Experts' corner

Tate Whitesell

"Seeing Red": Analyzing Historical Trends to Predict Crimson Invasion's London Debut

PokéStats's Tate Whitesell talks about his website and methodology before diving into a look at the possible metagame of this season's European Intercontinental Championship.

11/12/2017 by Tate Whitesell

Hello, 60cards readers! We are very happy to announce our new cooperation with PokeStats. Tate Whitesell joins us to share his data analysis and more. In few days we will also introduce our brand new DECKLIST database!




What’s up 60cards readers?! I’m Tate Whitesell, and if you’ve never heard that name before, I don’t blame you. I started playing less than two years ago and have no notable major tournament placements to my name yet.

So why are you reading my thoughts on the Pokémon TCG? It’s because of a little thing called PokéStats. Early in the 2016-17 season, I founded a simple website and Twitter account devoted to expanding competitive coverage of the game, not just through statistics, but also through journalism, including live-tweeting major events and providing interviews with top players in addition to providing data on deck performances. Fast forward to this season and PokéStats has almost 1300 Twitter followers, hundreds of daily pageviews, and commendations from names like Kenny Wisdom, Jacob Van Wagner, Jose Marrero, and many more.

For my inaugural 60cards article, I was asked to break down some of the trends in the data I’ve analyzed over the past season in an attempt to predict what decks will be successful at the upcoming European International Championships. This is a wide-open format, with two entire sets that have been largely unproven; most of the top players in the world hardly seem to agree on what the best decks are. That being said, I’m going to do my best to look through past metagame trends to try to get a handle on the London format.


Historical Impact of New Sets

In the Pokémon TCG, sets are generally released every three months: February, May, August, and November. This means that roughly every three months, the format will be changed by the addition of 100+ new cards to the legal card pool. This season’s EUIC happens to occur alongside one of these format shakeups: 2017’s final set, Crimson Invasion, is legal for the first time at this event, and it is the first major event with Shining Legends legal as well.

I dug through the archives on and The Charizard Lounge along with my own data on PokéStats to find every tournament since the start of the 2015-16 season that has been the first major tournament to feature a new set:

red indicates a Standard event; blue indicates an Expanded event

New set Date Tournament
Ancient Origins August 2015 2015 Fall Regionals week 1
BREAKthrough November 2015 2016 Winter Regionals week 1
BREAKpoint February 2016 2016 Winter Regionals week 3
Fates Collide May 2016 2016 Italian National Championships
Steam Siege August 2016 2016 World Championships
Evolutions November 2016 2016 Fort Wayne Regionals
Sun and Moon February 2016 2017 Anaheim Regionals
Guardians Rising May 2016 2017 Seattle Regionals
Burning Shadows August 2016 2017 World Championships


Next, I looked at the Top 8 decks from each of those events. For the 2015 Fall Regionals, 2015-16 City Championships, and 2016 Spring Regionals, I combined the Top 8 cuts from all of the events in the first week. Specifically, what I looked at was the amount of brand-new cards used in the top decks.


New set Total number of new cards in Top 8  Average number of new cards per Top 8 deck
AOR 25.5 (averaged across 2 Regionals) 3.19
BRT 20 2.5
BPT 30.5 3.81
FAC 6 0.75
STS 20 2.5
EVO 1 0.13
SM 11 1.38
GRI 102 12.75
BSH 58 7.25


Averaging out all the data above, we find that since the start of the 2015-16 season, there has been an average of 30.44 new cards in the Top 8 of each tournament that is the first to feature an expansion, for an average of 3.81 new cards per Top 8 deck. The 2017 Seattle Regionals, the first tournament to feature Guardians Rising, is a notable outlier, but not significant enough to omit it from the dataset in my opinion. Guardians Rising was just an unusually terrific set, as we all know.

What do we do with this information? We can estimate that Crimson Invasion will account for about 3 to 4 of the 60 cards in each Top 8 deck. Furthermore, we see that there are two ways new cards can make an impact in Top 8. A deck can contain a few new cards that modify existing archetypes (such as the addition of Hex Maniac to decks after Ancient Origins, or Puzzle of Time after BREAKpoint), or an entirely new archetype can arise (Vespiquen, Greninja BREAK, or Drampa-GX/Garbodor, for example). Generally, the trend seems to slightly favor the former type of deck appearing more, with a few appearances by new archetypes: see the 2015 Fall Regionals, where Hex Maniac was the only update to about half of the Top 8 lists, but a Vileplume/Regice deck contained 21 new Ancient Origins cards!

Now, since we think there will be 3-4 CRI cards in the each top 8 decks, we can guess what these cards might be. Buzzwole-GX, Gladion, and Lusamine are strong contenders to fill those role, for instance. 

The next step is to examine Crimson Invasion and Shining Legends to see whether these sets are going to primarily update existing lists (like Fates Collide or Evolutions) or create new archetypes (like BREAKpoint, Guardians Rising, or Burning Shadows). The two new sets appear to be a bit of both; I think the closest comparison is Sun and Moon base set, which gave us new archetypes (Decidueye-GX, Lapras-GX, Umbreon-GX) but also support cards that have found their way into many top-tier decks since their release (Oranguru, Lillie, Professor Kukui).

I put together the following table to illustrate the breakdown of “new, upgraded, and old” decks in the tournaments I assembled above.

Event / new legal set New decks in Top 8 Old decks with new upgrades (Top 8) Old decks unchanged by new set (Top 8) 
AOR 1 5 2
BRT 2 5 1
BPT 1.5 4.5 2
FAC 1 1 6
STS 0 8 0
EVO 0 1 7
SM 0 6 2
GRI 7 1 0
BSH 5 3 0


1.94 / 3.83 / 2.22

So, the average major tournament over the last three seasons has contained 1.94 brand-new archetypes, 3.83 old archetypes with new upgrades, and 2.22 decks unchanged by the new cards. We’ll round off these numbers to 2, 4, and 2. This allows us to make the following prediction:

Based on data from the past three seasons, we expect the Top 8 of London Intercontinentals to contain approximately:

2 decks that are brand-new archetypes based on cards from the new expansions
4 decks that are old archetypes upgraded with cards from the new expansions
2 decks that are old archetypes unchanged by cards from the new expansions


The next step, then, is trying to deduce just what decks these might be, and that’s where things get a little trickier.


New Cards from Shining Legends and Crimson Invasion

Here are some potential “new archetype” cards from SHL and CRI:

  • Buzzwole-GX
  • Silvally-GX
  • Venusaur SHL/Shining Genesect
  • Gourgeist CRI

And here are some notable support cards:

  • Zoroark-GX
  • Shining Jirachi
  • Shining Mew
  • Marshadow
  • Kartana-GX
  • Guzzlord-GX
  • Devoured Field
  • Gladion
  • Lusamine
  • Sea of Nothingness

Of the support cards, Zoroark-GX has already made an impact at League Cups, with Alolan Ninetales-GX/Zoroark-GX being the third-most-successful deck of the second half of October, according to PokéStats’s Cup Statistics. The card has also found its way into archetypes like Decidueye-GX, Gardevoir-GX, and Golisopod-GX. It’s very reasonable to translate Zoroark’s success in BKT-SHL into success in BKT-CRI, given the innate strength of the card and variety of decks it can fit into.

Shining Jirachi and Shining Mew have also been seen in Garbodor lists and some other lists with varying degrees of success. With these types of decks remaining a top contender for London, it seems reasonable that Mew or Jirachi will see at least some play.

Marshadow is an under-the-radar yet very strong card from SHL, which Andrew Wamboldt has been discussing in detail over on The Charizard Lounge. Its disruptive factor is solid, but it functions best as an additional draw card (kind of like a lower-tier Shaymin-EX); you can read Wamboldt’s specifics here and here. I do expect Marshadow to see some play in London.

It’s harder to predict how CRI will impact the meta, since no League Cup data yet exists with the set legal. It seems that Buzzwole-GX is the most hyped card from the set, followed by Silvally-GX. If we include promos, Xurkitree-GX also seems like a strong card, but probably not as a deck on its own. In terms of support, the most notable CRI cards are a pair of Supports, Gladion and Lusamine. Gladion is good in decks that require lots of pieces to set up and can suffer from having poor Prizes — the best example is Greninja, which can use Gladion to turn a Water Duplicates for 2 Frogadier into a Water Duplicates for 3 Frogadier by grabbing the Prized Frogadier with Gladion, helping greatly in setup. Gladion could also grab 1-ofs like in the deck such as parts of the Starmie line. Gladion just does well in any deck that relies on heavy setup with lots of moving parts, or plays a lot of 1-of cards integral to the strategy. Alex Hill recently stated on Twitter that “People are sleeping on Gladion. [It’s] easily one of the best cards in the new set.”

Lusamine is also interesting, since it serves as a pseudo-replacement to VS Seeker. It’s not nearly as good as VS Seeker, since it counts as your Supporter for the turn, but it is a better recovery card and the option to return Stadiums to your hand is interesting. It seems that the current format is not in a place where Lusamine is going to be a staple, but it seems strong enough to be played in some decks.


EUIC Metagame and Top 8 Predictions

Now for the final piece of the puzzle: combining the analysis of new cards with the data from previous events to try to figure out the actual London metagame. I took a look at PokéStats’s Meta Progression pages from this season and last season to look for trends comparable to this season. I used my analysis from earlier in this article that Crimson Invasion is comparable to Sun and Moon in terms of format impact, and looked for trends around the 2017 Anaheim Regionals (when SM was first legal) and the most-played decks at that time in the season. Based on what I found, it looks to me like Gardevoir-GX and Drampa-GX/Garbodor are still going to be some of the best decks in London, just as they have been for almost the entirety of this season so far. I also believe that Greninja, Golisopod, and VikaBulu are strong, but Fire decks will see a drop in popularity.

Also, I think Zoroark-GX’s strongest impact will not be with Alolan Ninetales-GX. Similar comparisons from last season include the buildup to Worlds when Golisopod-GX was considered a partner for Zoroark, Lurantis SM25, or Decidueye-GX, but ended up seeing far more success as a partner for Garbodor. This prediction sort of depends on whether or not people play Mr. Mime, since Mime basically ruins Ninetales/Zoroark’s spread-attack win condition and forces it to become a tank-attacker deck, which Gardevoir, Drampa, Bulu, and maybe even Buzzwole are simply better at.

Looking at what new cards could form archetypes on their own, I don’t see Venusaur having any impact on London considering how badly it loses to Garbotoxin. Buzzwole and Silvally are probably the only two new archetypes that can succeed at the moment. Israel Sosa is a fan of Silvally, which certainly seems like a versatile card that has many ways of building a deck around it. Buzzwole is also versatile and is hyped enough that I expect at least one player to carry it to a high finish. (I have no idea what the proper partner for Buzzwole is — I’ll leave that to the deck-building pros.)

So finally, using these ideas and my “2-4-2” statistic from earlier, here’s my prediction for the decks that will make up the Top 8 in London in under two weeks.

2 new archetypes:

  • 1 Buzzwole-GX/something and 1 Silvally-GX/something, OR
  • 2 Buzzwole-GX/something (I personally think this is more likely)


4 old archetypes modified by new cards:

  • 2 Drampa-GX/Garbodor
  • 1 Greninja BREAK
  • 1 Golisopod-GX/something (probably spread and Zoroark-GX)


2 unchanged old decks:

  • 2 Gardevoir-GX


This is my personal prediction for the top cut of the season’s first International, based on my experience collecting data, calculating statistics, and analyzing metagame trends in a year working on PokéStats. If you want to debate me, hit me up on Twitter @twhitesell42 and of course follow @PokeStats_TCG while you’re at it. Thanks everyone for reading, and I’ll likely be back here after London to make excuses for why I was wrong recap the London meta and offer predictions for the future!

[+14] okko


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