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Zach Lesage

League Cups in Motion - The New Meta Game

Zach goes over the "new" meta game that was seen at the recent Portland Regionals!

03/29/2018 by Zach Lesage

Back from Portland

What’s up 60 Cards readers? I just got back from Portland, OR for their Regional Championships today and I am already typing up a storm for your viewing pleasure. To update everyone who follows me on my Pokemon journey, I started off strong at Portland with a 3-0-1 record playing Lucario-GX and ended up hitting a field of match-ups that were not entirely favourable. During rounds 5-9, I hit Greninja, Greninja, Ho-Oh-GX, Empoleon, and dead drew in the final round of swiss versus Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX. While my day was unfortunate with a final 3-3-3 record, I couldn’t do anything better because I played to the best of my ability. Get back on track to the article, I will go through some of the best decks that excelled at Portland, go over a brief strategy of each deck, and ultimately showcase the meta game as we approach another weekend of League Cups. Without any more blabbering, let’s jump into the new meta game that was created at Portland Regionals:

The New Meta Game

While Portland Regionals was one of the smallest Regionals held in North America this year, the event staff did a great job at running this event. Even more so, the best players at this event somehow collectively reinvented the wheel by playing some unique decks. If you take a peak over at the Portland results on Limitless you will see how diverse the meta game in Portland really was. We saw many top sponsored players make their way into Day 2 and we also saw the most diverse North American event this season. These are the decks that made Day 2:

  • Espeon-GX / Garbodor / Garbodor
  • Tapu Bulu-GX / Vikavolt
  • Zoroark-GX / Lucario-GX
  • Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX
  • Sylveon-GX / Gardevoir-GX
  • ‘Attacking’ Hoopa
  • Greninja BREAK
  • Lucario-GX / Lycanroc-GX
  • Buzzwole-GX / Carbink BREAK / Garbodor

Looking at the results from the week before in Charlotte, NC, you would have at least expected some more Zoroark-GX variants to see success, but they ultimately could not compete in this new meta game. So while you may have seen the lists posted online, I want to go a bit more into detail with four of my favourite decks that appeared in Portland as we approach League Cups this weekend. Now I will state that the meta game is likely fid right now and will likely change slightly week-over-week as we head into the 2018 LATAM International Championships in Sao Paulo, Brazil, but this is what we know at this moment. Without hesitation, lets jump into the deck that won the event, Xander Pero’s Espeon-GX / Garbodor / Garbodor Deck:

Xander Pero’s Espeon-GX / Garbodor / Garbodor Deck



Espeon-GX / Garbodor / Garbodor Strategy

I will say it right now and that is Xander Pero made an incredible meta game call for Portland due to the perceived meta game. The reason why? Pero was able to predict where the meta game was going to land, picked a deck that he has been able to expertly pilot for a year now, and hit some strong match-ups in the process. Why was it a strong pick? Here is how the meta game unfolded at Portland:

  • Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX won Charlotte, NC the week before. Buzzwole-GX decks always struggle with Psychic Weakness so naturally Espeon-GX and Garbodor hit it hard.
  • Lucario-GX, another Pokemon that suffers from Psychic Weakness, was released right before this event. Many players, including myself, played the deck for Portland. I perceived Lucario-GX as a strong contender in the format, something new, and was trying to take unprepared players by surprise.
  • Garbodor BKP with Garbotoxin is able to shut off Abilities, a trait that most fringe decks rely on, which lead Pero to some more great match-ups.
  • All players need to watch how many Item Cards they play versus Garbodor GRI with Trashalanche because the 20x amount of damage can quickly at up. This strategy is especially strong against average / below average players, but it is a strategy that can punish even the most experienced players.

Looking at all of these points of interest, Pero was able to overcome the entire tournament, he was also able to spiritually become a finalist with Colter Decker playing the same card-for-card list to a second place finish. While it is great to know why Pero played the deck, let’s break down the main strategies of Pero’s deck to get a feel of why it is so strong:

Espeon-GX

Espeon-GX is a strong attacker because it hit for Weakness on popular Pokemon such as Buzzwole-GX and Lucario-GX. With Psybeam being able to Confuse Pokemon, an attack that becomes stronger while your opponent is under Garbodor BKP Garbotoxin, you can make your opponent decide if they want to attack. Psychic is another strong attack that can punish players for attaching Energy, such as the occasional Gardevoir-GX that thrives by attaching Energy to itself to do more damage. Lastly, Divide GX is a strong attack that can set up Knock Outs across your opponents board or it can Knock Out Pokemon entirely. Espeon-GX is a tricky card to play so look for opportunities in your games to abuse the attacks of this Pokemon.

Garbodor ‘Trashalanche’

Garbodor GRI is used to counter decks that use many item cards and it can punish players if they don’t play around it. You may be asking yourself, “How does Trashalanche actually stack up to the Pokemon in my deck?” Well, let’s give that a look here:

One Item = 20 damage 
This amount of damage will rarely Knock Out any Pokemon without them having any kind of damage counters on them.

Two Items = 40 damage
This amount of damage can Knock Out a Riolu without using any damage modifier

Three Items = 60 damage
This amount of damage can Knock Out a Ralts without using any damage modifier

Four Items = 80 damage
This amount of damage can Knock Out a Wimpod without using any damage modifier

Five Items = 100 damage
This amount of damage can Knock Out a Buzzwole-GX without using any damage modifiers due to Weakness

Six Items = 120 damage
This amount of damage can Knock Out a Lucario-GX without using any damage modifiers due to Weakness

Seven Items = 140 damage
This amount of damage can Knock Out a Tapu Lele-GX with the damage modification of a Choice Band to do an additional 30 damage

Eight Items = 160 damage
This amount of damage can Knock Out a Tauros-GX with the damage modification of a Choice Band to do an additional 30 damage

Nine Items = 180 damage
This amount of damage can Knock Out a Golisopod-GX with the damage modification of a Choice Band to do an additional 30 damage

Ten Items = 200 damage
This amount of damage can Knock Out a Gardevoir-GX with the damage modification of a Choice Band to do an additional 30 damage

Eleven Items = 220 damage
This amount of damage can Knock Out a Zoroark-GX with the damage modification of a Choice Band to do an additional 30 damage

Twelve Items = 240 damage
This amount of damage can Knock Out a Metagross-GX with the damage modification of a Choice Band to do an additional 30 damage

Thirteen Items = 260 damage
This amount of damage should be suffice to Knock Out over 90% of Pokemon in the format without any damage modifiers or worrying about Resistance.

As you can see, Trashalanche can do a significant amount of damage with every amount of Item Cards as long as you attack the right Pokemon.

Garbodor ‘Garbotoxin’

In general, Pero uses Garbodor to shut down his opponents Pokemon that have Abilities - that part is integral to his deck. In the off chance his opponent is playing a Garbodor BKP of their own, he would need to re-evaluate the situation to see if he would want to lock them out of any Abilities. The below Pokemon are the Pokemon he was 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 Pero has four Float Stone in this deck to give Garbodor free Retreat, you can attach a Choice Band to activate Garbotoxin if necessary. That is about as much information as I can write about Espeon-GX / Garbodor / Garbodor so lets hop over to the next deck, Tapu Bulu-GX / Vikavolt:

Alex Hill’s Tapu Bulu-GX / Vikavolt Deck



Tapu Bulu-GX / Vikavolt Strategy

While most of the top players dismissed this deck about a year ago, some players still continue to think it is strong, Alex Hill is one of those players. Hill’s list is inspired by Peter Kica, the person who made this variant of the deck, and the deck seems like it is finally in a decent place according to the meta game. Why is it in a decent place? Here is how the meta game shaped up at Portland:

  • Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc won Charlotte, NC the week before and Tapu Bulu-GX / Vikavolt holds a fairly even match-up to that deck. While this is not a huge selling point, it can keep up and even overwhelm opposing Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX decks. Alternatively, the deck plays Mew FCO to hit for Psychic Weakness while hiding behind a single Prize Card attacker
  • Tapu Bulu-GX can hit for 210 damage when it has a Choice Band attached which means it can Knock Out the popular Zoroark-GX with Nature’s Judgment. While Zoroark-GX took a less popular meta game position in Portland, it was still a highly played deck which plays to our advantage.
  • While the Garbodor BKP with Garbotoxin is not the prettiest sight to see when playing the Ability-driven Vikavolt SUM, Hill’s deck did run three copies of Field Blower. When playing against the soon-to-be popular Espeon-GX / Garbodor / Garbodor, Tapu Bulu-GX can hold its own by playing well. While that sounds like a basic statement, you need to playa around Confusion, Ability Lock, attaching too many Energy, and discarding too many Items.
  • Lucario-GX was poised to be the most played deck and similar to facing a Zoroark-GX deck,Tapu Bulu-GX can hit for 210 damage when it has a Choice Band attached which means it can Knock Out Lucario-GX with Nature’s Judgment

Looking at all of these points of interest, Hill was able to overcome most of the tournamwnr by playing the same card-for-card list as Kica to a Top Four finish. While it is great to know why Hill played the deck, let’s break down the main strategies of Hill’s deck to discover why it is so strong:

Tapu Bulu-GX

Tapu Bulu-GX can Knock Out popular Pokémon in the meta game such as Buzzwole-GX, Lycanroc-GX, Lucario-GX, Espeon-GX, and many more. It can Knock Out all of these Pokémon by using its Natures Judgment attack when you have a Choice Band attached. Alternatively, you can use Tapu Wilderness GX to heal Tapu Bulu-GX when you believe you are going to Knocked Out or if you do not want to discard any Energy. Tapu Bulu-GX can use its first attack, Horn Attack, to Knock Out Pokemon such as Froakie who are weak to it or to do chip damage to other Pokémon early in the game.

Vikavolt

This card is played for its Ability, Strong Charge, because that Ability allows Tapu Bulu-GX to get powered up quickly to use its powerful attacks. It should be noted that if you only have one Vikavolt in play, you need to manually attach a Grass Energy to fully power up your Tapu Bulu-GX. That being said, unless an opposing board state creates a situation on where attaching a Grass Energy to Tapu Bulu-GX early would be disadvantageous to you, you should always do that. With Tapu Bulu-GX discarding many Energy throughout each game to hit those large amounts of damage, you will need to play an Energy Recycler throughout the game to continue to use Strong Charge to power up your Pokémon. Unlike cards such as Carbink BREAK, Vikavolt doesn’t discriminate against which type your Pokémon is which allows you to use Strong Charge to power up any Pokémon, even Mew!

Mew

Mew is in this deck for two purposes, it is Psychic-type and it is a single Prize Cards attacker. Both of those reasons serve purpose for it to see play in this deck and both of those reasons can turn close match-ups into victories! In most circumstances, you want to use Mew to offset your opponents Prize Cards so that they need to take four Knock Outs instead of three (2 Prize, One Prize, Two Prize, Two Prize instead of Two Prize, Two Prize, Two Prize). Furthermore, Mew can safely Knock Out Pokemon such as Espeon-GX, Buzzwole-GX, and Lucario-GX without discarding any Energy when using Nature’s Judgment. It would only be fair to look at a deck that Mew is designed to help against to give their side of the story so here is the Lucario-GX / Lycanroc-GX Deck that Michael Pramawat played:

Michael Pramawat’s Lucario-GX / Lycanroc-GX Deck

Lucario-GX / Lycanroc-GX Strategy

If you were at Portland and didn't go to your local Wal-Mart, Target, or GameStop to pick up a play set of Lucario-GX, you would have been behind the meta game curve for the tournament. In my last article (insert link), I have compared this card to a Fighting-type Golisopod-GX and that statement still resonates with me to this day. I played a similar deck to Michael Pramawat in Portland and while I didn’t do as well as he did, I still like the archetype in general. Now the main difference between Pramawats list and mine is that he opted to run cards such as Super Scoop Up while I focused on the extras of cards such as Professor Kukui. Looking at the meta game that showed up at Portland, here is how Lucario-GX / Lycanroc-GX stood against what showed up:

  • While it should be common knowledge that Ryan Sablehaus won Charlotte, NC the week before, it should also be common knowledge that Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX was one of the most played decks at the event. Going into the event, players like Pramawat and myself quickly realized that Lucario-GX variants can Knock Out a Buzzwole-GX for a single Energy when using Aura Strike so the match-up was welcomed.
  • With other Lucario-GX decks running around, I am sure Pramawat had a simile strategy to myself when it came to mirror matches; the better player and deck list will usually win. On paper, Pramawat is considered one of the best players of all time so I am positive that he went into this tournament with some form of confidence in his deck!
  • Despite what other players may say, I believe that Lucario-GX has a decent match-up against Tapu Bulu-GX / Vikavolt because they require a Stage 2 Pokemon to set-up, a Grass Energy, a Tapu Bulu-GX, and a Choice Band to Knock Out a Lucario-GX. Meanwhile, the Lucario-GX needs to Evolve, needs an Energy, and a few damage modifiers to Knock Out a Tapu Bulu-GX. While I understand that Tapu Bulu-GX decks can blow up from time-to-time, I also understand that they do need a lot to get their deck running.
  • The one issue that Lucario-GX mainly faced heading into this event was Garbodor BKP with Garbotoxin, which can shut off Regirock-EX, and Garbodor GRI with Trashalanche that can hit for Weakness. By default, these Pokémon are usually paired with Espeon-GX, as seen in Pero’s winning list, which further solidified the match-up as bad. While this can be disappointing to players such as Pramawat, the amount of Espeon-GX / Garbodor / Garbodor decks played in Portland was relatively low. However, with the deck coming first and second in the event, we will likely see a massively influx of this deck as we head into another weekend of League Cups!

After looking at all of these reasons to play Lucario-GX / Lycanroc-GX at Portland, I am sure a case can be made for future tournaments when trying to play this archetype! Lets look at a few cards in this deck with a bit more detail!

Lucario-GX

While I went over this Pokémon in full detail in one of my most recent articles, let it be known that this card is powerful! Between Aura Strike hitting for an OHKO with damage modifiers or Cantankerous Beatdown GX stopping your opponents right in their tracks, Lucario-GX has it going on!

Lycanroc-GX

While this card may not instantly make sense in this deck, it does give us another Guzma-like effect and another GX attack option! I personally haven’t used its Claw Slash attack in this deck, but that also adds another option too!

Let’s jump into the last interesting deck, Hunter Butler’s Attacking Hoopa deck:

Hunter Butler’s Attacking Hoopa Deck

Attacking Hoopa Strategy

While the other decks have got the full detail treatment from me, this deck is slightly hotly different because it is what it says it is! If you still don’t understand, it is a Hoopa deck that attacks while fielding off opposing blows because of its Scoundrel Guard Ability that blocks EX / GX Pokemon from attacking it! My Pro-Play Games teammates Danny Altavilla and Hunter Butler both added some new innovations into this deck for Portland, such as Oranguru UPR, that took this deck over the top! While the main reason this deck is successful is due to your opponent not attacking the Hoopa because of Scoundrel Guard, this deck also has other answers to other popular Pokémon in the format...

  • Hoopa is used to stop EX / GX Pokemon from attacking, so when you are facing against one of those decks, you can slow them down to a halt 
  • Tapu Koko is used to do chip damage to your opponents Pokemon and it can be especially strong against Pokémon who have a Lightning-Weakness such as Ho-Oh-GX.
  • Oranguru UPR can gather back valuable resources that are necessary to win in certain games. Alternatively, you can thin your deck down to zero cards and then use Oranguru to guarantee you get the correct cards that you need.
  • Oranguru SUM is the draw support that is the back-bone of your deck.
  • Giratina is this decks answer to Greninja BREAK because it otherwise wouldn’t be an acceptable match-up. If Giratina is in your Prize Cards, you will want to use a Gladion to fetch it out!
  • Mewtwo has been a format staple since Australia because Buzzwole-GX can be too much to handle for any deck! Mewtwo allows us to have an attacker that can attack for a single Double Colorless Energy and it can hit popular Pokémon for Weakness, what is not to love?

After looking over some of the elements of this deck, I am sure you will see that it is a stall / lock deck with a few tricks up its sleeves! If the meta game ever looks like Portland again, I would recommend playing this deck!

Where am I Off to Next?

Well, thats a wrap for now readers! While I will still continuously test the Standard format to prepare for the upcoming 2018 LATAM International Championships in Sao Paulo, Brazil, I think I have Expanded on my mind. Yeah, you read that right, I am thinking about the Expanded format. You may be asking yourself, “why”?, so my response will be a simple, “Germany”! At this current moment, I am contemplating on attending a Regional Championships in Sindelfingen, Germany which is the only Expanded Regional Championships in Europe this 2017-2018 Pokemon season. There are factors that go beyond financial reasons that would stop me from attending this event such as confidence, deck choice, and testing regimes, but it is an option for me right now. If I don’t end up going to Germany, I will still likely drop an Expanded format article soon for those players who are able to attend the event.

Until then, I will be playing in local League Cups in the Greater Toronto Area so feel free to chat with me at any time. I always enjoy talking to new players, people from around the world, and aspiring Pokemon trainers! For updates on my travel plans, tournament schedule, premium deck lists, strategies, and my most recent articles, feel free to check out and follow my professional Pokemon Twitter @ zlesage_pokemon. Thanks for supporting 60 Cards, reading my articles, and watching me grow as a player!

Until next time,

Zach

[+24] okko


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