12/30/2017 by Tate Whitesell
Hello again, 60cards readers! Memphis Regionals has concluded, and it marked one of the largest shifts in the metagame we’ve seen between two tournaments without a new set released in the interim. The BDIF for months on end previously, Gardevoir-GX, took only a pair of Day 2 spots in Memphis (and none of the Top 8), while Lycanroc-GX decks took 18 of the 35 placements. Most successful was Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX (which gave Michael Pramawat his seventh Regional win), but Buzzwole-GX/Lycanroc-GX also put up an impressive showing, launching Pablo Meza and Andrew Mahone into the Top 4.
On the same weekend, Brisbane Regionals was held in Australia and the Turin Special Event was held in Italy, and the Top 8 cuts of those events also featured a conspicuous lack of Gardevoir, with 0 in Brisbane and only 1 in Turin. Clearly, the meta shift was not just restricted to the United States.
In this article, I’ll break down exactly what happened between EUIC and Memphis/Brisbane/Turin that resulted in such a dramatic meta shift, and go over the Day 2 metagames of the three events above to see where we might be headed in the next couple of months.
League Cup Lead-up
Local events in late November—early December
In late November, I began working with Some1sPC and Andrew Zavala on creating a “living tier list” project for the Pokémon TCG. This page can be viewed here; every week, it’s updated with League Cup sample data from PokéStats and (when applicable) data from larger events, giving a picture of how the metagame changes on a literal week-to-week basis.
Here’s a look at the chart since we started working on it:
Looking at the graphs, you can see a very noticeable drop in Gardevoir’s meta share each week — this would be even more noticeable if you could see the previous weeks. Since winning 2017 Worlds in August, Gardevoir never fell below 20% of the meta in PokéStats’s League Cup samples — until December 2. That’s remarkable: Gardy was eating up at least a fifth (and usually closer to a fourth) of CP available at every tournament in our sample from September through the first week of December.
But around that time (late November, early December), something happened. Players started realizing that there were several decks that not only went toe-to-toe with Gardy, but could actually beat it outright. I believe that the key to this “revolution” was a card that has existed since May of this year, but was only recently brought to the forefront of competition because it lacked the proper partners. That card is Lycanroc-GX GRI, and Buzzwole-GX and Zoroark-GX are the partners it needed to be successful.
Lycanroc-GX’s Ability is a throwback to Luxray GL LV. X, a card from what many players consider one of the game’s best-ever formats, the Platinum era. But in a format with Lysandre, and later, Guzma, Bloodthirsty Eyes did not have as big an impact as Bright Look did back in 2009-10. Also, either Decidueye-GX or Golisopod-GX was a top card in the format during the early months of Lycanroc’s existing, further hindering the card due to Weakness.
Now, players have realized that perhaps the best way to beat Gardevoir (besides nuking it with a Metal-type) is winning the early game, preventing the Gardy player from setting up by taking out the low-HP Ralts, Kirlia, Remoraid, or Eevee, each of which has only 60 HP. Lycanroc-GX excels at this task, because with a quick Bloodthirsty Eyes, it can pull one of those little Pokémon off the Bench into the Active spot. That’s where Buzzwole and Zoroark come in: Zoroark will easily deal 60 damage for a single DCE attachment, and Buzzwole can reach the 60-HP “magic number” with Jet Punch + Strong Energy + Regirock-EX — while also targeting another Benched Pokemon for a two-shot, further pressuring the Gardy player.
What I’ve just explained is old news at this point, but it is the single biggest reason why players shied away from Gardy during these last few weeks of tournaments. Looking back at the graph, the rise of Lycanroc decks perfectly coincides with the fall of Gardevoir decks.
We can also look at this Meta Progression chart from PokéStats that shows Gardevoir-GX variants at major events since the start of the season:
The trendline shows Gardevoir coming off its success at Worlds and having several good Regional performances, culminating in a Vancouver Regionals showing in which it took over 40% of the Day 2 meta; the “Broken” (4 Max Potion) variant had its heyday at the EUIC, with a 20% Day 2 meta share that would’ve likely been higher had deck creator Sina Ghaziaskhar not messaged everyone and their uncle about the concept a few weeks prior, spoiling the surprise factor.
But at Memphis, both the Sylveon and “Broken” variants dropped to under 5% of the Day 2 meta in total, with some of the game’s biggest names (Pramawat, Meza, Mahone, Ahmed Ali, Rahul Reddy, Ben Potter, Sam Chen, Ryan Allred…) playing a Lycanroc-GX deck designed to win those early-game shootouts and prevent Gardevoir from ever doing its thing.
The Biggest Day 2 decks at the largest-ever Regional
Let’s take a look at some notable decks from Memphis.
31.73% of Day 2 meta
31.73% is one of the larger meta shares for a single deck at a single event since I started keeping track of this statistic during the 2016-17 season. Off the top of my head, only Yveltal/Garbodor, Drampa/Garbodor, and Gardevoir have had higher Day 2 meta shares. With this much success (almost a third of the Day 2 CP), it wouldn’t be surprising if this weekend’s Cups see a ton of players swarming to this new deck — but it also wouldn’t be surprising if players try out some counter decks, very likely something like Azul Garcia Griego’s Golisopod-GX/Garbodor deck that took 2nd in Memphis.
25.39% of Day 2 meta
Any time a deck hits more than 25% of the meta at a tournament, it goes on my radar as a deck that people might try to specifically counter at the next tournament. Buzzwole barely broke this marker, but it’s such a strong deck that something like a Mew-EX or Mew FAC tech could be slotted into decks to give them an easy way to KO Buzzwole. Heavy Enhanced Hammers are also a good out by preventing the Buzzwole player from keeping Strong Energy around, making it harder for them to reach that 60- or 70-HP number to KO small basics like Ralts, Remoraid, Froakie, Wimpod, Grubbin, or Rowlet.
Despite possible counters, I don’t think Buzzwole/Lycanroc will see decreased play; I think it will actually increase in play at Cups since the deck is favored against Memphis’s #1 deck, Zoroark/Lycanroc, and it just applies so much early pressure.
8.60% of Day 2 meta
This deck broke out when Tord Reklev used it to win the 2017 EUIC. It’s had decent results since then, having the largest meta share in my December 9 League Cup sample and being one of the most hyped decks going into Memphis. It should be on players’ radar as a solid pick going forward although I don’t think it offers anything that makes it better than the Lycanroc-GX variant.
2.26% of Day 2 meta
One of the best ways to shut off Zoroark/Lycanroc is to stop their Abilities; the deck relies on Zoroark-GX’s Trade Ability and plays few draw supporters, so a Garbotoxin or Shadow Stitching will cripple their setup and won’t even let them use Bloodthirsty Eyes to take a cheap Prize or stall out a heavy-retreater. Many players incorporated Giratina into their decks in Memphis to deal with Greninja, but I expect this to decrease at this weekend’s Cups as I think there is a perceived “Greninja-phobia” after the deck got no higher than 35th at Memphis (and, uh, the whole Xiao Xiao Long thing). Thus, Greninja might actually become a very good play for Cups this weekend, as it can beat the Zoroark-GX decks while maintaining a good Gardevoir matchup.
I still think Lycanroc/Zoroark has to be the deck to watch for the next few weeks; going back to the Meta Snapshot graph, that 23% meta share jump between December 9th and Memphis is really impressive and not something you see a lot.
What to play for the next couple weeks
If I personally was attending a Cup this weekend, my play would be torn between Buzzwole-GX/Lycanroc-GX and Volcanion. I think those decks have a very close matchup against each other and can dominate the rest of the format if played correctly; neither has any significant autolosses.
Dean Nezam’s 12th-place Volcanion list from Memphis is actually one of my favorite lists to come out in a long time. The list doesn’t run Max Elixir, and it eschews any tech attackers like Turtonator-GX or Ho-Oh-GX. It doesn’t even run Starmie. The result is an extremely consistent and powerful deck that plays like the original Volcanion lists after 2016 Worlds: 4 Professor’s Letter, 4 Energy Retrieval, 4 Volcanion, 4 Volcanion-EX. The 1-1 Octillery is a fantastic touch alongside 3 Brooklet Hill, as it adds another dimension of consistency.
As I’ve tested this list, the game plan I’ve been using is to play early Guzmas to target low-HP Basics and take cheap KOs (with baby Volcanion’s Power Heater + Fighting Fury Belt + Steam Up) for my first two Prizes while setting up a fleet of Volcanion-EX. You need to spread out your Energy attachments (both from hand and via Power Heater), because if a Bloodthirsty Eyes or Guzma comes down and takes out an attacker you’ve been putting all your Energy on, you have to start over from square one. But after you’ve taken a couple Prizes to disrupt your opponent while building up EXs, the real fun begins: send up a Volcanion-EX and Steam Up to your heart’s content to KO anything in your path. The math is beautiful: with a FFB and a triple Steam Up, Volcanion-EX does exactly 230 damage, OHKOing a Gardevoir-GX as well as Buzzwole-GX, Zoroark-GX, and Lycanroc-GX. You never need to hit higher numbers than 230 because the 240- and 250-HP Pokémon in the format (Decidueye, Metagross, Solgaleo) are all weak to Fire! And it’s actually quite easy to pull off that triple Steam Up with this list. I highly recommend testing it.
I hope this article has helped you formulate a “plan of attack” for approaching your next Cups, and maybe even the next Regionals before Ultra Prism comes out and we’re all living in a world of Metal. (Or Glaceon-GX.)
Until next time!
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