Experts' corner

Zach Lesage

Big Shot, Peanut Butter Insides - The Standard Wave

Zach goes over some his best playing habits, his updated Buzz/Garb list, and a cool Ho-Oh deck.

03/14/2018 by Zach Lesage

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Flying Around

Hey 60 cards readers, I am sure I sound like a broken record by now, but as I write this I am up in the air. My trip today consists of flying from Toronto, ON to Orange County, CA for the 2018 Costa Mesa, CA Regionals. While I am still preparing my deck choice for this Expanded event, I do have some insight for the upcoming Standard 2018 Charlotte, NC Regionals and local League Cups. If you read my recent article about the unique decks that we saw at the 2018 Collinsville, IL Regionals (insert hyperlink overly here), you would know that our current Standard format is fairly diverse. In this article, my goal is to address some of my best playing habits, shed some insight on my top plays, and help prepare everyone reading this article for their upcoming tournaments. I’ll jump right into some of my best playing habits:

The Ways to the Top

The best ways that I have used to up my game and reach the upper echelon of playing this game are simply using my time wisely and play-testing. These two concepts sound extremely similar and vastly different at the same time, but I will explain them both the best I can. In the current game of Pokemon, there are multiple ways to become a better player and I will try to include tidbits of information in each of may articles to help you grow as you read them. Since these concepts can be split up, I’ll go over them individually:

Use Your Time Wisely

I may have an advantage over some players simply because I have built-up a testing network over my years of playing. On any given day, I can toss a concept around my groups and quickly have a final product by the end of the day; something that takes other players weeks to do, I can have done shortly. Even with my capability of having decks, ideas, and strategies refined quickly I must use my time appropriately to pick a solid deck going into any given event. This is usually the path I take to picking my deck and elevating my skill:

  • Have three to five decks that I am interested into taking into any given event
  • Pass these concepts around to my play-testing network, friends, and teammates
  • Work on these concepts lightly, usually some are more refined than others
  • Play one of these decks the most at first to learn how to play the deck perfectly
  • Exclusively play the other two to four decks to learn how to play those decks to an acceptable level

Pick the best three decks after a week or so and go throughout the process again…

  • Work on these concepts with my play-testing network, friends, and teammates
  • Work on these concepts with more gusto - all concepts should be well-refined now
  • Settle on one of these decks the most to learn how to play the deck perfectly
  • Exclusively play the other two decks to learn how to play those decks to a level where you can play any of the three decks
  • You should now have three viable deck choices heading into the event

As you can see, your time spent competing this testing ritual allows you to network, enhance concepts, and ultimately pick a deck. The biggest concept missing from this circle is how to you properly play-test? Well, the answer is easier said than done and different players will give you varied answers…


The advantage that I have gained from travelling around the globe playing Pokemon this season is learning tips and tricks from different players. For example, I recently just roomed with a fellow 60 Card writer, Caleb Gedemer, and he shared that he views playing on the PTCGO ladder is a a vital part of his testing regime. I actually thought of his response more and playing versus a variety of decks seems advantageous to playing versus specific match-ups. For me, I try to soft run my deck in whatever tournament is before any major event to get a tournament feel - something that is likely a similar result to Gedemer’s testing theory. Here are some other awesome ways to ‘up’ your testing results:

  • Play versus tournament lists such as those featured in articles on this site, official tournament results, or other ‘standardized’ lists
  • Play on the PTCGO ladder to play versus a slew of different decks that all play a part in our meta game
  • Soft run your deck in a small tournament such as a League Challenge or League Cup before bringing it to a major tournament such as a Regional Championship
  • Your deck likely has at least one strong match-up in its line-up, play test versus your ‘worse’ match-ups to discover new strategies

When you are testing in real life with your friends, it is often best to play games that result in the truest result possible. You may be asking, how to bring your testing results closer to a true result? Well, that answer is simple and complex at the same time…

  • Ask your friends what they think about the play, show case what you think your play is, and end up having a discussion
  • Use a timer to play in a true tournament fashion (If you are playing in a BO1 League Cup you can play test with a 30 minute time or you can test with a 50 minute timer if you are playing in a BO3 Regional Championship)
  • Record your results versus which decks you play versus and keep track of certain variations of your deck
  • Try to play test with those who are better than you or with those who are eager to up their game 

As you can see, I have only scratched the surface on playing the game, but these ideas should head you into the right direction. With all of this talk about play-testing habits I am sure you want to dive into the juicy lists that are contained in this article. That being said, let’s jump into my favourite deck right now, Buzzwole/Garbodor:

Updated Buzzwole-GX/Garbodor Deck List

Card Explanations

Surprise, surprise - I am writing about this deck again, but I have added in some new twists into this deck. The suggestions come from Olliver Barr and Daniel Altavilla, two players that I respect their input, and I think the changes make a lot of sense. The changes were to add in a Choice Band to deal with the onslaught of Golisopod-GX decks that have been seeing quite a bit of success lately and the second change was to add in an Olympia. The Olympia is meant as a secure way to reset Buzzwole-GX’s Knuckle Impact attack so that you can get another big attack off. Going forward, I will be including these changes in my list as I test for League Cups and for Charlotte, NC Regionals in about a week. As always, I won’t be explaining every card in this list because it makes an article repetitive. 

Four Buzzwole-GX

I have recently heard some talk of players wanting to go down to three copies of this card in their personal lists and I won’t be making that change. This deck is very much a Buzzwole-GX deck and you need the four copies for the deck to run efficiently throughout the entirety of games. This point  is further exclaimed with the inclusion of Carbink BREAK in this deck to power up another Buzzwole-GX in the late game. In general, we want to use a Buzzwole-GX to use a Knuckle Impact and an Absorption-GX to draw four Prize Cards in any given game. Looking at the build of this deck, we should be able to accomplish this feature most games and we can even do more sometimes. When in doubt, Jet Punch is still a strong attack that can be used to OHKO lower HP Pokemon such as Zorua or you can even Knock Out other Pokemon such as Froakie if you have the right damage modifiers.

Two Garbodor and Four Float Stone

In general, we want to use Garbodor to shut down our opponents Pokemon that have Abilities - that part is integral to our deck. In the off chance our opponent is playing a Garbodor BKP of their own, we need to re-evaluate the situation to see if we want to lock them out of any Abilities. The below Pokemon are the Pokemon we are specifically trying to target:

  • Octillery’s Abyssal Hand
  • Vikavolt’s Strong Charge
  • Xurkitree-GX’s Flashing Head
  • Hoopa’s Scoundrel Guard
  • Gardevoir-GX’s Secret Spring
  • Oranguru’s Instruct
  • Tapu Lele-GX’s Wonder Tag
  • Alolan Ninetales’ Luminous Barrier
  • Lycanroc-GX’s Bloodthirsty Eyes
  • Mr. Mime’s Bench Barrier
  • Volcanion-EX’s Steam Up
  • Zoroark-GX’s Trade
  • Zoroark’s Stand In
  • Magnezone’s Magnetic Circuit
  • Magnemite’s Solid Unit
  • Starmie’s Space Beacon
  • Dhelmise’s Steelworker
  • Eevee’s Energy Evolution
  • Greninja BREAK’s Giant Water Shuriken
  • Kartana-GX’s Slice Off
  • Lucario’s Precognitive Aura
  • Mew’s Memories of Dawn
  • Mew-EX’s Versatile
  • Raichu’s Evoshock
  • Regirock-EX’s Regi Power

As you can tell, this list is as long as the decks in our current Standard which means that we will be blocking many Abilities with Garbodor’s Garbotoxin. Even though I specifically have four Float Stone in this deck to try give Garbodor free Retreat, you can attach a Fighting Fury Belt or a Choice Band to activate Garbotoxin.

One Carbink Break

As I briefly explained above, Carbink BREAK is valuable to this deck because it allows us to get back any Energy cards from our Discard Pile and attach them in the late game. I find that Carbink BREAK is most effective when our opponent has drawn a few Prize Cards already and that I can play a copy of N to whittle their hand down to nothing. On top of my N strategy, I usually try to have a Garbodor with Garbotoxin in play to take away even more of their outs. With all of this disruption and lock against our opponent, Carbink BREAK is often able to successfully power up a Buzzwole-GX that will last the remainder of the game.

One Carbink

In Collinsville, we saw a Hoopa deck make Day 2 and this card secures our win versus any deck that tries to remove Basic Energy. We do have the option of using the other Carbink with the Safeguard Ability, but I am not a fan of that version because Volcanion-EX is not played enough to warrant that. 

Two Tapu Lele-GX

Throughout my time playing this deck, I have had success Day 1 and have fallen flat on my face during Day 2 in both Sydney and Collinsville. With that in the back of my mind, I think this change will allow the deck to play out more consistently and it also will allow me to search out the obscure one-of Supporters in the deck such as Olympia and Lillie.

One Sudowoodo

I have been saying this for a while and I will say it again, Sudowoodo is super good in Fighting-type decks. It is simple to power up (Max Elixir and an Energy attachment) and it can copy the best attacks in the game. Here are the current attacks that we are trying to copy:

  • Garbodor’s Trashalanche
  • Dusk Mane Necrozma-GX’s Meteor Tempest
  • Dusk Mane Necrozma-GX’s Sun’s Eclipse GX
  • Greninja’s Moonlight Slash
  • Greninja’s Shadow Stitch
  • Drampa-GX’s Berserk
  • Gardevoir-GX’s Infinite Force
  • Golisopod-GX’s Crossing Cut GX
  • Golisopod-GX’s First Impression
  • Volcanion-EX’s Volcanic Heat
  • Xurkitree-GX’s Lighting GX
  • Zoroark-GX’s Rioutous Beating
  • Zoroark’s Mind Jack
  • Tapu Bulu-GX’s Natures Judgment
  • Buzzwole-GX’s Knuckle Impact
  • Buzzwole-GX’s Absorption GX
  • Ho-Oh-GX’s Phoenix Burn
  • Lycanroc-GX’s Dangerous Rogue GX

We can often copy our opponents attacks and do more damage due to the inclusion of damage modifiers from Jet Punch, Strong Energy, Choice Band, and Fighting Fury Belt.

One Mewtwo

This is my counter to Mew-EX because it OHKOs a Mew-EX that has a Double Colourless Energy attached on it. Beyond being strong against Mew-EX, it can OHKO a Buzzwole-GX that has three Energy attached to it by attaching a Choice Band or it can even put in some work versus a powered up Ho-Oh-GX.

One Olympia

As briefly explained above, Olympia is strong because it can reset Buzzwole-GX’s Knuckle Impact, which can allow you to get out that last powerful attack that you need sometimes. Beyond resetting Knuckle Impact, Olympia can offset math by healing enough damage to survive in some different situations.

One Lillie

A turn one Lillie is extremely strong and the inclusion of Lillie and a second Tapu Lele-GX can improve the consistency of the deck greatly. Even during the late game, Lillie adds another draw Supporter into the deck that can net you a few cards after your opponent tries to play an N to limit your hand.

One Choice Band

This is a card that might end up seeing me add another copy in the deck because I enjoy the versatility that it adds into the deck. This card can greatly improve your OHKO potential with your various attackers so it falls more into the category of use when needed than all of the time.

The next deck that I want to go over is Turbo Ho-Oh-GX because I feel it is an undervalued deck in Standard right now. Ho-Oh-GX hits fast because of the inclusion of Kiawe and I think it will take the right player close to the top at any given event. This list is especially spicy because I have opted to include Wobbuffet into the deck…

Turbo Ho-Oh-GX Deck List

Card Explanations

Looking at this deck, it is basic as a theme deck, but it packs an unparalleled fury that can burst into flames at any moment. During my adventures in Sydney and Collinsville, I have faced versus three Ho-Oh-GX decks and my record versus this deck is 1-2. What is even more surprising than my opponents having a good day versus me is that all of these opponents have misplayed against me multiple times. I don’t want to use this as a way to demean my opponents or to vent about how I was unlucky - this is more of a way to state that most skilled players try to stick to skilled decks. My idea going into League Cups and possibly Charlotte is to try to play this deck perfectly to see if it can be a true contender. As always, I won’t include every card in the deck, but I will include every card that is important to the decks core…

Four Ho-Oh-GX

The bread and butter, the big bird, the OHKO machine - Ho-Oh-GX is really great at doing damage very quickly and that is what it does best. The goal of this deck is to use Kiawe in whichever way possible to power up a Ho-Oh-GX in order to use Phoenix Burn as soon as possible. Similar to my pet deck, Buzzwole-GX, Phoenix Burn has the ill side-effect of stopping Ho-Oh-GX from attacking the next turn so we can use that turn to Guzma or to use another Kiawe. Regardless, the main goal is to use Phoenix Burn as quickly and as many times as possible within a game to overpower our opponents board. In order for us to achieve the Knock Outs that we want, we will need to sue either Volcanion-EX and/or Choice Band to do the right math against specific Pokemon such as Zoroark-GX and Gardevoir-GX. Sometimes you can garner an OHKO without using Phoenix Burn by using Ho-Oh-GX’s Sacred Fire attack to get the job done. Overall, Ho-Oh-GX is an attacking bird-beast that will be drawing Prize Cards throughout the entirety of any game.

Three Tapu Lele-GX

With Ho-Oh-GX relying on the importance of hitting a turn one Kiawe, we need to up our odds of getting that out so that is why this deck plays three Tapu Lele-GX. During the late game, Tapu Lele-GX can grab those game-winning Supporter cards such as Guzma to finish off our opponent.

Two Turtanator-GX

In a perfect world, Ho-Oh-GX will never get Knocked Out, but I can’t rely on what I wish so I included two copies of Turtanator-GX to get back Energy with Nitro Tank GX. Nitro Tank GX is versatile because you can power up a Ho-Oh-GX and a Turtanator-GX to diversify your board state. Additionally, Turtanator-GX has a different Weakness than Ho-Oh-GX which can be important in case you get paired against a Raichu-GX deck.

Two Wobbuffet

This deck is so one-dimensional that I decided to add another layer of skill into the deck; Wobbuffet can block our opponent from using Abilities while we use Kiawe to power up a few Ho-Oh-GX that we have in play. When in doubt, you can use an N to lower your opponents hand and then send up a Wobbuffet to block them from using vital Abilities such as Zoroark-GX’s Trade.

One Volcanion-EX and Three Choice Band

Ho-Oh-GX’s Phoenix Burn caps out at a paltry 180 damage and we live in a format where Pokemon like Buzzwole-GX, Lycanroc-GX, Zoroark-GX, and Gardevoir-GX all hove above that. That being said, both Volcanion-EX’s Steam Up Ability and Choice Band help us get past this hurdle of damage. It should be noted that without Weakness or any other factors, this deck does have hard cap of 240 damage with the damage modifiers included.

One Oranguru

This deck draws Prize Cards quickly so we need to prepare the deck for the easiest answer to that - N! When our opponent plays N to get our hand to a lower amount, we want to have an Oranguru in play in order to draw some cards that will allow us to progress out game state. While Instruct is not going to draw us out of a jam every single game, it can be a pivotal point of the deck when we need to Guzma and draw an Energy or if we are short a card or two in our hand. It should be noted that we will likely be using Oranguru in the later stages of a game and that our Wobbuffet will shut off Instruct if it is in the Active position.

Four Kiawe

This is the card that allows us to quickly power up our Ho-Oh-GX and it rightfully maxed out in this list. Alternatively, you can use Kiawe to power up your other Pokemon such as Tapu Lele-GX, Turtanator-GX, or even an Oranguru. 

One Escape Rope

Similar to the above Buzzwole-GX deck, Ho-Oh-GX will need to reset its Phoenix Burn attack in order to follow a linear strategy of rinse and repeat. Escape Rope solves this issue, similar to the Olympia in the above list,  because it can allow us to play a Supporter and reset Phoenix Burn again. Alternatively, we can use this card like a pseudo-Guzma to bring up a Benched pokemon if your opponent has a limited Bench.

While I am not exactly sold on any top player breaking Ho-Oh-GX, I do think that this idea alone has some merit to it. I would heavily recommend trying out this list at League Cups because it is stupidly consistent and will likely net you some valuable CP. I know that I have some League Cups that are tempting me to break this deck out at haha… That being said, I think the format is in a healthy spot in Standard right now and that quite a few decks are healthy. On the other hand, I am playing in an Expanded Regional Championships tomorrow so wish me luck!

On to the Next One…

While I have no way to know how I will do in Costa Mesa Regionals, which will have passed by the time this article has been posted, I can only hope that I have done well enough to retain my Top 16 placement in North America. If you haven’t read any of my recent articles, I have had some recent success in Sydney and Collinsville to put me near the top of the leaderboard with some of the games greatest players. I feel like the “Top 16 race” has slightly taken over my life and that the game is turning into a weird addiction for me. The most important thing that readers can take from this is that I will be able to produce a strong amount of compelling content that will likely translate into better articles from me. Like anyone, I am trying to pave a path towards success, I think I am almost there, but my destination is unknown at the current moment. That being said, my next stop on my Pokemon adventure, besides local League Cups, is in Charlotte, NC! I am stoked to play in many major events this season, it has truly been a dream of mine to get to this point, hopefully I will be able to continue to this for the rest of the season.

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 Costa Mesa, CA Regionals 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 60 Cards.

P.S. Oh, and for those rap heads who are reading this article, the title is a reference to Kendrick Lamar. I have been jamming to the Black Panther Soundtrack since Sydney and it is still in heavy rotation. I often listen to rap music and try to find parallels between rap music and playing cards to improve my game. Obviously any correlation right now is likely only a coincidence, but I am writing a cool article on the side that will go up eventually about this subject. The whole meaning behind 'big shot, peanut butter insides...' is about having a cool car with nice seats - I took this concept of rap music to draw similarities to wanting to have nice things in Standard. Oh well, I can always dream right haha!


[+22] okko


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