrozma-GX / Malamar:  (50/50)

As you might have noticed the Rayquaza GX (CLS; 109)  deck is a deck about knocking out GX Pokémon and getting prizes. This is no different here. The idea is to knock out as much of the GX Pokémon as possible and not care so much about the Malamar on the opponent's field. From the beginning of the game the opponent will avoid putting down GX Pokémon on the board, although this is a complicated task to do. Without GX Pokémon in the opponent's field, you will see yourself bound to knock out some non-GX Pokémon. Then the opponent will try to make a Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX or a Marshadow-GX and will attack with Dawn Wings Necrozma's GX attack to knock out a Rayquaza-GX and stay immune to damage in the next turn. From there the game will be a knockout GX Pokémon per turn. You have Rayquaza-GX and Tapu Koko-GX and the opponent has Necrozma-GX and Malamar to energize whatever they want. Fighting Fury Belt can be instrumental to avoid an opponent's knockout and Parallel City is going to spoil his setup a bit, just be careful when putting down Parallel City because your opponent can remove his GX Pokémon in play and then you can end up getting no good targets for Rayquaza GX (CLS; 109)  to knock out.

Zoroark-GX / Magcargo with no Sylveon-EX: (75/25)

Zoroark-GX / Magcargo with Sylveon-EX: (55/45)

It's because of the matchup against Zoroark-GX that Rayquaza GX (CLS; 109)  excels in the metagame and can come strong for the Worlds Championship. Rayquaza-GX can play well against Zoroark-GX in a way that only Buzzroc has been able to play this entire season. Rayquaza-GX can knock out a Zoroark-GX without major problems and soon in the first turns while the Zoroark-GX cannot do the same. That sums up the game a bit, but I want to go further.

The Zoroark-GX deck also has a hard time knocking out popular Pokémon from Buzzroc and Malamar decks like Buzzwole FLI, Buzzwole-GX, Lycanroc-GX, Necrozma-GX and Ultra Necroma-GX. The difference is that the Zoroark-GX deck always has the option to knock something fragile and important off the bench of those decks. Against Buzzroc you can knock out Rockruff, Octillery and Diancie Prism Star and against Malamar you can knock Inkay and Malamar. Each knockout on these bench Pokémon loses strength and speed, making it increasingly difficult for the opponent to keep up the pressure until Zoroark-GX can take control of the match and win. Against Rayquaza GX (CLS; 109) , the Zoroark-GX deck has nothing to knock out, as Rayquaza-GX only depends on itself to make the deck work. It even energizes himself, it attacks by itself and in some cases it can be the one to draw some card through its GX attack. Zoroark-GX deck has no choice but to hit Rayquaza-GX and try to knock it out in two hits. No matter how strong a Zoroark-GX deck is and will remain for a long time (I'll post an article on Zoroark-GX post rotation), the Rayquaza-GX deck leaves no alternatives for Zoroark-GX to work its thousands of features. Enhanced Hammer does not work, Guzma and Counter Catcher does not matter. The cards that can help are Team Flare Grunt, Plumeria and Delinquent, but even so I find little to prevent Rayquaza-GX from destroying everything.

Against Buzzroc and Malamar, a Zoroark-GX / Magcargo deck has Mew EX, to have the option to knock out Buzzwole and Necrozma-GX in one hit. Already against Rayquaza-GX the alternative to knock out the Rayquaza-GX in a hit would be the Sylveon-EX. The Sylveon-EX has an attack called "Dress Up" and for the cost of two colorless energies it deals 30 damage +30 if Sylveon-EX has a tool, totaling 60. If this tool is a Choice band, the damage goes to 90 , which means 180 since Rayquaza-GX is weak to fairy types. Okay, we have a "Mew EX" for Pokémon from weakness to fairy, but that does not mean we have a favorable match even with it on the deck.

According to my tests, I had a hard time making the Sylveon-EX knock out a Rayquaza-GX and it got even more complicated when I had to get Sylveon-EX for the 2nd and 3rd time with the help of Puzzle of Time. Sylveon-EX requires more cards than the Mew EX requires to knock out a GX Pokémon.

Sylveon-EX needs Double Colorless Energy, Choice Band, Float Stone on the active Pokémon, and the opponent's Rayquaza GX (CLS; 109)  is still able to have a Fighting Fury Belt, so it would also need the Field Blower. We're talking about a combo of up to five cards. Mew EX needs 3 cards, only Mew EX, Double Colorless Energy, Float Stone on active Pokémon or Guzma.

Zoroark-GX now has Magcargo CLS and this makes it much easier to find the cards needed for the combo, but even with Magcargo the task is not so easy when you have a Rayquaza-GX energized knocking out all your Pokémon early in the game. The idea is to avoid sending the Zoroark-GX to the active position, so you preserve the Zoroark-GX and you can use its Ability "Trade" to draw cards and try to make the Sylveon-EX combo. Even so Rayquaza-GX can use Guzma and knock out his Zoroark-GX, leaving the opponent with no power to draw cards and forcing him to collect the cards needed to get out the Sylveon-EX. Cards such as Field Blower and Parallel City can also disrupt the Zoroark-GX setup.

Back in the day when Zoroark-GX Control deck had to dedicate some spaces of the deck to put cards like Weakness Policy, Enhanced Hammer and Mew EX to contain Buzzwole's strength, now the deck also needs to dedicate some spaces like Choice Band and Sylveon-EX to try contain to Rayquaza GX (CLS; 109) . We've come to a metagame point where the Zoroark-GX deck needs to dedicate many deck spaces to get a chance to win some important metagame decks like Buzzroc and Rayquaza-GX. I do not know if the Zoroark-GX Control deck can put so much tech cards without losing its strength and consistency against the rest of the metagame.

Zoroark-GX / Golisopod-GX: (60/40)

Matchups against Zoroark-GX variants are similar and I will not go into that much detail. I'll assume that somehow the ZoroPod also plays Sylveon-EX and at least two copies of Choice Band.

Golisopod-GX has two attacks can cause problems for Rayquaza GX (CLS; 109) . Armor Press will force the Rayquaza-GX to have at least one more energy in the field. If we theoretically need 7 energies on the board to knock out the Golisopod-GX, then we will need 8, as the Armor Press reduces 20 damage on the next turn. Golisopod-GX's GX attack brings problems to Rayquaza-GX, as its GX attack with the Choice Band attached reaches to the 180 damage and knocks out a Rayquaza-GX, while Golisopod-GX returns to the bench making it possible to send a non-GX Pokémon to the active.

Even though the game is not favorable, since the deck does not use Magcargo to increase consistency and the Rayquaza-GX will hunt the Zoroark-GX to decrease the deck's card-drawing power. 

Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX: (70/30)

Lycanroc-GX is an incredible card and has made a difference all season, but against the Rayquaza-GX its not very good I would say. Lycanroc-GX's ability is not that important since the only target is Rayquaza-GX and its GX attack although effective against Rayquaza-GX, it needs two energies and in some cases this will be a problem, perhaps the deck does not have enough turns to attach two energies on the same Pokémon. 

Zoroark-GX / Garbodor (35/65)

Here we have a Zoroark-GX variant that can beat Rayquaza-GX. A great weakness of the Rayquaza-GX deck is the Garbodor GRI because the deck uses many items to be aggressive. The idea here is to stop being so aggressive and start paying attention on how many items you are using. It is still necessary to get your setup going and you will need to spend some items for this, but it is possible to do your setup without having to play 8 items in the discard at the beginning. It will be inevitable that his discarding will have more than 9 items in the middle for the end of the game, so the idea is to knock out the Zoroark-GX whenever you can and avoid as much as you can throw items in the discard pile for Garbodor GRI to get easy knockouts. The problem is that you have no control over what you are going to discard or not, so basically you are dependent on luck. It is possible to make a slower game, with Latias Prism Star as the main card to get your energy drops and then after a few turns start to attack. It is also possible to put down Rayquaza-GX on the table without having to use its Ability, this would leave the setup considerably slower, but its discarding will have less items. This is a matchup that requires a lot of training to control the items, but I still believe that to have an advantage in this matchup the deck will have to go through some adaptations.

  • Drop Parallel City and Field Blower for 2 or 3 Devoured Field
  • Drop Pal Pad (FLF; 92)  for Lusamine
  • Drop some Fighting Fury Belt or don't play them at all
  • Play Oranguru UPR to get the items out of discard pile
  • If you make these changes the matchup will get much better, though the deck will lose its explosiveness and versatiity against other matchups. We need to find a middle ground for this complicated matchup.


Final Thoughts

At first Rayquaza-GX will scare us as we are in a metagame stabilized with the same decks being the best of the format, such as Buzzroc, Malamar and Zoroark-GX, and now we have a new deck that can play head-to-head against them. As time goes by and players are already more accustomed to the Rayquaza-GX, I believe that this hype will pass a little but still I do believe that Rayquaza-GX is a decent deck to use used competitively in the Worlds Championships. We are far from having a perfect deck about to be called "Best Deck in Format", but we have a potential deck that needs to be studied. The Worlds format is complicated because players have little time to test the new collection and we never know if it will be shocking or not. Historically we have seen Volcanion-EX surprise and reach the 10th place in the Worlds of 2016 and we have seen Gardevoir-GX win the Worlds of 2017. It may be the turn of the Rayquaza-GX in 2018, so the idea is to prepare to play against this possible new powerhouse or to study all possibilities of Rayquaza-GX to find the best possible list to be used at Worlds. Anyway, I'm very excited about this deck and it's one of my choices for the most valuable Pokémon TCG tournament in the world.

I hope you enjoyed my review and thank you for reading! Good trainings!



[+29] okko


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