Experts' corner

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Zach Lesage

Flying High: Floating Thoughts

Zach goes through some of his lines of thought and shares his most up-to-date lists for Brazil Internationals!

04/24/2018 by Zach Lesage

Hello From Robotic Space

 

Bee-boo-bee-boo-bee-boo-boo-bop! It is I, the great spacial explorer robotic Zach, speaking here from a future planet preaching straight FACTs. In all seriousness, I am here with my newest article for all of you wonderful 60 Cards readers. I have been busy in the Poke-lab cookin’ up concepts and I feel that I am riding on a different spectrum with the way that I am processing different ideas and experimenting with concepts in the game. My running joke at this current time revolves around being from the future, becoming robotic, talking to aliens, and poking fun at the Pokémon, Beheeyem (sorry Beheeyem)! I guess what I am trying to say is that I am trying out unorthodox concepts, reading between the lines, and providing some clairvoyance as we rapidly approach the end of the competitive season! In this article today, I want to go over my thoughts on some situational plays, some important game factors, my favourite Buzzwole GX (CIN; 57)

 / Lycanroc GX (SM2; 74)  list, and my personal favourite Zoroark GX (SL; 53)  / Lycanroc GX (SM2; 74)  list. This article should be jam packed with lots of important information so please stay tuned as we enter this robotic time chamber...be...hee...yem...be...hee...yem!!!

The Situational Play and Game Factors

Going through my testing for League Cups, Brazil Internationals, and other upcoming major events, I have been doing some experimenting. Now I feel like this is a healthy thing to do considering that I my day-to-day consists of me grinding PTCGO for up to ten hours a day. During my binge testing sessions, I have tried to master the following decks:

Zoroark GX (SL; 53)

 / Oranguru (UPR; 114)  Control
Attacking  Alolan Ninetales (BUS; 28)
Attacking  Xurkitree GX (UPR; 142)
Attacking  Hoopa (SL; 55)
Decidueye GX (SAM; 12)  /  Oranguru (UPR; 114)
Zoroark GX (SL; 53)  /  Counter Energy (CIN; 100)
Dialga GX (UPR; 146)  /  Magnezone (UPR; 83)
Lucario GX (BW; 100)  /  Wally (ROS; 107)


While the win conditions of certain decks and match-ups in theory seem strong for some decks, there ARE reasons why I am not comfortable playing some decks at such a major tournament as the Latin America International Championships in São Paulo, Brazil. Some of those reasons are:

  • Coin flips
  • Under-tested concept in general
  • Fringe match-ups
  • Comfortability level

Looking at those reasons, they are fair to say, but they don’t necessarily make for a bad deck. In most cases, decks falls into a category of a situational play or a risky play by not being the most played or best deck in format. I’ll address each of my concerns one-by-one so that each of my points can be understood:

Coin Flips

Have you ever sat across from your opponent, you ask your opponent why do they wanna call and they blurt out, ‘Heads!’? You execute a beautiful above the shoulder roll, the die is shakin’ that rump and it lands on...... Heads! You shake your head and look into the sky in search of reasons why you are being punished. Sometimes I go through entire tournaments such as the 2018 Portland, Oregon Regional Championships where I am forced to go second for the majority of the day. Sometimes it doesn’t matter, but there is no way other than a die roll to determine that you are going first in a game. Every pro player hates this factor in the game and sometimes a deck can suffer from poor flips from time to time. Between playing ‘luck-based’ cards such as Crushing Hammer (LTR; 111)

 and Team Rocket's Handiwork (FC; 112)  in some niche decks, it needs to be understood that Tails can occur in strings that you may not like. At a recent League Cup, I played a Zoroark GX (SL; 77)  / Oranguru (UPR; 114)  Control deck versus a Zoroark GX (SL; 53)  / Lycanroc GX (SM2; 74)  deck and lost because I only got one Heads out of nine coin flips. Those odds are enough to make me flip a table, but you have to live my the rules of the game sometimes.

Under-Testing

While it should appear that this article is well written and that the decks that I am play-testing sound cool, new concepts such as some of the decks listed, need to be play-tested more and more! Look at a deck like Buzzwole GX (CIN; 104)

 / Lycanroc GX (SM2; 74) , that deck was created by pro players, tested by everyone, and all of the lists are off by only one or two cards. If I asked anyone who hasn’t read this article to play one of those decks or to build a list, I am likely going to have a completely different idea than them at the end of the day. If any of those decks gain traction, there is a chance that those decks will improve as archetypes and grow into much more refined lists. In this individual season alone, we have seen decks such as Wishiwashi GX (SM2; 133) / Xurkitree (BW; 68)  / Hoopa (SL; 55)  go from being unknown concepts to seeing heavy play at League Cups for a month or two - this is my point! It takes a brave solider to go to a major event and play something different, but it takes an entire army to discover what can become of a certain concept. If Michael Pramawat never won the 2018 Memphis, Tennessee Regional Championships with an early Zoroark GX (SL; 53)  / Lycanroc GX (SM2; 74)  list, solidified lists such as 60 Cards very own Caleb Gedemer would not have improved on the concept in such a striking fashion. Looking around, decks such as Buzzwole GX (CIN; 104)  / Lycanroc GX (SM2; 74)  and Zoroark GX (SL; 53)  / Lycanroc GX (SM2; 74)  are so widespread that most lists are only off by one or two cards nowadays.

Fringe Match-Ups

While you can never 100 percent predict the meta-game you will see at any tournament, you should be aware of match-ups that you never want to face. At a recent League Cup, I played Attacking Hoopa (SL; 55)

 and found myself playing against a Talonflame (StS; 96)  / Typhloshion (BRT; 20)  deck that has no EX / GX Pokemon for Scoundrel Guard to stop from attacking. Similarly, I also played the Zoroark GX (SL; 53)  / Oranguru (UPR; 114)  Control deck at a recent League Cup and found myself playing against a quad Glaceon GX (UPR; 141)  deck that stopped my Zoroark GX (SL; 53)  from using Trade. It was at this point that I learned that while Zoroark GX (SL; 53) / Oranguru (UPR; 114)  Control has a decent shot versus most meta-game decks, but it can have a tough time versus the unknown concepts that lurk at League Cups. Perhaps the deck loses to Volcanion EX (StS; 26) , Greninja BREAK (BRP; 41) , M Gardevoir EX (StS; 79) , or even something as silly as a theme deck. While that may be going slightly far, it is a fair idea to test versus random decks to learn some more fringe match-ups to make an informed decision. This is actually my least favourite concept of tournaments because sometimes the majority of the meta game or certain players are so stuck in the past that the local meta game cannot grow to where it should be. At another recent League Cup, I played against two outdated Buzzwole GX (CIN; 104)  / Garbodor (BRP; 57)  decks, a deck that I pioneered with Danny Altavilla and Hunter Butler, but I got stomped on due to poor starts. Ironically, those players played against some other outdated players and ended up going far within the tournament. How is it fair that I am playing against outdated concepts while other players may play against the top-tiered decks that they have practiced against for weeks? I guess there is always going to be a luck factor in the Pokémon TCG until the player base lashes out of sheer frustration.

Comfortability

While I have been able to orchestrate certain decks perfectly during testing, they may not be my most comfortable deck at this current moment. That being said, this isn’t a negative factor so much as to say that I need to find a love attachment to a deck by play-testing it more or to find a partner to help me perfect certain lists. It can sometimes be difficult to become comfortable with a deck because there are many new thought processes or lines of play that are different from the top decks in the meta-game. Overall, I will keep play-testing new decks on the side when I want to take a break from playing much more dominant decks such as Zoroark GX (SL; 53)

 / Lycanroc GX (SM2; 74)  or Buzzwole GX (CIN; 104) / Lycanroc GX (SM2; 74) .

I am unable to pinpoint one of those reasons as the sole reason on why I am hesitant to play certain decks, but, there ARE opportunities to play obscure decks. Peep out the section below to find opportunities to play a different deck at your next event:

When to Play A Deck?

You may be scratching your head on why I would even write this article in the first place, but there is a silver-lining to my paranoia of certain game factors: ANY DECK CAN STILL SUCCEED! You heard it here, despite having some balance issues between the match-ups and quirks of a certain deck, it can still be played... but where? When? How? Why? These questions have all been slightly answered in the article, but I will address them here so that you can make an informed decision if you would like to try a new deck out:

  • Play decks with knowledge of an established meta-game with little to no fringe decks
  • Play decks that you are comfortable with, that you enjoy playing, and decks that you understand
  • Learn to play with different tech cards in general because you may end up discovering something spectacular 
  • Know the area that you play in, learn the decks they play, and practice Pokémon when availability 
  • Use resources such as PTCGO, your local league, playtesting with friends, discover a coach in the game (hit me up), and / or watch media to learn more about the game

If you find yourself being able to check off a bunch of these points, your deck is likely a strong play at your next event. I am likely too much of a careful player to play a deck that is far off the beaten path because it honestly scares me to play those types of decks (in both good and bad ways). I can play most deck extremely well, can build new concepts from scratch, and I am still terrified that my opponent flips over a Glaceon GX (UPR; 39)

 if I didn’t expect it. Perhaps I need to have more faith in myself to prosper more with interesting decks as I go forward. Hopefully you find your time with a new deck interesting, give it a shot, and gain some precious CP at your next event!

That goes over the differences between some decks and others, but I do want to talk about some of the higher tiered meta-game decks too! Without any further hesitations, let me change subjects up completely while I discuss ideas that are more polished...

The Tried and True Ideology

Well, my goal with this article was to showcase some skills that are required to play a shiny-and-new deck, but I also would like to showcase some polished ideas too. In most meta-games, the format will become solved after the completion of a few major events in North America, this current meta-game is no different. Looking at the results from Collinsville, Charlotte, and Portland Regionals, the best decks have mostly remained consistent. In general, the best decks in our current Standard format are:

When it comes to playing the Pokémon TCG, it is important to know who you are and why concepts you like to play. For me, I am a bigger fan of consistent decks that allow me to outplay my opponent while having speed on my side. If you look at that list, that will scratch off Espeon GX (SAM; 61)

 / Garbodor (BRP; 57) / Garbodor (SM2; 51)  and leaves us wondering about Lucario GX (BW; 100)  Variants. It is true that Lucario-GX is the newest deck on the market, but my uncertainties on what to put it with, it’s relative newness, and my personally rough experience with it at Portland Regionals are all negative. In the past week, I have tested Ross Cawthon’s Buzzwole GX (CIN; 104)  / Lucario GX (BW; 100)  and Igor Costa’s  Zoroark GX (SL; 53)  / Lycanroc GX (SM2; 74)  / Lucario-GX decks to great success.

However, for me, I am always looking out for my best interest and the two decks that I am mostly considering as the best decks in Standard are Buzzwole GX (CIN; 104)

 / Lycanroc GX (SM2; 74)  and Zoroark GX (SL; 53)  / Lycanroc GX (SM2; 74) . In my experience playing Pokémon over the years, it is a strong strategy to explore concepts that I have some interest in for one reason or another. In this case, I think both of these decks fit into the preference of play style, have proven success, and have well-rounded lists available. The below two lists are my personal lists based on lists that have seen recent success at Regionals and Special Events world wide. Let’s jump into my Buzzwole GX (CIN; 104)  / Lycanroc GX (SM2; 74)  list first to see how that looks like nowadays:


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