Experts' corner

Isaiah  Bradner

Finding a way through the wilderness; an overview of Tapu Bulu/Vikavolt for Philly.

Hey everyone, it's Isaiah Bradner here. In this article I am going to talk about my favorite deck at the moment as Philly approaches; Tapu Bulu/Vikavolt.

09/14/2018 by Isaiah Bradner

Hey everyone, it's Isaiah Bradner here. In this article I am going to talk about my favorite deck at the moment as Philly approaches; Tapu Bulu/Vikavolt. I will cover the deck's strategy, why it is good now (emphasis on the word "now"), my current list, and then I will break down the popular matchups that you need to be prepared for. Join me in the wilderness...

Hello 60 cards readers!

My name is Isaiah Bradner, and for those of you who don’t know me, I’ll do a short introduction.

I am currently a final year Senior and am one of ARG's newest members on it's Pro Pokémon team. I have been playing the Pokémon TCG for 3 years. In my two competitive years of playing, I have amassed the following accomplishments: 2x Regional champion, 2x Regional finalist, 2x Regional Top 4, 2x Regional Top 8, North American International Finalist, and a Top 4 and Top 8 finish at the Latin American International Championships. I also recently won the ARG Pokémon tcg invitational, which was a tournament without age divisions. 

At the conclusion of my first competitive season I finished 10th in CP in North America and went on to place 10th at the World Championships. This past year I finished 5th in CP in North America and finished 25th at Worlds. In this article I am going to talk about my favorite deck right now; Tapu Bulu/Vikavolt. I am going to go over the decks strategy, why it is good now (because it wasn't pre-rotation), my current list and then break down the popular matchups. I will also give a summary from a recent League Cup where I piloted Bulu to a 7-0 record on the day. 

Tapu Bulu/Vikavolt

"Rotation, Rotation, Rotation"

Before I get into the list, I would like to go over why I think Tapu Bulu is now a solid contender for the first Regional of the year. Those who test with me know that I haven't ever been a fan of this deck until now. For the real estate professional, "location is everything". When it comes to the main catalyst that led me to join the "Bulu-gang", "rotation is everything". As any competetive player would know, we just recently said goodbye to many cards that have been staples in the format. Some examples of cards that rotated are: Float Stone, N, Octillery, Puzzle of time, Garbodor (Garbotoxin), Parallel City, and Professor Sycamore. While many other decks lost crucial pieces of their strategy, Bulu largely improved from this change in format. 

Negative losses for Bulu:

Float Stone: Float stone was not a very popular card in Bulu before rotation, and was excluded from most lists. Tapu Koko serves as a perfect free retreat pivot if you need something to retreat with after Guzma, and Switch serves the same purpose as Float Stone did.

Replacements: Tapu Koko/Switch/Escape Rope

Octillery: Octillery was played in Bulu decks pre-rotation mainly to cope with getting N’d late game, with N out of format Octillery would play much less of a role. In the current format, Oranguru is a fine replacement as it allows you to "instruct" out of Judge due to all of the insta-play cards you have. Oranguru is also a good attacker in certain situations.

Possible Replacements: Oranguru/Marshadow SLG

Professor Sycamore: This is the card we lose that hits Bulu the hardest, as almost every list played 4 Sycamore pre-rotation. Without Sycamore, Bulu lists have to adapt to give you more outs to hit Rare Candy on turn two. The best way to do this is to play Lillie in the deck, as it gives you an explosive start the deck lacked without Sycamore.

Possible Replacements: Lillie/Order Pad/Tate And Liza

Skyla: Tapu Bulu was one of the few decks where Skyla found a home. The ability to instantly grab a Candy or Ultra Ball was too good to pass by. Luckily, Volkner was recently released which is the perfect replacement for us.

Possible Replacements: Volkner/Order Pad

Positive losses for Bulu:

Puzzle Of Time: This card was seen in very few Bulu lists, so Bulu takes no damage from it leaving. It gave Zoroark the ability to have infinite resources, and allowed them to pull of crazy combos.

Deck adjustments: None

N: The loss of N is an improvement for Bulu, as you are more aggressive than almost every deck in format. Without N you can feel confident that your turn one Lillie will stick (Unless your opponent plays a Marshadow SLG), and you are not punished by taking a large early game lead. Most Bulu lists before rotation opted to play no copies of N, with one at the most.

Deck adjustments: Less ability based draw support needed.

Max Elixir: Max Elixir has no use in Bulu, but it makes Buzzwole an easier matchup due to them having less energy acceleration.

Deck adjustments: None

Garbodor/Field Blower: These cards are in the same section due to them allowing us to cut Field Blower from our list. Garbotoxin was Bulu’s main enemy pre-rotation, due to the combination of Garbotoxin/Trashalance/N shutting your entire deck down. This also required you to play 2-3 copies of Field Blower, and to draw into them. Both sides of Parallel City hurt Bulu in different ways. Parallel City allowed Zoroark to two shot Bulu without you being able to kill them. This would force you to hit a Blower or they would heal you out of the game. It was also annoying to have your bench limited early game, which could cause you to only get one Grubbin out turn one.

Deck adjustments: Minus Field Blower

As you can see, in the rotation Tapu Bulu really only lost one valuable card in Professor Sycamore. When you compare that to the many matchups that were improved as a result of the rotation, Bulu becomes a serious contender. Here is my current list:


Deck Strategy

Before I explain the list, I am going to go over the general strategy/turns for the deck. One of the things that this deck has going for it is that it is probably the most simplistic deck in format. After a big standard rotation it is generally a good idea to play a deck that is both powerful and consistent, and Bulu is both of those things. Most of your turn ones with Bulu should consist of you playing 3 to 5 cards from your opening hand, playing a Lillie, and hopefully ending the turn with a Grass on Bulu and two Grubbin on the bench. Your turn two should almost always consist of using Rare Candy to evolve into Vikavolt, and either attacking the active or using Guzma to something on the bench. The rest of the game, you simply attach and attack with Bulu or Vikavolt until you win.

List explanations

3/0/3 Vikavolt: You always want to hit two Grubbin turn one, and with 11 outs (Plus four Order Pad) you almost always do. I have never wanted a Chargerbug, and 3 Vikavolt has been a consistent number for me.

1 Dedenne/1 Koko: The Dedenne is an obvious counter to Rayquaza, as it kills it with a Choice Band if you have a Vikavolt or Koko on your bench. It also kills Ultra Necrozma with a Kukui. The Tapu Koko is a counter to stage two decks such as Metagross and Gardy. With one Flying Flip you can one-shot a Gardy, and with a Flying flip plus Kukui you can kill Metagross. Koko is also a free retreater and your ideal attacker vs low HP Non-GX pokemon.

1 Kukui/1 Volkner: The Professor Kukui allows you to one-shot a Gardevoir GX, a Golisopod when they Armor Press, an Ultra Necrozma with Dedenne, and a Metagross after a Flying Flip. Volkner is your Skyla replacement, and while its main function is to guarantee a turn two Vikavolt, it can also guarantee Choice Band or Energy Recycler late game.

1 Energy Recycler: The one Recycler has always been fine for me in testing, especially with Bulu’s GX attack keeping energy on the board. If you have problems, then you could cut the fifth lightning energy for one.

4 Ultra Ball/4 Nest Ball: This is the ideal count of ball cards, as you want to see as many as you can turn one.

4 Order Pad:  I cannot state this enough, Order Pad is INSANE post rotation! Due to a ton of decks losing early game consistency (Brigette) and N rotating, a turn two Vikavolt can often sweep the game. Order Pad helps you do that by giving you another Candy or Ultra Ball out 50% of the time. It can also grab you game swinging items such as Switch, Stretcher, or Choice Band.


Zoroark/Golisopod - 65/35: This matchup is fairly straightforward, with a turn two Vikavolt usually able to pressure them out of the game. You have Kukui to get through Armor Press, and you can GX their Lele to get a free heal. Your losses come from never establishing Vikavolt, or whiffing ways to deal with Armor Press. You always need to prioritise getting two Grubbin turn one. It is generally correct to take the first prize with Koko or Oranguru if possible, then transition into Bulu. You can also heal by GXing a Lele if they attempt to two-shot.

Zoroark/Lycanroc - 60/40: This matchup revolves around trading one-shots back and forth. Due to how little you need in order to kill them, a Vikavolt almost always means you win this matchup. You want to limit their Lycanroc if possible, as Dangerous Rouge is a free kill. They can easily kill Grubbin using Bloodthirsty Eyes, so you need to have two established at all times. The same principles about prizes apply from the Golisopod matchup, but this matchup is much more aggressive. One important thing to remember is that if you only have one Grubben/Vikavolt down, you can GX and make it so you keep energy on the board if the Vikavolt dies.

Rayquaza/Vikavolt - 60/40: This matchup comes down to you having more outs to one prize attackers through Dedenne and Vikavolt. It is also much easier for you to get out multiple Vikavolt due to Order Pad. You should start the game by killing a Ray with Dedenne or Bulu. The next turn depends on weather or not they attack with Vikavolt. If they attack with Ray take the kill with Vikavolt or Dedenne, if they use their Vikavolt then you should aim to guzma around it, or kill it with your Vikavolt. You should finish out the game with Bulu. As long as you hit T2 Vikavolt, you should win this matchup.

Baby Buzz/Garb/Shrine - 60/40: This matchup is generally favorable due to the fact that you don’t need to play many items to execute your strategy. You can sit with 6 items, and Wilderness GX at a point to render one or two of their attacks useless. Try not to bench Bulu until you’re going to attack with them, and target down Trubbish when possible.  If you get an opportunity to Koko spread multiple Baby Buzzwole it it definitely worth it, as it also brings Garbs into range of Electric Ball. Always try to attack with the Pokemon with the most damage, to give Shrine the least effect.

Baby Buzz/Weavile/Shrine - 40/60: This is one of your hardest matchups due to how often you generally have to bench a Lele, and the decks reliance on Vikavolt. Despite this, you will almost always win the game if you do not have to bench a Lele in order to get a Vikavolt out. The strategy for this matchup is to reduce the number of weavile they have, by killing sneasel early. Koko is a great attacker in this matchup because it one shots Weavile and does not die to Baby Buzz unless they have Kukui or Beast. The same principle of not benching Bulu, and using your GX applies to this matchup as well.

Malamar - 50/50: This matchup is the most even one for Bulu. Your worst enemies in this matchup are Mimikyu and Dawn Wings. Mimikyu copies Bulu’s attack and easily takes a kill, while Dawn Wings can swing the trade with it’s GX attack. Some strategies for this matchup are to use your GX so that Mimikyu cannot copy you, using Dedenne with Kukui and Band to kill an Ultra Necrozma, and using Koko to attack early game. You always need to be wary of how you are getting to get your six prizes, and it can sometimes be better just to pass to avoid Mimikyu.

Metagross - 35/65: This is your hardest matchup. They have more HP than you can reach, and the ability to one shot you. To add to this, you play no hand disruption, so their Algorithm GX will always go through. The plan in this matchup is to go with an early game koko spread, Kukui kill a metagross, kill a Lele with Bulu or Vikavolt, and take two Prizes on Metang/Beldum/Vulpix or another Lele. One thing to note is that Vikavolt is a very good attacker in the matchup due to it having resistance. That being said, I am working on ways to improve this matchup before Philly.

League Cup result (7-0)

Finally, I am going to give a short report on a Cup I won this weekend with the above list

R1: Goli/Zoro - W

R2: Zoro/Buzz GX - W

R3: Mirror - W

R4: Banatte/Garb - W

R5: Baby Buzz/Garb/Shrine - W

T4: Ray - WLW

Finals - Banatte/Garb - WW 

My first three rounds were typical Bulu rounds, I got the first kill and my opponent could not respond to my constant pressure.

Round four was close due to me having to drop 7 items the turn I used Tapu Wilderness GX, but he whiffed a Choice Band to OHKO with Garb, and I swept him from there.

Round five was decently easy, as I was able to Wilderness at an impactful time, and he whiffed a Trubbish

My top four game ones and three were blowouts as I took four prizes with Dedenne in both. In game two I ended up draw passing in the middle of game two to lose.

Finals was a quick 2-0, he played nothing except for Drampa to kill by Bulu and I kept my items below 7 at all times.

As you can see, Bulu is favorable vs almost all of the meta except for Weavile/Baby Buzzwole/Shrine, which is only slightly unfavored. I would highly recommend this deck to anyone going to Philly, and it is my top pick currently.

Thank you for reading. If you have any questions you can message me on Facebook, or email me at

[+10] okko


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