Experts' corner

Aaron Tarbell

Let's Win Some League Cups

Happy Holidays, 60cards readers!! Today I will be bringing you the gift of helpful advice for getting down with the nitty gritty and grinding out League Cups.

01/03/2018 by Aaron Tarbell

With Memphis Regionals out of the way, the U.S. competitive scene is about to enter a lull without any more standard regionals before the next set drops. This, coupled with the next big tournament also not happening for a month, might lead some players to take the time for a much needed reprieve from the game. But, for players that have been struggling to keep pace for a World's invite this season, this month will be a crucial time to grind out points from League Cups to catch up to comfortable point totals. With this in mind, we will be exploring the now-familiar standard format. In order to decide what we should play at these tinier events, we will first analyze the results of both Memphis Regionals and the 2017-2018 European Intercontinental’s, then we will explore how we can position ourselves best to metagame players that have reached similar conclusions.


1. Zoroark Domination

The first thing we will explore is Zoroark’s dominant position in the standard meta. For both of the large standard events from this format, Zoroark managed to take home, not only the gold, but also many of the top 8 spots of each event. Another thing to note is that the two most-hyped players currently are the two that managed to win these two events with this deck. Tord Reklev and Micheal Pramawat, having back to back success with the Trade ability speaks to the mechanics nature of rewarding the more skillful players in game. Although these two have had a ton of success, neither is really in the position to play whatever they want and win large events, given the nature of the game. This can be seen from Pram making top 32 at Intercontinentals with Max Potion Gardevoir and top 64 with Volcanion in Hartford as well as with Tord missing top 8 at worlds coming off of his first Intercontinentals win.

It also has been a rare occurrence over the last year for similar decks to win back to back large tournaments. This can be blamed on the smaller card pool in standard that can lead to a flood of people playing the deck that won the most recent large tournament, and therefore, the decks that tend to win the next tournaments are either decks that can beat the most recent champion consistently or decks that can counter the counter to the top deck. So with the information gathered thus far, we can draw the conclusions that Zoroark’s ability is likely consistent, partially resilient to meta changes, and probably favors more experienced play. So let’s discuss why Pram played Lycanroc over Golisopod.

Lycanroc/ Zoroark is an overall better deck than Golisopod/ Zoroark, regardless of what the decks are going to play against. They are very similar in their typical damage output, and each deck relies on the gx attack of the non-Zoroark companion Pokémon. The first advantage in damage output that Lycanroc has over Golisopod is that Dangerous Rogue GX has a much higher damage cap that Crossing Cut GX, and while Dangerous Rogue has the potential to be played around a little more than Crossing Cut, the current state of the game makes it very difficult to have success without a large bench. Even a bench that has been shrunk from a Parallel City still leaves the base attack for Dangerous Rogue doing 150 which can be augmented with a Choice Band and Strong Energies to do 220 relatively easily, and 240 with a Professor Kukui being played that turn. This is a wonderfully high number that can even knock out early Gardevoir-GX if the initial plan of knocking out all of the Ralts and Kirlia falls through. The next advantage in damage output for the deck is that Lycanroc can hit for 180 damage more than once in a game. With 180 damage being a magic number for Pokémon, and Zoroark-GX’s damage cap being a hard 170 being augmented to the fullest, hitting for 180 with at least two Strong Energy and a Choice Band through a Claw Slash can be game deciding, and Golisopod, unfortunately, does not have that option.

Finally, the biggest decider in why Lycanroc is stronger than Golisopod in damage output does not even come from Lycanroc’s attack. One of the most played Pokémon GX if not the most played Pokemon in standard is Tapu Lele-GX. The card is amazing for consistency and doesn’t have the negatives of having a bad attack or HP total that its predecessors had. In order for Golisopod Zoroark to take an easy knockout on Tapu Lele-GX, it must first use a Flying Flip from its Tapu Koko, use Crossing Cut GX, or have the Tapu Lele-GX already in the active position and use a Professor Kukui that turn to augment the damage enough for a Choice Banded Riotous Beating or Choice Banded First Impression. Lycanroc’s Bloodthirsty Eyes make taking the prizes much easier though. At any time in a game where there were Rockruff on the bench that could evolve and Zoroark is set up, the Lycanroc/ Zoroark deck can take a swift knockout on the opponent’s benched Tapu Lele by dragging it to the active position with Bloodthirsty Eyes and attacking with a fully augmented Riotous Beating and a Professor Kukui. 

Mechanically, the Lycanroc/ Zoroark deck is also a bit more consistent than it’s hyped-up Golisopod version. Golisopod has a minor annoying attack condition in First Impression that requires it to be on the bench before becoming active to be a good, single energy attack. While the Golisopod version does compensate for this by playing a very heavy Acerola and Guzma count, having to play these supporters to attack can lead to scenarios where the player cannot play situationally better supporters such as Professor Kukui. Although Zoroark-GX, coupled with three Brigette, is a super solid combination for creating a consistent draw engine, four Acerola, three Guzma, and four Puzzles of Time can lead to hand combinations that are almost unplayable early.

Bloodthirsty Eyes is also a beautiful alternative to Guzma in scenarios where the Zoroark player does not want to change the active Pokémon for any reason such as being unable to attack if they do. The Lycanroc version is also able to commit more bench spots to establishing a strong draw engine than its Golisopod counterpart. Due to the damage constraints of the Golisopod version coupled with First Impression’s conditional damage, having Tapu Koko in play for its initial Flying Flip and free retreat is a pretty necessary sacrifice. This, coupled with all of the tech attackers in Mewtwo, and stand-in Zoroark as well as a Wimpod and Golisopod GX to establish an Acerola loop typically leaves the deck in a position of having around two Zoroark GX in play at a time. The Lycanroc version, especially Pram’s winning list, tends to forgo the Acerola loop tactic for the most part, and instead regularly gets out three Zoroark GX to create a board state where the Zoroark Player will have access to almost every card in their deck every turn.

So, at this point, we might be thinking “Why would I even consider the Golisopod version?” especially with the bias this article has been showing towards the Lycanroc version. Golisopod might be a worse deck overall, but the current standard meta gives the Golisopod deck some glaring match-up advantages over Lycanroc/ Zoroark that can be expected to see heavy play at tiny events where people favor playing the better deck that just won. These matchups that Golisopod tends to do better against are Greninja, Garbodor, and Fighting. For Greninja, the advantage goes to Golisopod due to having weakness, and being able to heal more often if Greninja ever establishes a board state. For Garbodor, Golisopod has plenty of outs to heal through supporters, which allows it to play a few more items early on, since it can heal out of the range of Trashalanche. Golisopod’s damage output also hits the magic 120 to knock out a Trashalanche Garbodor without Rainbow Energy, and this, coupled with stripping Lycanroc of its ability, makes Golisopod the better attacker in this matchup.

This statement also factors in the weakness Lycanroc has on Drampa, since Golisopod can heal from the Drampa enough to lesson the threat while the Garbodor deck is liable to only drop a single Drampa against Lycanroc. Also, the Golisopod version tends to run more Field Blower to counteract Garbodor, and make it harder for Garbotoxin to stay in effect, and brick the Zoroark deck out of the game. The advantage against fighting decks come from the healing factor of many Acerola combined with the cheap attack cost of Golisopod-GX. Whenever either deck combats fighting, they will typically end up using a Riotous Beating early whenever Buzzwole cannot threaten a one hit knock out, and then each deck becomes heavily reliant on their back up attackers when a few more energy are put into play. First, the high Acerola can heal off the damage to the initial Zoroark that takes damage a bit easier than the low count. Next, the Golisopod version can opt into using First Impression quickly and repeatedly to never put a Zoroark-GX in line of fire. Finally, the two energy requirement for using Lycanroc’s attack is much heaftier than one during an acerola loop, since it means the attacking Lycanroc needs to survive two full attacks to be effective. Now, Lycanroc’s fighting matchup is not abysmal, it does have a fine enough chance to win or steal games, especially in a best of one, the matchup just is not as good as Golisopod’s.

2. The Runners-Up

Now that we kind of understand why Zoroark did so well recently, it is time to look at why the runners-up did so well. In each of the big tournaments, Zoroark showed parallels, but the tournaments also showed that the runners-up were sick meta calls. For Zak Krekler, his choice to play Metal/ Silvally was obviously impacted by Max Potion/ Gardevoir being super hyped up before the event. Although the deck tended to fumble against Zoroark builds in some areas, the match up was not exactly awful, and these two aspects were enough for a more lack luster deck to make the finals of the European Intercontinentals. Even though the deck was solid enough to get second, Silvally decks only composed 3.5% of the meta in Memphis (as seen in theRK9 final meta map)!

This highlights that the deck was more broken against a Brokenvoir meta than in testing or the perceived hype of Zoroark, even with the single-most-played deck still being Gardevoir for Memphis Regionals. Azul’s (Blue's) Golisopod/ Garbodor deck also super abused the meta game to pull off a second-place finish. By correctly identifying how popular and how strong both Lycanroc and Zoroark would be, Azul (Blue) was able to partially write off the most played deck, Gardevoir, as a worse matchup as a tradeoff to gain super strong matchups against both ability reliant decks and special energy reliant decks. Although Pram managed to best him in the finals with Zoroark/ Lycanroc, Azul’s list is almost as primed as possible to beat that deck with four outs to energy removal, ability lock that rarely goes away for long with four Float Stones, and enough Guzma to knockout Lycanroc whenever it needs. Not to mention that Azul also probably had some players start more slowly by not playing many items due to the threat of the Trashalanche Garbodor that Trubbish hints at playing but that he did not play.


Answer Key

WHAT? Have we have gone half of the article without a decklist that is not on Time to fix that mistake. While making a decision for what to play in Pokémon typically has a revolving answer depending on the meta, I will try to list some answers to meta that I would use in order of priority and change depending on what the player finds comfortable and what the player knows about their meta.

1. Always Bet on Blue

Azul (Blue) is a fabulous player and plays the best decks for general metas a lot because of it. If somebody ever does not know what to play for event, if you can message him and get Azul to give you his deck, you will probably be pretty well off as far as decklists go, and given that the meta tends to have a pretty stagnant nature at league cups, his Golisopod deck is posed to do well against the likely heavy Zoroark meta. Past that, I would probably go for a more classical Goligarb list that relies on Rainbow Energy and Trashalanche a little more. One of the main reasons for this is that it forces newer players to balance their pace of setting up versus playing items, and it definitely leads to people making more mistakes against the deck that ends in losses in a best-of-one format. Garbodor is also resilient to the heavy ability decks such as Venesaur Genesect, Volcanion, and Vikavolt Tapu Bulu that people are more readily prepared to play at League Cups over Regionals. For this, I have devised a beautiful hybrid of Peter Kica’s Hartford list and Azul’s Memphis list that may or may not be better than Azul's list depending on the meta.

This list differs from Kica’s in that it play no Drampa or Tapu Fini, as well as one less Rainbow Energy, one less Field Blower, and one less Choice Band in exchange for an additional Trubbish, Trsashalanche, and Heavy Ball along with three Enhance Hammers. The reason I have three Rainbow Energy and three Grass Energy over four Rainbow Energy and two Grass Energy is that I am a little scared of somebody showing up with Xerkitree or Sylveon and getting too many free energy discards with Enhanced Hammer. In all fairness, the Xerkitree and Sylveon decks will likely stomp any Golisopod decks they play against, just due to low energy counts and the stipulation for high damage on First Impression. Lacking an extra Heavy Ball and Enhanced Hammer does make the deck a little less consistent than Azul’s list, but I feel like these cuts do not hurt the consistency too much to offset the strength of having Trashalanche.

Not having the two Field Blower that Peter Kica had in his list can limit Trashalanche Garbodor to having to wait for the opponent to play more items to take one hit knock outs, but having Trashalanche in the deck is enough to slow down opponents or eventually clean up after the opponent plays down too many items. The third Acerola is also helpful against players that try come to the same conclusion about Goligarb’s place in the current meta, but that’s not to say a Turtonator is not just better against the mirror matches including Zoroark/ Golisopod. Having three trubbish with two of each Garbodor is a little awkward but nothing unheard of since this was common place in Vancouver where Garbodor was played more with Drampa. The two Trashalanche are nice enough because having two makes them easy to get out when they are needed.

2. Copy the Right Answers

There is nothing quite like showing up to class late, having some assignment due, counting on the smart kids having already done the work for you, and forcing them to share their answers with you. Well, luckily for us, if we have no time to test this holiday season but need to grind some points for our invites, we have access to 16 beautiful lists that have shown success in the past. Unfortunately, in Pokémon, the right answers are only completely right whenever they tend to stand out or are recited perfectly in demanding situations. What does this mean? It means copying these answers that were for different questions (metas) can lead to us playing into a field of three Greninja with Lycanroc/ Zoroark or Lycanroc/ Zoroark mirrors that we have not prepared for from our lack of time and effort to understand these skill-based mirrors. But, if we're pretty smart about it, there’s nothing stopping us from showing up, copying the right answers, and acing the quiz without having done the homework ourselves.

3. Answer the answers with better answers to the answers which end up being the true questions and lead to them juicy bonus points.

Just play something that beats the decks everyone will likely be playing. Why is the obvious answer ranked here at number three, well, this method does have some glaring flaws. Think back to why Tord played Golisopod/ Zoroark and Pram played Lycanroc/ Zoroark. Although you are intended to have the better match up, one of the reasons you have a better matchup is because you are playing a worse deck overall. This leads to having much problems when you play against the one kid in the room playing Volcanion after you cleverly chose to play Sylveon into all of the special-energy-reliant Zoroark decks the better players were on. Well, you can take that one loss typically (thankfully), but then you still have to play perfectly against all of the players that are playing the best deck in format that can still cheese wins from you. But still, having a worse deck isn’t so bad when you beat everything you will probably play against. So for this, I have decided that Buzzwole Garbodor, Sylveon, and Drampa Garb are all low profile strong meta calls that can be played into most fields with high success rates.

I got a shot to play against this rogue deck piloted to a T32 by Frank Percic in Memphis. I was playing Pram’s list minus a Multi Switch and a Rockruff for a Mewtwo and Energy Lotto. The Energy Lotto was bad, and without the Multi Switch, the Mewtwo was the only reason I was able to pull off a game. We only got to play out two games though, and both games we played out, it came down to him playing his hand down to zero and having to top deck something to switch out something I would force active. This, coupled with all of my losses being to decks that were easily beatable with Garbodor, led to my current infatuation with playing both types of Garbodor into the current format. The deck obviously has problems with resources since my opponent had to go to a zero card hand both times we played, but its matchup against Zoroark Lycanroc is as good if not better than Golisopod/ Garbodor’s match up with it, it has Espeon tricks to cheese Gardevoir, it has Trashalanche to cheese opponents that are not used to playing around it, and it has early game pressure that can just steal games. It started out as one of the most hyped decks before London, and I feel like it should definitely be on the radar of people if not heavily played in league cups. It also has the strong potential to overwhelm mill decks and Golisopod decks that do not get going right away.

Zander Bennet almost had some success at Memphis Regionals with a Sylveon deck that runs a 1-0-1 Gardevoir line. He also had smashed some cups with the deck prior to Memphis without the Gardevoir line. The great thing about mill decks is that they are very strong against players that are inexperienced with resource management, and at cups, that can typically win you the games you need to cut. Sylveon is also so well positioned going into metagames where you can expect to not play against Gardevoir. While I managed to beat a Sylveon list at Memphis with Zorark/ Lycanroc, it is still one of the harder matchups for any Zoroark deck. Zoroark/ Lycanroc requires way too much set up to take clean one hit knock outs on Sylveon with Lycanroc needing three Strong Energy, a Professor Kukui, and a Choice Band to take a knockout on a Sylveon that does not fill their bench. Zoroark/ Golisopod can take one, clean on hit knock out with its Crossing Cut GX if they play a Professor Kukui, but it requires two energy, and for the Golisopod deck to draw relatively well. Given this, a Sylveon that is healing the damage consistently can typically run the decks out of energy and win games consistently. The Gardevoir addition is also nice since it’s Twilight GX attack can recover the resources needed to run opponents entirely out of energy, and it can allow the deck to Max Potion a Sylveon and still fairy wind one turn which allows the deck for more options to remove energy by taking knockouts and not having to give up prizes as often. This is a deck that can be run over by Tapu Bulu, Volcanion, and Gardevoir though, and it requires some foresight in its in game decision making, so it might not be the best play in all areas.

The Gift That You Were Given, And Then Hate Because It Is Just Not As Consistent As Zoroark

TGTYWGATHBIIJNCZ, for short, is the old tried and true Garbodor Deck with some Drampa and some Enhanced Hammers. This is a rendition of Garbodor similar to what was played in high numbers at Vacnoucer Regionals. It differs from Xander’s list by cutting a Lillie, Guzma, Potown, Eevee, Garbotoxin, and Espeon-GX for a Trubbish, Lusamine, Latios, Trashalanche, and two Enhanced Hammers. The Lillie is pretty worthless, and Lusamine gives the deck the option to run four of both Po Town and Guzma like it wants, but as a single, more versatile card instead. In games where the Drampa Garb player gets to keep their Big Wheel, the Lusamine is typically one of the best cards to be played on the following turn, since the player has little need to draw cards. This version also gets rid of the Espeon-GX, which can be a little underwhelming, for a one-of Latios that can do a little more than half of a Divide GX with less than half as much set up.

The fourth Trubbish and rise of three Trashalanche are pretty necessary for the deck’s success right now though. Trashalanche is stronger than it has been in the past with trade leading to more items in the discard, and with Trashalanche not having decks as ready to compete with the attack since Garbodor has seen much less play. Drampa, on the other hand, is a bit weaker now, since the primary threats are mostly Pokémon with more than 180 HP and there are now several well positioned Pokémon that can abuse its weakness in Buzzwole-GX, Lycanroc-GX, and Sudowoodo. With this the case, Drampa is still good enough to force players to set up relatively fast through items, but high amounts of Trashalanche are now almost required for the deck to finish out a game.

This deck also lacks in consistency in comparison to some of the other meta decks, which does not necessarily make it a strong play into league cups that are a best of one. Golisopod decks are also the biggest hurdle for the deck to overcome with Golisopod being able to knock out everything in the deck with little set up and effort, but Golisopod Garb playing no Field Blower and less Acerola allows for Golisopod to be consistently but into range for Berserk knockouts. The mill decks tend to struggle against the late game pressure of Drampa Garbodor which is nice, and any ability heavy deck runs the risk of being bricked by the ability lock with four Trubbish and two Rescue Stretcher. The Enhanced Hammers make it harder for Lycanroc to pull off devastating attacks and force both strong Zoroark decks to have to dig a bit more in order to attack, which can lead to Trashalanche reaching the numbers it needs to close out a game.

I hope this article helps in your future League Cup endeavors. Happy New Year!


[+15] okko


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