Experts' corner

Caleb Gedemer

The Vacuum Effect — Standard Analysis, Disruption, and More

Decks come and go, and that's something happening more and more in this Standard format. Buzzwole goes away, Zoroark-GX comes back, Buzzwole comes back... Time to figure out this mess together.

06/26/2018 by Caleb Gedemer

The vacuum effect is a phenomenon scientifically recognized worldwide, across all types of animal species. Well-known among biologists, the vacuum effect describes what happens when even some of an animal population is permanently removed from its home range. This applies to the Pokemon Trading Card Game, when a deck “disappears” from the metagame: everything changes. This has been happening back and forth in our Standard format, leading to some very confusing, but interesting shifts.

BREAKthrough through Forbidden Light Standard Format History

Most players attending “week one” events had just come off a stale Standard format that had been played for many different Regionals, including the most recent Canadian Regional event the week before. For this reason, I think there was a lot of mixed views on the format itself. Buzzwole hardliners stuck with the deck but played relatively undeveloped lists and had certainly not come upon the “optimal” sixty cards. Malamar (FLI; 51)  also had been hyped to counter the Buzzwole decks, but Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  was there to counter the Malamar decks in return. This lead to a bit of a messy transition to the format, and even yours truly playing Turbo Lapras GX (SUM; 139)

Week One: Figuring Things Out with Malamar and Random Zoroark-GX in Europe

  1. France: Rough Metagame Accuracy of 50%
  2. Mexico: Rough Metagame Accuracy of 90%
  3. Russia: Rough Metagame Accuracy of 5%
  4. South Africa: Rough Metagame Accuracy of 5%

The National Championship events are anomalies, as they took place in less-competitive countries that don’t have as easy of access to all of the cards. The Mexican event’s meta was starkly concentrated with Buzzwole decks, and I even played three myself. Malamar (FLI; 51)  was around, too, especially with Ultra Necrozma GX (FLI; 95)  (shortly dismissed as the “worse” version of the deck, however). The French Special Event was weird, though, with Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  winning the event and seemingly avoiding, or somehow beating, all of the Buzzwole decks that made up day two. Malamar (FLI; 51)  is easy pickings for Zoroark-GX, so coming across those frequently, as it did, helped it out in the process to winning the whole event. Coming off of this event, Malamar was shown as a serious threat to Buzzwole, and Zoroark-GX started to cast a shadow over the format, daring Malamar players to play their deck.

Weekly Winner: Malamar

Week Two: Zoroark-GX is Back, Malamar Still Up There

  1. Australia: Rough Metagame Accuracy of 5%
  2. Mexico: Rough Metagame Accuracy of 90%

Malamar (FLI; 51)  became highly concentrated in the next Mexican Specials, but Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  was there to rear its head and beat it. Buzzwole shrunk in popularity and was also punished by the high frequency of Malamar decks. The Melbourne Regionals was extremely weird, showing off a variety of strange decks, and a unique Greninja BREAK list even winning the event. I don’t think this event was an accurate representation of the metagame, whereas the Mexican event was closer to actuality.

Weekly Winner: Zoroark-GX

Week Three: Buzzwole Dominance

  1. Chile: Rough Metagame Accuracy of 50%
  2. Malaysia: Rough Metagame Accuracy of 75%
  3. Wisconsin: Rough Metagame Accuracy of 95%

Buzzwole found its groove this week with its best list. Three baby Buzzwole was much too much for the Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  decks on the rise from the week before. Not only that, but the Pokemon-EX/GX-heavy Malamar decks did very poorly against the “broken” Buzzwole deck as well. All of this considered, Buzzwole dominated Wisconsin Regionals and did well elsewhere, too. While it wasn’t as common as it was in Wisconsin, that was more because less foreign players, if any, had access to the “new” list for Buzzwole with the three babies.

Weekly Winner: Buzzwole

Week Four: Crazy Stuff, Buzzwole Hanging Around, Greninja BREAK Resurgence

  1. Singapore: Rough Metagame Accuracy of 50%

I don’t want to say this week “doesn’t count”, but the Singapore event was much smaller and less concentrated with the game’s best players, giving it a little less accurate of a read into the state of the metagame. Obviously, many adaptations carried over from the previous weeks, but this event was overall a very strange mix of successful decks, with Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  / Lucario GX (BW; 100)  winning the whole thing. I don’t think this week had a clear winner, but it was a bit of a foresight into the coming week as far as Zoroark-GX decks making an even bigger resurgence goes.

Weekly Winner: Not Applicable

Week Five: Zoroark-GX Takes Malamar Down Again

  1. England: Rough Metagame Accuracy of 95%
  2. Hong Kong: Rough Metagame Accuracy of 25%
  3. Mexico: Rough Metagame Accuracy of 90%

This week is extremely interesting, as the week one and two developments seemingly all took place within the same week; everything was meshed into one metagame-developing series of events. Malamar (FLI; 51)  was played in high numbers to counter Buzzwole at these events and in turn, Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  dominated and won both of them! I even lost in the finals of the Mexican Special Championship to a Zoroark-GX / Golisopod GX (BUS; 129)  deck, adding even more truth to this sentiment. I think the coming weeks will switch back to beating Zoroark-GX, or finding a happy medium between everything, which seems extremely difficult starting off. On with the vicious vacuum effect cycle we go, which deck will disappear next?

Weekly Winner: Zoroark-GX

It’s time to spice things up, this rock-paper-scissors of a format we’ve found ourselves in needs some new diversity. What can we do about it? It’s time to go over some creative ways to address, well, everything!

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