Experts' corner

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Caleb Gedemer

Straight Purple — the Best Way to Play Malamar in Standard

Gedemer walks you over one of Standard's top contenders just in time for Wisconsin Regionals.

05/31/2018 by Caleb Gedemer

Malamar (FLI; 51)  has taken the game by storm in the Standard format! Its perceived dominance has made Buzzwole GX (CIN; 104)  a weird play, one that is risky by any meaning of the word. Malamar has great curb appeal to any player because it’s hard to stop once it gets going. It has few weaknesses, with the ability to play Parallel City (BKT; 145)  to avoid a crippling Bench reduction from an opponent. Necrozma GX (BUS; 63)  is a reliable way to take one-hit Knockouts on big Pokemon-EX/GX and Dawn Wings Necrozma GX (UPR; 63)  can handle the rest with a consistently damaging attack of 120 damage and an incredible GX attack to swing the tide of games where the Malamar player fell behind. Fringe techs like Mewtwo GX (SLG; 39)  and Mimikyu (GRI; 58)  can be played to improve specific matchups, or situations, that you would otherwise be disadvantaged in.

Explanations

Four Inkay and Four Malamar

The thickest Malamar (FLI; 51)  line possible is optimal for this deck. You want to execute your strategy as often as possible, and playing the maximum copies of the Malamar pieces will help you do just that. Many players target Inkay quickly, so having more without needing to get them back with an Item like Rescue Stretcher is incredibly useful because you can actually search the Pokemon themselves out of the deck with Mysterious Treasure and/or Ultra Ball. When one goes down, another will be sure to follow!

Two Tapu Lele-GX

Getting those Supporters out of your deck, especially Brigette, is still super important. This deck requires a lot of Bench space for the Malamar (FLI; 51)  Energy acceleration engine, so playing a lower count of Tapu Lele GX (GRI; 60)  is fine. I’ve seen people go down to as low as a single copy, but that seems awful in tight situations where you need another. I don’t think it’s acceptable to play that few when you don’t have another source of draw other than Supporters themselves.

Two Necrozma-GX

The big-hitter for this deck, Necrozma GX (BUS; 63)  starts off with a hit of 190 for three Psychic Energy attached via Prismatic Burst. This is the attack cost, and you only play Psychic Energy, so you will definitely be swinging for that much. This said, 250 is the number following that, which one-shots everything in the game right now. Four Psychic Energy is all it takes, and you can use Psychic Recharge to keep the shots coming. Black Ray GX is nothing to scoff at either, as it can set up easier Knockouts down the line on bulky decks like Zoroark-GX variants. Necrozma GX (BUS; 63)  might do less damage than Ultra Necrozma-GX in a vacuum, but its efficiency makes it a better attacker overall in my opinion.

Two Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX

Dawn Wings Necrozma GX (UPR; 63)  serves two purposes, both for Invasion, and then it’s also a strong attacker, particularly against Buzzwole GX (CIN; 104)  decks. Dark Flash pounds for a solid 120, safe enough to say a two-shot on most popular Pokemon, at the least. Moon’s Eclipse GX can help you mount comebacks by preventing damage from attacks (you can only use the attack when you’re down on Prizes, but that’s no matter), making it a great comeback card!

One Mimikyu

Copying your opponent’s attacks is very strong against Ultra Necrozma-GX decks particularly. It would also be great against stuff like Tapu Bulu-GX if it ever comes back. It’s strong against Buzzwole GX (CIN; 104) , too, but it’s overkill at that point since you already have so many strong options against the deck. Filch is a nice way to draw extra cards in the early game, or late game too for that matter, if you ever start drawing poorly or need a small boost to extend your play and see more cards.

Four Professor Sycamore

Keeping it consistent is a great plan of action for this deck. Getting Psychic Energy into your discard pile has never been easier with Professor Sycamore, so I highly recommend playing a full set of four in this deck. You are rarely punished by having to discard cards you don’t want to with this deck since you have so many ways to search out your Pokemon that you usually don’t have to part with something you don’t want to. Rescue Stretcher and the like give you ways to recycle cards that you did lose access to and smooth over any unfortunate circumstances that may arise by aggressively discarding cards.

Four Guzma

Aside from draw, this deck wants a big lineup of Guzma, too. Once you’re all set up and ready to go there’s no reason that you shouldn’t be targeting two-Prize Pokemon each turn when you have the opportunity. A full stock of Guzma will get you there, so playing four is a must.

Two N

Once you get going N becomes so much more weak for this deck. You have access to Pokemon that can take one-hit Knockouts so you’re rarely down on Prizes once you get going. That being said, N is less important to this deck than in other builds, and primarily something for the earlier stages of the game. Two N is the right number for that reason, still giving you two chances to disrupt your opponent and mount a comeback, or simply serving as a safe way to shuffle away a hand of cards that you didn’t want to discard with Professor Sycamore. The more draw the merrier, and N is a good one to have in certain situations!

Two Cynthia

Like N, Cynthia is just a solid way to draw a set number of cards. Six is a solid number, lagging right behind Professor Sycamore by just a hair. I like the count of eight draw Supporter cards in this deck, and two Cynthia on top of the others completes that tally. Another Cynthia would be the call if I wanted to add another, but I don’t think that’s necessary.

One Brigette

Brigette is something I love playing high counts of, but for this deck having just the one copy is fine when you can fetch all of your Pokemon, yes, literally all of them, with Mysterious Treasure and/or Ultra Ball. Eight ways to search Pokemon out with Items makes it very likely that you find plenty of Inkay on your first few turns without the use of Brigette, if not a couple Inkay and an attacker, too! Don’t get me wrong, Brigette is still very strong, just in the games where you Prize it you can still function by having lots of extra outs to your Basic Pokemon with Items, making it fair to only play the one.

Four Ultra Ball and Four Mysterious Treasure

Maxed out Pokemon search is super strong, making this deck insanely consistent in the opening turns and giving it lots of ways to thin out cards and make sure that things run smoothly. Lots of ways to discard cards is very important in a deck that can’t otherwise operate in the late game aside from pure luck-based draw off N. Providing yourself many ways to set up Malamar (FLI; 51)  is a must, too.

Four Max Elixir

No Malamar (FLI; 51) , no problem! Well, not exactly, but Max Elixir gets things chugging along even in games where you don’t have the best of setups as far as your Pokemon are concerned. Max Elixir is also a defense mechanism against players that choose to target Malamar, again giving you a way to accelerate Energy in another way.

Three Float Stone

Four Float Stone is nice, but luxurious. I don’t believe that you truly need four, so three Float Stone does the job. Invasion is so incredible to this deck because it can serve as a Float Stone in of itself by moving a Dawn Wings Necrozma GX (UPR; 63)  into your Active on turns where you want to Guzma, then putting your attacker back into the Active position. Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX can attack itself, too, giving less priority to a switching effect in Float Stone each turn.

Three Field Blower

This deck is built to defend itself against bad situations, like where your opponent discards your Bench down with Parallel City (BKT; 145) . Playing Parallel City (BKT; 145)  yourself, you can mitigate the damage of an opposing Parallel City by limiting your opponent’s Bench and forcing him or her to have a Field Blower of his or her own. Field Blower is obviously very nice to have against decks playing Garbodor with Garbotoxin, giving you plenty of ways to still use your Abilities and make sure that things are moving nicely.

One Rescue Stretcher

Getting your Malamar (FLI; 51)  pieces back against players that decide to knock them out is useful. Recycling your attackers has fringe use, too. Once a Tapu Lele GX (GRI; 60)  is in your discard pile Rescue Stretcher becomes an out to a Supporter card too!

Three Parallel City

Again, having Parallel City (BKT; 145)  defends yourself against Parallel City. Limiting your opponent’s Bench down prevents your opponent from limiting your own Bench! With your opponent having a limited Bench, you then have room to pound the paint with heavy hitters swinging for one-hit Knockouts an eliminating threats. It’s a scary combination of defense and offense, really pushing your opponent to the brink in many situations!

Ten Psychic Energy

Nine Psychic Energy is the minimum count this deck should ever play with Max Elixir included in a list. That said, ten Energy is sort of a middle ground for this list, with eleven also being an unnecessary count if you want to be excessive. The big idea is still hitting Max Elixir, but still having extra Energy for attachments from your hand in addition to Psychic Recharge accelerants.

Options

Clefairy

Metronome is a way for you to pick which of the opponent’s attacks you’d like to use which is certainly better than Mimikyu (GRI; 58) , but I don’t think this little guy is needed. Three Energy is a little much as well, so using it is difficult. You already have very strong matchups against decks with “big attacks”, so another attack-copying Pokemon isn’t a necessity, or even something very high up the ladder of cards to add to the deck.

Giratina

Devour Light can stop Giant Water Shuriken from Greninja BREAK, but that’s not to say that Shadow Stitching won’t have its way with you, because it will… This deck relies very heavily on the use of Abilities, and even without extra damage from its Ability, Greninja BREAK can Shadow Stitching with a Choice Band for three-hit Knockouts on your Dawn Wings Necrozma GX (UPR; 63) , the only reliable attacker that doesn’t discard all of its Energy after attacking. Lunala Prism Star is one way you can power up attackers under an Ability lock, but it’s not worth it considering in other matchups it will be dead for the most part.

Mewtwo-GX

Psystrike GX gets around annoying things like Hoopa, but more importantly, it can still knock out a Dawn Wings Necrozma GX (UPR; 63)  protecting itself with Moon’s Eclipse GX. this is huge, because it allows you to play the mirror match from any angle! Normally, if you were to get an early lead then you get punished by an opposing Dawn Wings Necrozma GX (UPR; 63) , or visa-versa if you fall behind then you have an opportunity to use your own to get ahead… Now you don’t have to explicitly worry about the Prize exchange numbers as you can swoop in and do your thing, hoping to take Prizes faster than your opponent. Mewtwo GX (SLG; 39)  can bail you out even if you get off to a huge lead!

Matchups

Buzzwole-GX | Favorable

This is your easiest matchup, but you still lose occasionally in games where your opponent gets extremely lucky. Psychic Weakness isn’t a matter when you can swing for one-hit Knockouts and use Lycanroc-GX to Bloodthirsty Eyes Pokemon-EX/GX to keep the Prize trade going steady. Moon’s Eclipse GX with an N can usually seal off a win from your opponent, preventing him or her from even taking out the Dawn Wings Necrozma GX (UPR; 63)  and allowing you to retain your Energy for yet another Knockout on the following turn. Watch out for a spooky Escape Rope from your opponent if he or she plays it, as it can push back a Dawn Wings Necrozma GX (UPR; 63)  and reset the effects of Moon’s Eclipse GX, allow a Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX to be knocked out if it gets gusted back into the Active with Bloodthirsty Eyes or Guzma. Overall, Buzzwole GX (CIN; 104)  has a really hard time overcoming its Psychic Weakness!

Garbodor | Slightly Favorable

Parallel City (BKT; 145)  is very strong against Garbodor decks, they struggle to deal with a limited Bench! Three Field Blower is clearly the best inclusion for this matchup though, giving yourself plenty of times to regain your Abilities is sweet. Dawn Wings Necrozma GX (UPR; 63)  is hard for your opponent to handle, especially if he or she is playing Espeon-GX as you can one-shot it with Weakness with Dark Flash. Moon’s Eclipse GX will be very hard for your opponent to play around since with Ability lock down he or she won’t have as many outs to get a Guzma to get around it. You have lots of options in these matchups, just limit your Items if applicable and take it slow, Field Blower will get you there!

Gardevoir-GX | Slightly Favorable

Prismatic Burst time! You want to set up as many Malamar (FLI; 51)  as possible in this matchup and just start spamming Prismatic Burst one-hit Knockouts with your Necrozma-GX. Gardevoir-GX will struggle to keep up with you taking a one-hit Knockout each turn with just a Basic and with no Energy left attached, it will be difficult for the Gardevoir-GX player to get a one-hit Knockout himself or herself each turn to respond.

Greninja BREAK | Highly Unfavorable

Welp, you don’t have many options in this matchup… Hope to hit your Max Elixir quick and invest your Energy on Dawn Wings Necrozma GX (UPR; 63)  or Mewtwo GX (SLG; 39) . Necrozma-GX is a miserable attacker in this matchup since it has to lose its Energy when it attacks with Prismatic Burst. You want to attack with things that don’t discard Energy so that you can keep attacking once Greninja uses Shadow Stitching. From there, you won’t have too many options so cross your fingers and hope your opponent falters and you can get the advantage going. Above all else, just try to operate as quickly as possible to get that small chance of coming out on top!

Greninja-GX | Slightly Favorable

Your opponent’s deck is slow and clunky and extremely weak to Parallel City (BKT; 145)  so take advantage of that with a strong setup and get in there with Max Elixir and an array of Malamar (FLI; 51) . Prismatic Burst can one-shot a Greninja GX with four Psychic Energy attached, so be prepared to power it up when you need to. Latios is the biggest issue in this matchup and you should power up a Dawn Wings Necrozma GX (UPR; 63)  to deal with it since your opponent won’t have much of an answer to it without a ton of Ability-based damage modifiers which is unrealistic if you’re rushing Knockouts with big one-hit Knockouts.

Ho-Oh-GX | Slightly Favorable

You simply have a more efficient means of accelerating energy so you can trade Prizes better in the late game. Necrozma-GX will get you the big pops you’re looking for, and if you fall behind you can use Dawn Wings Necrozma GX (UPR; 63)  to take down one of your opponent’s Tapu Lele GX (GRI; 60)  or Volcanion-EX on the Bench.

Hoopa | Unfavorable

You don’t have too many great options against a mono-Scoundrel Guard deck like this. Mewtwo GX (SLG; 39)  can get you a Knockout, but from there you don’t have many options left. If you had more non-EX/GX attackers like Mew you would have a slightly better chance but I don’t think that’s worth playing since it’s so bad against like every other deck!

Lapras-GX | Slightly Unfavorable

This matchup is a trade of Prizes that the Lapras-GX player will almost always start with his or her excess supply of Energy accelerators in Aqua Patch and/or Max Elixir. From there it will be a race to see who can keep the trade pumping, your Moon’s Eclipse GX isn’t as strong as it could be since you don’t have Choice Band to finish off a Lapras-GX Knockout, so you might have to hope that you can use it to take down a Manaphy-EX or Tapu Lele GX (GRI; 60)  to get an advantage without that Choice Band option. Speaking of Choice Band, it’s an okay card in this deck but you would only be able to afford playing a low count of it and it would be so hard to find without hard draw like a Zoroark-GX deck that it wouldn’t be worth it. Necrozma-GX doesn’t hit much better numbers with Choice Band, pushing up 190 to 220, for example, which is still shy of taking a Zoroark-GX down for example since it has Resistance. I wouldn’t play Choice Band in general since it isn’t going to be useful much of the time and the fact that it will be super hard to access.

Lucario-GX | Highly Favorable

Your opponent’s Psychic Weakness will let disaster strike in the form of your Psychic attackers! Dawn Wings Necrozma GX (UPR; 63)  effectively has 200 HP with its Resistance and a Lucario-GX will have to work incredibly hard to get a one-hit Knockout on it. You can take a two-Prize Knockout consistently in this matchup since your opponent won’t have a strong one-Prize attacker other than Buzzwole with Sledgehammer, perhaps. Sledgehammer will fall short of a one-hit Knockout on your v without a slew of damage modifiers, too, so it’s extremely unlikely that you will lose this matchup in any way.

Magnezone | Slightly Favorable

Your opponent’s Metal Pokemon have Psychic Resistance so you will need four Psychic Energy on a Necrozma-GX in most cases to score a one-hit Knockout which will make this matchup a little bit harder for you. You have a quicker engine to set up so you are favored based simply on that you are more efficient in getting Energy accelerated.

Malamar | Even

The mirror is a weird one, and I’ve touched on it in pieces so far. Mewtwo GX (SLG; 39)  gives you the advantage assuming your opponent doesn’t play it also, so I really would consider playing it (perhaps cutting a Psychic Energy for it). Your opponent’s Dawn Wings Necrozma GX (UPR; 63)  won’t be able to Moon’s Eclipse GX to get an advantage so you don’t have to worry about rushing into things and getting Prizes quickly. Necrozma-GX is obviously the big hitter in this matchup too, as you can use it to one-shot your opponent’s Pokemon-EX/GX for two Prizes apiece. You can target your opponent’s Malamar (FLI; 51)  with your Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX too, which is decent, especially if you can get a Parallel City (BKT; 145)  down limiting your opponent’s Bench space!

Passimian | Favorable

This matchup is literally free because Passimian has a heck of a time taking down your Dawn Wings Necrozma GX (UPR; 63) . You should be able to get two Prizes for every Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX and you can trade one-for-one with your Malamar (FLI; 51) , even, if you need to because Passimian is weak to Psychic, allow Psychic Sphere to take a one-hit Knockout.

Sylveon-GX | Highly Favorable

Sylveon-GX simply cannot disrupt a deck that has ways to recover Energy for free like this one. Two copies of Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX is the icing on the cake because it can move back and forth and get Energy on it to Retreat into your big threat of Necrozma-GX to one-shot a Sylveon-GX. You can afford to take this matchup slow and wait for the best time to go in with your Necrozma-GX. Your opponent might try to get cute with a Parallel City (BKT; 145)  of his or her own and Plea GX, but it will be of no use since you can just set right back up again and finish things off. It’s just too hard to Sylveon-GX to deal with a consistent stream of one-hit Knockouts.

Vikavolt | Slightly Favorable

Mimikyu (GRI; 58)  secures this matchup, and Necrozma-GX isn’t too shabby itself. Tapu Bulu-GX is again just an inferior deck to this one, as its Energy accelerating engine runs from the deck, not the discard pile like yours. You have easier access to your Energy and can trade Prizes much more efficiently when you’re all set up. Your opponent will need to run insanely hot to keep pace with you.

Volcanion-EX | Favorable

A recurring theme, this is another matchup, very similar to the Ho-Oh-GX matchup where you just outpace your opponent with your Energy-recovering engine when things get going. Volcanion-EX is a thing of the past, a deck outpaced by today’s quicker engines. Necrozma-GX is just going to go to town on some juicy two-Prize Volcanion-EX!

Zoroark-GX | Even

Parallel City (BKT; 145)  is a huge factor to this matchup, in fact, I think it is your win condition! Sticking a Parallel City that your opponent can’t discard is going to be insanely important and from there you will be able to keep building up Necrozma-GX to crush opposing Zoroark-GX. Try to avoid using Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX since it’s weak to Darkness Pokemon, like Zoroark-GX. Marshadow-GX is something you could consider if you really want to help your Zoroark-GX matchup, or even Marshadow-GX and Sudowoodo with Roadblock because it stops your opponent from hitting for 150 (enough to take down Marshadow-GX) and that can let you just run wild with that very Marshadow-GX.

Conclusion

This deck is very strong. It is my fallback play for Madison, Wisconsin Regionals right now. I am also considering Zoroark-GX / Golisopod-GX with great fervor. I plan to test a lot this week and I suggest you do the same if you’re attending! Good luck out, thanks for reading. I think this is the most well-rounded deck with the highest power level available, and taking a great matchup against Buzzwole GX (CIN; 104)  decks is incredibly satisfying. So long, take care!

~Caleb

[+25] okko


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