02/14/2018 by Tate Whitesell
Hello 60cards readers! The 2018 Oceania International Championships just concluded, and we are now entering a new iteration of the Standard format, with Malmö and Collinsville Regionals not far away. Ultra Prism (UPR) is bringing an assortment of new decks with competitive viability: Metal, with the obvious combo of Magnezone and Dusk Mane Necrozma-GX, could be a tier 1 deck, but Glaceon-GX and Leafeon-GX could be just waiting for the right list to take them to a high finish as well. The set also introduces several solid non-EX/GX decks, which have been largely absent from Standard in recent months: Garchomp, Empoleon, and Alolan Dugtrio. On top of all those, almost all existing decks get the new Supporter Cynthia to work with, and decks like Greninja and Passimian also receive buffs from the new set.
I’ll talk about some expectations for the new format in the second part of this article. To start things off, I’m going to recap Oceania and give you guys some of the most interesting statistics and observations from the event. And for fun, at the end I’ll present my current list for my favorite new deck (though sadly not the best new deck), Garchomp/Lucario.
1. Deck appearances on stream
Buzzwole-GX/Garbodor - 3, 1-1-1
Buzzwole-GX/Lycanroc-GX - 11, 4-4-3
Gardevoir-GX/Sylveon-GX - 1, 0-0-1
VikaBulu - 1 - 0-0-1
Volcanion - 3, 1-1-1
Zoroark-GX/Gardevoir-GX - 8, 5-0-3
Zoroark-GX/Golisopod-GX - 6, 1-4-1
Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX - 3, 0-3-0
Only eight different archetypes appeared on stream throughout all 19 stream matches (two Swiss rounds featured two matches on stream). 38 decks on stream, 8 archetypes. This was a pretty “solved” format and the only archetype that was the only one of its kind to make Day 2 was Hoopa stall (9th-place finish under Roland Allen).
Unsurprisingly, of the decks that were featured in more than one stream match, only Zoroark-GX/Gardevoir-GX — the deck that won the entire tournament — went undefeated, with a 5-0-3 record. Although the creators of the deck (Tord Reklev and the Limitless team) were on record as saying Buzzwole-GX/Lycanroc-GX was an “autoloss,” they actually went 4-0 vs. BuzzRoc on stream, which is absurd.
Speaking of BuzzRoc, although the deck was “the play” for the top-ranked American players at the tournament, it went a measly 4-4-3 on stream. Michael Pramawat summed up why:
(I, for one, eagerly await to see what Pram’s “more interesting deck” could be!)
2. Volcanion continues a hot streak
As pointed out by the casters, Volcanion has made Top 8 at every International, and the streak did not end in Oceania. Corey Godfrey piloted the deck to Top 8 where he lost to the eventual champion Tord Reklev in what was likely a bad matchup.
Volcanion has also made Day 2 at every Standard Regional so far this season. In 2016-17, it made Day 2 at every Standard Regional for the entire season, according to the PokeStats database. The deck may not win trophies very often, but it has been extremely consistent at putting players in the money since it was released prior to Worlds 2016.
3. Stall decks regressed
People actually began to counter stall decks in some ways in Oceania. A few Buzzwole/Lycanroc or Zoroark/Lycanroc players included a Lycanroc BUS 75 to serve as a non-EX/GX attacker that could OHKO Hoopa — or Xurkitree, with a Choice Band. Other Buzzwole/Lycanroc or Buzzwole/Garbodor players went for Carbink FCO 49, whose Energy Keeper ability protected precious Energy from Crushing Hammer/Enhanced Hammer/Team Flare Grunt/Plumeria.
Stall might be a less effective deck moving forward with Dusk Mane Necrozma-GX one-shotting Wishiwashi-GX, Celesteela-GX, and Regigigas, and Hoopa falling to non-EX/GX decks like Greninja, Garchomp, Empoleon, or Alolan Dugtrio. The only stall deck I could see being solid in the upcoming format is a Wobbuffet-based deck. There is an argument to be made that Sylveon-GX could succeed, but if Metal does become big, I doubt Sylveon can keep up.
1. Don’t count out Volcanion
Volcanion has probably been the most consistently good deck during the entire two-year stretch I’ve been running PokeStats. To see what I mean, check out its meta progression chart for most of the 2016-17 season (a few tournaments at the end of the year are left out, but Volcanion was still present at them too):
Volcanion did not miss Day 2 at a single major event in the entire season after its release at Worlds 2016. It is also the only deck to have made Top 8 at all six International championships so far. The deck has changed with new partners like Turtonator-GX and Ho-Oh-GX, but it always manages to adapt, and the core combo of Volcanion STS and Volcanion-EX is just very powerful.
Volcanion adds another good matchup to its plate with the rise of Metal (although Metal certainly has tricks to beat it), and one of its worst matchups — Gardevoir-GX decks — may see far less play. However, Water decks are returning big time with Glaceon-GX, Greninja, and Empoleon. One of the biggest stories I’m going to follow at St. Louis and Malmo is if Volcanion shows up and, if so, how it is built. If its diehards do decide to play it, I think Enhanced Hammer finds its way back into the list since those three big Water decks play Special Energy as a core part of the strategy (either Splash or DCE). It will be interesting to see if Volcanion has finally reached the end of its competitive viability in Standard or if it will just evolve once more to tackle the new meta.
2. Do new concepts make a splash right away, or will they take a backseat?
With the last set release (the dual release of Shining Legends and Crimson Invasion), Zoroark-GX, Buzzwole-GX, and Silvally-GX — the three most-anticipated Pokemon in those sets — saw play right away. The same was true of Burning Shadows with Gardevoir-GX and Golisopod-GX. Going back a little further, though, we see that some well-known archetypes weren’t highly played immediately upon release. Decidueye-GX took only one placement at the first event it was legal for (thanks, John Kettler!), but then swarmed the format over the next several months. The same is true of Espeon-GX, which was almost an afterthought of Sun and Moon until I think Russell LaParre started playing it at some Cups and giving it attention. For a period in mid-2017 it was the go-to Garbodor partner over Drampa-GX. Going back even further, cards like M Scizor-EX and M Gardevoir-EX STS didn’t see much play immediately upon release. M Gardevoir-EX STS is a particularly good example since it was completely overshadowed at Worlds 2016 by the other big Steam Siege card, Volcanion, but come 2017 it took 3 of the Top 4 spots at Dallas Regionals in January.
I think Ultra Prism will be a set that produces decks of this second variety — I expect Metal to be big right off, but I think there are plenty of “sleeper” cards in the set that won’t see much play in Malmo or St. Louis but can be quite good in a month or two. The reason? Most of the world’s best players are just coming back from an International. They were focused on the BRT-CRI format and didn’t have much time to think about Ultra Prism. Now they have only a few days to test those new decks before embarking on more flights or road trips to this weekend’s Regionals. My editor over at Some1sPC, Russ LaParre, referred to Magnezone/Dusk Mane Necrozma as a deck that he could “shut his brain off” and essentially autopilot into Day 2 due to the deck’s simplicity. So I think top players will gravitate either towards that or an established archetype, and save the experimentation for later in the format.
3. The future of Zoroark
Will Zoroark-GX be unseated from its reign as the king of Standard? Two new UPR cards seem to specifically target Zoroark. One, Glaceon-GX is a similar Pokemon with 200 HP (vs. Zoroark’s 210) and a two-shot attack, but it has the advantage of shutting off Zoroark’s all-important Trade Ability. With a Glaceon-GX active, a player can block the large majority of the Zoroark deck’s draw support, and win the two-shot war by preventing the Zoroark player from drawing into Acerola, Max Potion, or Energy for backup attackers.
The other Zoroark counter is that Dusk Mane Necrozma-GX, which deals 220 damage to OHKO a Zoroark. We’ve been in a two-shot format for some time now and DMN offers a disruption of that style. I anticipate counts of Zoroark-GX to therefore be lower in St. Louis and Malmo. More decks will run 2-2 lines as draw support rather than the primary focus of a deck with no significant answers to Glaceon or DMN.
The current Standard meta contains very few viable decks that don’t revolve around Pokemon-GX. Since the release of Sun and Moon, the only examples would be Greninja, Gourgeist, and stall decks like Heatmor/Raichu and Hoopa/Wobbuffet. Ultra Prism provides the opportunity for some more non-GX decks to become competitive: namely; Garchomp, Empoleon, and Alolan Dugtrio.
Of these, I first picked up Garchomp, and have been focusing on it with my BRT-UPR testing thus far. I don’t think it’s a top-tier deck, as it has consistency issues, but it is very fun to play and could be a solid lower-tier option with plenty of good matchups.
Let’s examine my current list:
3/1 Garchomp UPR/BPT
A lot of lists play a 2/2 split. I don’t think this is necessarily wrong, and I need to test some more each way, but I’ve been liking having the third UPR, because if you play two and Prize one, the deck loses so much consistency. That being said, my approach to the deck has focused on swarming multiple UPR into play early; maybe I should consider a playstyle where BPT is prioritized in the early game to accelerate Energy onto Gible and Gabite on the Bench.
I’ve seen lists play literally any count of Lucario from one to four. I think two is best, because the deck can function fine with just one on the field, and the second feels like a “win more” option in many games. However, the power this card provides is insane, so I would absolutely consider moving to a 3-3 line if I could figure out two good cuts.
Gust effects: 1 Counter Catcher, 1 Guzma, no Lycanroc-GX
I hate the Garchomp lists I’ve run into that play Lycanroc-GX. A 1-1 is inconsistent and opens you up to bad Prizing, and a 2-2 takes up four whole spots in a tight list. If you get one into play, it takes up an important Bench spot and serves as a two-Prize liability that is generally an inferior attacker to either Garchomp. I believe Counter Catcher is the way to go: it takes up a single slot, can be instantly searched with Lucario, and you are usually playing from behind with this deck anyway. For those situations where you are ahead on Prizes, I play a single Guzma; I don’t want any more because it almost always feels like a dead card and we run Pal Pad and Puzzle of Time if we somehow need more than one.
I went back and forth on this card, because it does decrease consistency since you can’t use it with Garchomp UPR. However, I think that in a Zoroark-heavy meta, it is very good. You can attach it to Garchomp BPT and use Turbo Assault with Choice Band to OHKO a Zoroark-GX, while also accelerating Energy. This puts you so far ahead in the game. I will often accelerate an Energy onto a Lucario in these matchups, so that if my Garchomp gets return KO’d, I can double Puzzle for the Strong Energy back (along with a Counter Catcher or Guzma if needed) and take yet another Zoroark-GX KO with Lucario.
Most people are probably aware of why this is played, but if you aren’t, it is strictly better than Float Stone here because everything in the deck has 1 or 0 Retreat Cost.
Other card counts
N is my favorite early game Supporter, because I want to conserve Cynthia, so I play 4 of those. There are no Sycamore because almost every card in the list is crucial and I don’t want to see a Sycamore in an early hand and be forced to dump resources. Two Pal Pad feels right to me: Giving yourself extra outs to Supporters in the late game is huge, like when you find yourself getting Nd to one or two and needing just a couple more pieces to close out the game.
If you are not playing Puzzle of Time in this deck, you are wrong. It has insane synergy with Lucario where you can Precognitive Aura for a second piece or even both pieces if you have double Lucario in play.
Looking at this next meta I expect Garbodor decks to make a comeback, which makes me want to play a second Field Blower. It’s pretty hard to cut things from this list, since it is a heavily combo-based deck.
As with most decks in this format, the optimal turn one involves hitting a Brigette to fill your Bench. Unlike Zoroark decks, we only play one Brigette, which means you often find yourself playing a Tapu Lele-GX the first turn. At the end of turn one, I almost always want to have an Alolan Vulpix in the Active spot so I can start using Beacon on turn two. Gible’s Rock Hiding Ability is super useful for this purpose, because you can free retreat into Vulpix and keep a Fighting Energy on the board for the potential turn two Rare Candy + Garchomp + DCE.
In the mid game, I will be attacking with Garchomp and usually have a Bench with two additional Garchomp lines, two Lucario, and the Lele from the early game. You need to make sure to stream Garchomp as efficiently as possible. If one goes down, you either need another one ready to attack or at least the cards in hand to find one. If you are forced into a spot where you miss an attack, you are probably too far behind.
I want my Supporter progression to look like Brigette -> N -> Cynthia -> Pal Pad -> whatever is necessary to close out the game. Managing Supporters is one of the most important aspects of the deck.
This deck has a lot of good matchups.
- Zoroark decks are easy, if you set up well and don’t let their greater consistency overwhelm you.
- Gardevoir-GX decks are more difficult because they very easily one-shot your main attacker, but you still have the advantage in terms of one-Prize attackers and can OHKO a Gardevoir-GX with the right card combo. This matchup usually goes down to the wire for me.
- VikaBulu is quite easy because you one-shot everything in their deck without Choice Band. Garchomp BPT is huge in allowing you to OHKO a Vikavolt (with Strong Energy) to set back your opponent while building up your own board.
- I think Magnezone is tougher to deal with than VikaBulu because the deck has more ways to cheaply KO your low-HP Basics, and Dialga-GX can make life miserable for you, but it is not an unfavorable matchup.
- Glaceon-GX decks are pretty easy, because you OHKO their attackers and don’t rely on EX/GX Abilities aside from early Lele. If you get the turn one Brigette off and play smart around snipe damage from Frost Bullet, you should win.
- Garchomp BPT is your friend against any stall/mill deck since it provides near-infinite Energy recursion and OHKOs Hoopa.
- Greninja could be your worst matchup. They can often take multiple KOs in a turn and outpace you, and they Shadow Stitch Lucario to take away that option. Giratina XY184 would probably help a lot if you anticipate a lot of Greninja.
- Other one-Prize-attacker decks present fun matchups. I think Garchomp is about even with Empoleon and Alolan Dugtrio. Against the former, I try to maximize use of Parallel City; in one match, I used my single copy three times via Puzzle of Time, preventing my opponent from getting consistent OHKOs. Against the latter, I target any support Pokemon like Octillery or Starmie and KO those after playing N.
Thank you guys for reading -- keep an eye on the things I mentioned for this weekend's Regionals. I'll be providing my usual coverage on PokeStats looking closely at the topics of this post. Who knows, maybe some brave soul will take Garchomp to Day 2.
Until next time,
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