02/02/2018 by Zach Lesage
Hey 60cards readers, I feel like I have been writing about Expanded decks forever now, so it is a nice change of pace to write about our Standard format. While Standard has been on the back burner due to Expanded testing for Dallas, we can always look back at the most recent tournament - Memphis. I have already wrote an article about the best decks from Memphis so in this article, I want to showcase a lesser-known concept, some general Poke-thoughts, and some tips to improve your game. I am sure you will be able to learn something from this article so without any hesitation, let’s start at the very beginning:
Table of contents
I will now take you into a time where I live in the present, but you are a newer player - let me guide you in the right direction! As a self-considered role model of this era of the game, I want to do my absolute best to guide you on the upmost moral path.
When joining the game, it’s often common to get hooked onto it really fast without much knowledge of the internal heartstrings. When we talk about the internal side of the game, I’m mainly referencing the tournament circuit (League Cups, Regional Championships, International Championships, and lastly the World Championships). On the topic of the World Championships, I find it odd that new players attending tournaments are unaware of Championship Point structures. It’s in the prizing pages, leaderboards are advertised online, and there ought to be at least one solid player at your local League who can tell you about it. But, in the opposition’s defence, the Pokemon website is awfully difficult to navigate, and some players who attend League like to keep precious information to themselves. On a side note, my brother Jay Lesage once told me “it’s important to help grow the game, even if it gives players an advantage on you. If you want to keep playing the game we love, you need to help it to flourish." I can remember my first time playing the Pokemon TCG competitively, and it felt like a fresh breath of life into the game. My deck was shabby, my match-ups were rocky, and I didn’t have even half of the resources I have today, but I pulled it all together to win my first City Championships, and that’s where it all started. But this article isn’t about me; it’s about you, or somebody you may know, and all about coming out of the Pokemon-closet.
Generally speaking, the younger you are, the more acceptable it is to continue playing the game. That’s a very broad statement, but accurate in a sense that considers global stigmas. I’m unsure how things function in the Eastern Hemisphere, but in North America, bullying plays a huge role, and I’m certain that it divides our player numbers tenfold. My purpose for writing this article is to inform players of where current attendance trends are continuing to head. We all know that one kid at league who played for a few seasons and then left without a trace. Was it a money issue? A time issue on their hands? I’d be willing to bet that it was most likely due to themselves or their parents deeming it was time to conclude their passion for the game. Parents tend to feed into the stigmas heavily, mainly because they don’t want their kid to bear the burden that is bullying. By forcing their child to quit the game, it will effectively save them from any future bullying, but this is wrong.
Although I may not carry the responsibilities of a father or mother, having been a child with a very supportive dad, I can safely say that an independent route as a parent (or future parent, if you aren’t yet) is superior. Since my dad was supportive enough for me to continue playing the game, I was able to have the privilege of playing in two age categories in my playing career: Seniors and Masters. Not only did this play to my benefit, but I was also to pursue a career in this game filled with many joyous experiences, friends, and connections along the way. However, that isn’t to say that my path was clear of issues; there were still bullies and several road blocks that potentially could have tainted my views on the game. There are tons of positives to combatting bullying of all sorts, beginning with the main pro: defeating stigma. If we defeat bullying and stigmas effectively, you’ll see that a few things may occur:
- Player bases will expand drastically
- Player retention would skyrocket to an all-time high
- Strategies would grow; more players (plus greater retention) equals more innovation
- Higher prizing due to surplus of players
It truly is a win-win for all parties involved, and with the rise in prizing, now is the time to do it. It’s easy to be the happy-go-lucky Canadian that I am and just say “let’s defeat stigmas, yeah!" But I also have to be a realist. No matter how many people attempt to stop bullying in regards to Pokemon players (or anybody, for that matter), there’s still going to be one successful bully out there at the schoolyard – maybe even your work office! My goal is to mitigate this as much as possible in order to create an environment where Pokemon players alike feel like they’re at their second home.
It’s always been a mystery as to where women fit into the Pokemon TCG. Their existence is very slim to none; I’ve been to entirely male-dominated tournaments where even one female player was nowhere to be found. The reason behind this must surely lie within stigmas: in this day and age, women just aren’t expected to play card games (which isn’t the right mentality), and some of the males don’t help that. Although it may seem like bullying occurs in external environments, a lot of the bullying happens to occur on the very tabletops we play on ourselves.
Dominance has played a role in human existence ever since the good old days, when knights used to joust for just about anything. Nowadays, things tend to be more the same: people play to be the best, and even when they aren’t the best, they’ll talk like they’re the best. It’s easy to see why somebody would want to be perceived as the coolest cat at the venue, and that’s because they want to be accepted. By being the coolest/most talented player in the room, they demand respect from those lower than them, and those lower than them will be more than happy to bow down in order to gain power.
This majorly impacts women because they’re getting pushed more and more out of the game by other players. Since stigmas tend to trend, more and more players (typically men) make misogynistic comments, or even just take jokes about women playing too far. This results in a plummeting retention rate among females, and also plummets the player referral rate (which decreases overall attendance). Not only is there a decrease in female turnout at tournaments, but just like at restaurants, a bad review translates to fewer guests. When this specific target group of players has a negative experience, they’ll tell as many people as need be, in order to deter them from the game. As a reoccurring theme, you can tell that attendance is harmed in every way by bullying, and it doesn’t just stop if you’re a girl!
Combatting bullying is something that’ll help to squash stigmas very quickly. By isolating bullies out of the equation, we’re able to promote emotional attachment to the game, and cement players very quickly into welcoming environments. In order to combat bullying, people typically defend themselves with the following statements: “I win money” or “I’ve been to [name of place] because of Pokemon.” I feel as if most players say these phrases in order to give their Pokemon careers a rationale, and in turn it just creates a vicious cycle of low self-esteem. For myself personally, I used to get bullied by this kid, and it scared me from playing Pokemon for a bit because I was worried there would be problems presented by playing the game I enjoy. I hadn’t won any money, and I hadn’t won any free trips at that point in time, so what was I left to defend myself with? I couldn’t barricade my hobby with any salvation, so I ended up having to take on the emotional abuse at the hands of the bully.
It wasn’t the greatest experience, but knowing what I know now, it’s very important that when this scenario approaches, we rely on the following replies: “I love this game, I’ve made so many friends!” or “I can’t believe how much fun I have playing Pokemon.”
By boasting and showing off how proud you are to play Pokemon (at any competitive level), you showcase how invincible you are to the antagonist. Be happy that you have the privilege to play such a great card game as well! Many countries have issues with their organized play stature, and some don’t even have Pokemon Organized Play in their country. I’ve never quite concluded until now how fortunate I am in order to play this game; being able to compete at the level I’m at has been a life-changing experience, and it’s the main reason why I’m writing this article for you today. People always tend to stick around in packs – if you can win one person over with your cool hobby, you’ll be able to slowly turn the tides of stigma.
Pokemon players tend to remain “incognito” when it comes to discussing Pokemon outside of their Pokemon-related circles. It’s important that as a community we break out of our shells, because if we don’t, it reinforces the fact that we’re embarrassed to play the game. Most players argue that they’re scared to tell their friends (and even sometimes family) that they play because they are worried that they’ll be judged by the ones they love. Barring some teasing of sorts, this tends to be quite the opposite: people love to support crazy hobbies and even wilder dreams. I would tell my friends that I wanted to be the best in the world at this game, and although they initially laughed at me, they have supported me regardless and encouraged me to practice. My family has been nothing but supportive to me, and I have always appreciated growing up in a household that can sustain my dreams. As for anybody that chose to distract me from my Pokemon-related goals, let’s just say that they fell by the wayside quicker than you could say “Extremespeed.”
I know that keeping Pokemon a secret tends to occur more with younger people, but it still affects all three age divisions. There are multiple approaches that you take when telling people that you play Pokemon:
1) Tell people your story – people love to chat. And everybody I know loves a good story, especially one with an off-the-wall concept. Dive deep into the inner workings of your craft, and discuss with your target how much fun you have.
2) Tell people what you like – brag about yourself. If you identify as a nerd, boast it off to the people you’re talking too. Nerds can be cool too!
3) If people are still giving you trouble, tell them it’s your passion – nobody can tell you what to love in this world. If you like pineapple on pizzas or wearing pink sweatshirts, I can’t sway you in any way if you remain set in stone.
4) When all else fails, shut them out – nobody likes a party pooper. 99% of the time, if you’re serious and address it in a mature manor, people won’t judge you. Perhaps you should be prepared for some light pokes from your friends, but besides that they’ll respect you more for telling them why you’re away from home on weekends so often.
You can’t end all the problems in the world, but that’s okay; “war prompts innovation,” as they say. When players are told they can’t do something, they always perform what seems like impossible magic at this tips of their fingertips. Whenever somebody asks me about Pokemon, I always get a little flattered that they’d care so much to ask me – I get so much joy out of showing my pals all of my streamed matches, and throwback pictures of myself in the Senior division. Even showing my work friends aspects of the game has been amazing, and they have been nothing but supportive towards that. Sometimes, people also ask me what it’s like to be a Pokemon player, and when I describe it, I feel like an intellectual baddy.
The script goes a little something like this:
“Do you know how football players endure hours of exhausting fieldwork? I endure hours upon hours of mental exercises and puzzles. While football uses the body as a vehicle, I use my cards as a vehicle to express my intellectual thoughts.”
Sounds pretty cool right? My copyrights on that phrase are currently in the works (LOL!), but it helps to boost your own self-esteem in your own right. We can only look at ourselves the way we think others perceive us, so it’s always important to work on ourselves as we progress as humans. My personal advice and ending note: don’t let others knock you down. Most of the time they’re unaware of what they’re even commenting on, and when one person chooses to put a notch in your fresh belt, there are always ten friends waiting to help you back on your feet. Enjoy the game just as much as I do, because one day when you do choose to stop playing, you’ll be glad that you didn’t quit on that one stormy night seven years prior.
Anyways, that is enough of a rant for now, and I am sure you want to dive into a freshly baked list for your upcoming League Cups or Sydney (If you are lucky enough to be able to attend). Well … I would be lying to you if I said I would jump right into a list. Let’s peer into my thoughts on the deck choice before I give you a prime list:
With that being said, I have looked at the pool of Standard cards and have found an old concept that seems likely to creep into the meta game at League Cups and Sydney. I took inspiration from my recent Seismitoad-EX/Giratina-EX list that I posted to my Twitter and used that list to spiritually create Mismagius/Garbodor. Here are the reasons why I think the deck is good right now:
- You can block Special Energy cards
- You can block Pokemon Tool cards
- You can block Stadium cards
- You can punish opponents for playing Item cards
- You can stop your opponent’s Abilities
- Zoroark-GX is a dominant force in Standard right now
- You can deny your opponent Energy attachments
- You can loop your Supporters with Lusamine
All of these reasons add up to a strong control factor that can lead the deck to success. While similar concepts haven't been successful since Igor Costa’s deep run in Toronto with Seismitoad-EX/Giratina-EX, Special Energy is the biggest factor in the metagame that surrounds us right now. Most of the best decks in the metagame utilize Special Energy cards and explosive engines that play many Item cards. Our best match-ups are the decks that focus on Special Energy and our worst match-ups are the decks that don’t play many Special Energy such as Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu, Greninja BREAK, Volcanion. Buzzwole-GX/Lycanroc-GX is a closer match-up, but the techs in our deck combined with their glaring Psychic Weakness makes it slightly in our favour. Either way, let’s jump into my deck list:
- 3x Mismagius
- 4x Misdreavus
- 2x Garbodor
- 2x Garbodor
- 3x Trubbish
- 2x Tapu Lele GX
- 1x Espeon EX
- 4x Professor Sycamore
- 4x N-supporter
- 2x Lusamine
- 2x Guzma
- 1x Team Rocket's Handiwork
- 1x Team Flare Grunt
- 1x Plumeria
- 1x Brigette
- 4x Choice Band
- 4x Float Stone
- 4x Ultra Ball
- 2x Enhanced Hammer
- 2x Timer Ball
- 1x Field Blower
- 1x Super Rod
- 7x Psychic Energy
- 2x Double Colorless Energy
I will go over cards in the deck list to explain how they should work in a real-life setting! Not all cards are included, such as Ultra Ball, because it is included in almost every competitive deck!
Three Mismagius and Four Misdreavus
Similar to Giratina-EX, Mismagius is used to block pivotal cards in your opponents deck. If your opponent does not need Special Energy cards for their deck to function, it is best to use Garbodor GRI’s Trashalance instead, because we need to make this deck work somehow. However, we shouldn't have to rely on Garbodor GRI too much because Special Energy such as Double Colorless Energy are at the top of the game right now. This will allow for Mismagius to sweep in and take some easy wins!
Two Garbodor GRI
This card functions as a back-up threat against our opponent to wait and see if they play enough Items to fall into a Knock Out from Trashalanche. With Chaos Wheel stopping our opponent from playing Special Energy, Pokemon Stadiums, and Pokemon Tools - our opponent will be left to play only Basic Energy and Items. It should be noted that Garbodor BKP will block our opponent from using any Ability with its Garbotoxin Ability.
Two Garbodor BKP
This Pokemon is meant for blocking Abilities to further our lock against our opponent. Some common Pokemon with Abilities that we will block are:
- Oranguru SUM
- Tapu Lele-GX GRI
- Hoopa SLG
- Mr. Mime GEN
- Volcanion-EX STS
- Zoroark-GX SLG
- Zoroark BKT
- Mew-EX PRM
- Decidueye-GX SUM
That being said, we have a large portion of the metagame covered! There are countless other Pokemon with Abilities that we will counter, but those listed above are some of the most important ones in our current Standard format.
Mismagius’ Chaos Wheel does not do a lot of damage so I needed to find a tech that would bring everything together if needed - Espeon-EX seems to be that Pokemon. That being said, Espeon-EX is the best vessel for Devolution in the game right now. Espeon-EX Devolves all Pokemon on your opponent’s board which means you can do some solid chip damage with Chaos Wheel, and use Espeon-EX to possibly take multiple Prize Cards.
The use of Lusamine in this deck is incredible! In this deck, Lusamine can be used in many ways, but it follows an infinite loop in the following pattern:
- Play any Supporter and/or Stadium
- Play any Supporter and/or Stadium
- Play a Lusamine to get back any two Supporters
- Play any Supporter and/or Stadium
- Play your second Lusamine to get back a Lusamine and get any Supporter
- Play any Supporter and/or Stadium
- Play your Lusamine to get back a Lusamine and get any Supporter
If you follow this pattern, you have access to an infinite amount of Professor Sycamore, N, Guzma, Team Rocket’s Handiwork, Team Flare Grunt, Plumeria, Brigette, and Lusamine. In the nature in which the deck is played, there are often turns where you can waste your Supporter per turn by using Lusamine to recover cards because your opponent may not be able to respond due to the lock. In the event of you decking out, it is even possible of using this “Lusamine loop” technique to get back infinite copies of N to avoid decking out.
One Team Rocket’s Handiwork
Sometimes our opponent will have troubles searching out their Basic Energy from their deck because they play a low amount or they are just buried deep with the deck. Team Rocket’s Handiwork will give us an opportunity to run past our opponent and try to discard their energy before they can attach them. We can use this card, like any of our other Supporters, over and over again with the Lusamine loop as described above.
One Team Flare Grunt, One Plumeria, and Two Enhanced Hammer
In order to maintain our lock, we need to be able to prevent our opponents from attacking us - that is typically how lock decks work. While Chaos Wheel can block our opponent from playing an Special Energy, we have no current way to attack on the first turn of the game. This has been a problem until I decided to add three different ways to discard our opponent’s energy.
Two Timer Ball
I have heard some players preach to me about Evosoda being the best way to search out a Stage One Pokemon, but i beg to differ. I think that a card that allows me to have a chance to get multiple Pokemon from my deck is better than a card that guarantees me one. In most cases, I will get only one, but there is a chance for me to get two. I am fine with the potential draw back of getting zero Pokemon, it is a chance that I am personally willing to take.
Two Double Colourless Energy
Sometimes you want to attack with Mismagius’ Dark Arts mid-game because our opponent got set-up or perhaps we want to use Garbodor GRI’s Acid Spray attack to OHKO a Buzzwole-GX - sometimes we need that energy acceleration. It isn’t always wise to break the lock of Garbotoxin and Chaos Wheel, but at least we have the option to make that happen when necessary.
Heading to Australia
I hope that you enjoyed my take on the current Standard metagame, and I invite you to explore different concepts as we head into Australia. Speaking about Australia, I have registered for the tournament and booked my flight to Sydney! While it often goes unsaid, a key factor in playing in events is actually planning for them. If you put your mind into playing in an event, you will start taking each event seriously within its own right! For any of my upcoming articles, they will be all about Standard heading into Sydney so get excited for new content coming from me soon!
As you may or may not have known, I have taken a brief break from the game after London to relax, and I am super excited to play in major events again. It was getting very tiresome playing the game at a top level; the travel was expensive, I was losing sleep, and I would frantically force myself to play test. During my minor break from major competitive tournaments, I started on focusing my efforts into coaching players, writing articles, and getting myself together. Sometimes you just need to pause your Pokemon life to regroup - this is regardless if you are a newer player trying to catch a wave or a seasoned veteran who grinds tournaments weekly. Now this doesn’t mean that you don’t want to play, but you need to clear on your self-reflections, realize what you want out of the game, and make sure you are making wise decisions. It feels great to be back with many planned tournaments heading into 2018! And after a strong League Cup performance, I have already earned my invite to the 2018 World Championships in Nashville, TN in August - hopefully I will see you all there!
Either way, feel free to follow me on my Twitter: zlesage_pokemon to see if there are any changes to my lists. I am personally excited to see the results of the upcoming Australian Internationals, and hopefully I will continue to ride the wave on top of the competitive spectrum. I wish everyone the best of luck who is living out their dream trying to compete for a World Championship invite or for those who are loving and supporting the game from a casual standpoint. If you haven’t met me in person or if we have just briefly met, feel free to actually introduce yourself to me, because I love knowing everybody. Thank you for all of the support; I truly appreciate everyone who take the time to read one of my articles and for supporting 60cards.
- Zach Lesage
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