Experts' corner

Zach Lesage

The Days After Madison - Looking Forward

Zach goes over some of the best decks from Madison and introspectively looks forward.

06/06/2018 by Zach Lesage

A Long Drive Home

"Can we stop for Chicago deep dish pizza, Greenie?"

"Nah, I want to go to Denny's or McDonalds..."

"Can I use the rest room?"

"Nah, we have another ten hours of driving!"

Ugh... If you couldn't tell from this, I am in a Mini Cooper driving home with the squad from Madison Regionals. What’s up 60 Cards readers? I am back with ANOTHER article within a relatively short span and the goal today is to go over what exactly happened at the 2018 Madison, Wisconsin Regional Championships! The event was filled with many skillful players, interesting decks, and plenty of information to share to satisfy all your reading needs. In this article, I will reveal my personal Madison report, the elusive Hoopa deck that I played, the exciting Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  / Alolan Exeggutor GX (CIN; 74)  deck, a standard Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  / Lycanroc GX (GRI; 74)  deck, the sly Greninja BREAK (BKP; 41)  deck, and the new Buzzwole / Buzzwole GX (CIN; 104)  / Lycanroc GX (GRI; 74)  deck. As you can tell, the meta game at Madison rocked the Standard that most predicted going into the tournament. Regardless of whether you played in Madison or not, this article should read as a guide towards the new meta game heading into League Cups and Internationals. With a bunch of coverage to still go through, let me take you through my day at Madison -- on to my tournament report:

My Madison Tournament Report

After my rough performance the week before in Roanoke, Virginia, I wanted to have a big day to make up for some of the Championship Points that I missed out on. That being said, with fellow 60 Cards writer, Daniel Altavilla, staying at my house, we both mutually worked on many concepts. We tested the three-Buzzwole / Buzzwole GX (CIN; 104) deck and it wasn’t working. I tested a wacky Greninja-GX / Hoopa deck and a weird Goomy deck, and Altavilla presented the fact that Hoopa can be good again. Well, this led into an argument of Buzzwole versus Hoopa -- but he quickly shut me up when he presented the idea of adding in Weakness Policy into the deck. With that being said, I sleeved my deck up and got ready for the next day.

Round: 1

Opposing Deck: Malamar / Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX
Game Play: W - W
Result: 1 - 0 - 0

In this game, I was slightly worried because my opponent ended up playing a tech copy of Oranguru and Mew which are slightly worrisome for me. Throughout this game, my opponent utilized his attackers over and over again to bring this game as close as possible. Unfortunately for him, Hoopa was too much for his deck to handle and I promptly defeated him.

Round: 2

Opposing Deck: Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX
Game Play: W - W
Result: 2 - 0 - 0

This match-up is incredibly close because my opponent played a copy of Buzzwole and he could ‘loop’ it back into play by using Puzzle of Time a few times. That means in each game, it was possible for my opponent to play up to three copies of Buzzwole which can actually prove to be problematic for my deck to handle. Luckily for me, I baited out his Field Blower by playing down copies of my Fighting Fury Belt and then using Weakness Policy afterwards. This seemed to through my opponent off and I ended up takin full control of the series. There was a minor situation where I opted not to take a Prize Card by passing to skate around Sledgehammer, but that was biggest of the curves my opponent was trying to through my way.

Round: 3

Opposing Deck: Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX
Game Play: W - W
Result: 3 - 0 - 0

This match was quite simple because my opponent had only a copy of Buzzwole, Diancie PRISM STAR, and two Rockruff for me to deal with. It was in this match-up that I put my Psychic Energy to great use by utilizing Latios to use Lagoon Flight. Lagoon Flight, an often seldom used attack, shows great strength in this match-up because it can one shot a Buzzwole for only two attachments total. After singling out his total of four threats, there was not much left for me to do except use Super Psy Bolt over and over until I won the series.

Round: 4

Opposing Deck: Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX
Game Play: L - L
Result: 3 - 1 - 0

This game ended up becoming a struggle because my opponent played two copies of Buzzwole, a Diancie PRISM STAR, two Rockruff, and a surprising copy of Super Rod. Her inclusion of the Super Rod had me on my toes as soon as I saw her play it. I do want to point out that during this game my opponent insufficiently shuffled her deck, not only once, but twice! I called a Judge over TWICE, but my opponent was only given a mere Warning. I will write a section about this below.

Round: 5

Opposing Deck: Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX
Game Play: W - L - T
Result: 3 - 1 - 1

I played against a good friend here, Drew Allen, and the games were fairly back and forth. During the first game, he scooped fairly early, game two was close, but it didn’t go my way, and game three had me winning the game on paper. The game has a pivotal point game three where Allen used Surprise Attack out of no where to set me back a few turns. At the end of the day, a tie here was fair because we both played at a brisk pace.

Round: 6

Opposing Deck: Hoopa
Game Play: W - L - W
Result: 4 - 1 - 1

In this round, I played against Evan Malone, a super nice guy, and we both played a Hoopa deck. I ended up out speeding him game one and the series was looking fairly favourable for me at that point. Game two was more of a wash when it came to my draws, I used Oranguru to sue Resource Management to stall for some time, but his Tapu Koko tech got the best of me. With the game having approximately fifteen minutes left, Malone and I both knew that game three would have to go as quickly as possible. I ended up taking a quick lead game three, time was called, and Malone graciously scooped to me because I was in a clear board winning position. While a scoop is not expected, Malone is a stand-up guy for why he did and from there I moved onto round seven.

Round: 7

Opposing Deck: Zygarde-GX / Buzzwole-GX
Game Play: W - W
Result: 5 - 1 - 1

My opponent saw me flip over my Hoopa and was instantly disgruntled that he had ‘lost’ the game. Luckily for me, he was right and I was able to conquer his board fairly easily. In his deck, his answers consisted of a Buzzwole and a Diancie PRISM STAR which meant he didn’t have many answers. My opponent was a super nice guy, took the loss like a champion, and wished me luck going into my next round.

Round: 8

Opposing Deck: Zoroark-GX / Golisopod-GX
Game Play: W - W
Result: 6 - 1 - 1

I was actually luck to play this game on stream and the match-up was another positive one for my deck. If you didn’t get a chance to watch the stream live or if you are to preoccupied to watch it now, I’ll give the quick low-down of what happened. My opponent only plays answers to my deck in the form of a single Mewtwo, a single Tapu Koko, and the mediocrity of Wimpod and Zorua. I had some rough draws throughout the series, but ended up taking a fairly convincing lead in both games. Great games!

Round: 9

Opposing Deck: Buzzwole / Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX
Game Play: L - L
Result: 6 - 2 - 1

I got paired up against Michael Pramawat in the last round and he ended up playing a deck that contained a slew of answers to my deck. His deck consisted of three Buzzwole, two Rockruff, and a single Diancie PRISM STAR. On top of this, he played a copy of Super Rod which was ultimately the demise to my deck. Both games were over relatively quickly, but I can’t do much when my opponents do have an answer to my deck.

Tournament End

Final Record: 6 - 2 - 1
Final Placement: 47th
Championship Points Earned: 50 CP

Overall, I can’t complain about making Top 64 after only losing to two decks that had some serious answers to mine. The 50 Championship Points put me closer to jumping back into the Top 16 players in North America, where I am now only 15 Championship Points away. At the end of the tournament, I was sill slightly disappointed with how the Judge call happened in round four, so I wanted to touch base on that subject a little bit more here.

A Lesson Learned

Well, it’s really easy to be disgruntled by a wrong judge ruling or to feel like something different could have happened, but it also sucks at the same time. As explained before, I caught my round four opponent insufficiently shuffling her deck twice in the same series (three times if you count the first time where I merely warned her) and NOTHING happened. The issue is, though, it was completely MY FAULT! You may be asking how it is my fault because I did everything I could, warned my opponent for their lack of shuffling, called a Judge the second occurrence of this happening, and called a Judge the third time it happened. I saw the Floor Judge talk to the Head Judge, so I thought I was in great hands, but I was ultimately wrong. Here is an excerpt from the Pokémon Penalty Guidelines that should have been followed:

8.1.2. Major

When the game state has become irreversibly confused due to gameplay errors, it is appropriate for the judge to issue a higher-level penalty. Major gameplay error penalties are also appropriate for minor gameplay errors that have left the game too confused to reset.

In addition to the assigned penalty to the offending player, a Caution should be issued to the player’s opponent for not properly keeping track of game state and rules.

Examples of Gameplay Error: Major include:

Insufficiently randomizing your deck.

Recommended Starting Penalty:
Tier 1: Warning
Tier 2: Double Prize Card”

As you can see, my opponent should have received a Double Prize Card Penalty and I likely would have won the series if that had occurred. While my opponent was a nice lady, I am sure there are plenty of nice players in the game who also laugh to their friends at home that they cheated multiple players. This isn’t a witch hunt against my opponent, but more as a statement piece for you to learn from. The biggest thing to take from this experience is to always call a Judge, be prepared to call for the Head Judge, and even call for the Event Head Judge if necessary. After my game, I talked to the Head Judge, Steve Lewis, and he said that his Floor Judge explained the situation poorly to him -- he told me in the future I should have appealed the ruling to him. Unfortunately, the situation wasn’t resolved there, but I learned my lesson.

Anyways, getting back on track, let’s look at the Hoopa deck that I played.

Hoopa Deck List

Brief Explanation

This is the deck that I piloted to a Top 64 finish and I have to give a huge shout out to the Hoopa Gang -- Daniel Altavilla, Hunter Butler, and Hayden Cameron-Jacobus -- for helping me get as far as I did with the deck. The deck, in comparison to its last iteration from Portland Regionals, has changed substantially to combat Buzzwole by including some techs. The deck took a strong focus to counter Psychic-weak Pokémon by including two copies of Mewtwo and a single copy of Latios. Hoopa also finds a way to save itself against Fighting-type attackers by including three copies of Weakness Policy because most Fighting-type decks have neglected to include any copies of Field Blower. I think this deck can grow according to the meta game, but it will likely have to make some huge changes by including more copies of Latios, Psychic Energy, and having a boost to the consistency engine available within the deck. The biggest thing to take away from a surprising deck such as Hoopa is that it will hide in the shadows until the meta game allows it to come back in full swing. Looking at our current meta game that revolves around multiple copies of Buzzwole, it may take a while, but I am sure the deck can rise to fame again. Let’s check out another unorthodox deck, Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  / Alolan Exeggutor GX (CIN; 74) , and how it works.

Zoroark-GX / Alolan Exeggutor Deck List

Brief Explanation

Zach Zamora eventually lost his win-and-in the last round of Madison Regionals to fall to making Top 64 overall. I’m not sure, as a professional player who is writing this article, if this deck was a flash in the pan or a concept that can sustain itself going forward. It seems like the strategy of this deck is to discard basic Energy cards to power up Alolan Exeggutor GX (CIN; 74)  which allows that Pokémon to do extra damage. Beyond that, the deck seems to function as a normal Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  deck, which likely means that it struggled against the Buzzwole / Buzzwole GX (CIN; 104)  / Lycanroc GX (GRI; 74)  that rocked the tournament. If this becomes a Standard archetype going forward, I would like to see this deck become versatile and include some different tech attackers. Let’s look into another Zoroark-GX Variant, a Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX Deck, that ended up making Top 16 in the event.

Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX Deck List

Brief Explanation

Aaron Tarbell made Top 16 with a straight forward concept that added in a Buzzwole for the perceived meta game. I think this deck may have fallen victim to the last minute meta game shift that occurred, with most top players switching to Buzzwole / Buzzwole GX (CIN; 104)  / Lycanroc GX (GRI; 74) . Obviously Tarbell had a successful tournament and must have utilized cards such as Mew-EX to combat those opposing threats, but this is a deck that should fizzle out. I will note that Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  decks may make a comeback going forward if Malamar Variants can gain any kind of footing going forward to combat the Buzzwole Variants. Let’s check out the Greninja BREAK (BKP; 41)  deck that did well this weekend.

Greninja BREAK Deck List

Brief Explanation

Alex Schmenske made Top 16 at this event with a seemingly dead deck, but he was able to use his skill set to maneuver through some tough match-ups. I still don’t understand how this deck can gain a positive match-up against any Buzzwole GX (CIN; 104)  variant, but who am I to judge? This deck has been around since Grafton Roll started it upon BREAKPoint being released and it now continues to do well. This deck may not be the best play at League Cups due to its natural inconsistencies as a Stage 2 deck, but it might end up being a great play for the upcoming Mexico City Special Event or Regional Championships due to those events being best two out of three. Let’s check out the deck that actually won the event.

Buzzwole / Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX Deck List

Brief Explanation

Igor Costa, Caleb Gedemer, Joey Ruettiger, and Jimmy Pendarvis all played this deck to great success, but Costa was the one who ultimately won the entire tournament in Madison. While Buzzwole GX (CIN; 104)  / Lycanroc GX (GRI; 74)  has been covered to great extent, this deck changed the norm -- Buzzwole has seemingly changed the core of the deck. The deck now focuses on shoving single Prize Card attackers such as Buzzwole down your throat until you activate Beast Ring and they complete the game with whatever they decide to throw at you. This concept seemingly works wonders because Buzzwole has 130 HP and that is difficult to Knock Out in general. If you are interested in learning more about this deck, I am will soon present a more in-depth article about this deck. The deck was played extensively on stream as well, check it out. Let’s look to see how the meta game should progress going forward.

The Meta Game Progression

As we can see, new decks have emerged in the form of Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  / Exeggutor and we have a few older decks that have picked up some new tricks. If I could take a single thing from Madison, I would have to say it is that single Prize Card attackers are running the game right now. With cards such as Beast Ring and Buzzwole reigning supreme as Standard mainstays, it would be wise to try to counter these cards with a mirror strategy of your own. It is much more difficult to Knock Out six Pokemon than to Knock Out Three GX Pokemon - use that advice to your own success. If I were to make a bold prediction moving forward, I foresee Buzzwole being played as a four count to further shove that strategy down our throats. I have been using theory to determine if a deck with four Buzzwole and four Fighting Fury Belt could actually see some success. Regardless, it likely won’t matter as the meta shifts into a redux of what we once had - a rock-paper-scissors meta game, just with different decks. Another bold prediction here, Buzzwole-based decks will come full circle, similar to our past quarter, and should be the deck to beat for the 2018 North American International Championships in Columbus, Ohio.

If you have been playing PTCGO this week or you think that your local League Cup will see similar explosive results from the Buzzwole / Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc GX (GRI; 74)  deck, you might have some success countering it. If I were to think of a counter deck off the top of my head, I would be looking at Malamar variants that would include a thick line of Dawn Wings Necrozma, the non-GX promo, to counter the Buzzwole. It is a mere thought in the back of my mind, but my simple logic of a Pokémon that one-shots Buzzwole as a single Prize Card attacker seems like it can hold its own heading into our new meta game. The biggest issue with a concept like this is the possibility of facing some of the other strong decks in the meta game, such as Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  / Lycanroc GX (GRI; 74)  or Greninja BREAK (BKP; 41) , just to get your deck slapped around. This is always the downfall of a rock-paper-scissors meta game and there are often limited solutions that can grab onto the meta game. The best way to combat anything is strictly testing, becoming accustomed to the meta game, and find a deck that fits your play style like a glove. I have a lot of content coming your way so if you ever feel lost, I will have your back and provide that missing piece of the puzzle!

A Weekend of League Cups

Well, that’s a wrap on another article and I hope it left you feeling a bit more confident heading into your next tournament. I know that these next few weekends of League Cups are often the defining moment between an invite or not so I encourage you to get it. It is often easier said than done, but you need to have confidence to seal the deal when it comes to finishing off those last few Championship Points for an invite. As for me, I am still on my ‘world’ tour as a professional Pokémon player so feel free to reach out if I am in your area! This is where I am going to be for the last few weekends of the season:

June 9 - June 10
League Cups in the Gatineau, Quebec Area

June 16 - June 17
Mexico City, Mexico Special Event

June 23 - June 24
Mexico City, Mexico Regional Championships

June 30 - July 1
League Cups in the Greater Toronto, Ontario Area

July 5 - July 8
Columbus, Ohio North American International Championships

As you can see, I am out there doing my best to find compelling content to write about all while chasing my goal of being one of the Top 16 best players in North America. In all of this travelling, I have made many new friends 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. Also, remember to give this article a ‘like’ to let me know what you thought of this article - it gives me the motivation needed to write! Thanks for supporting 60 Cards, reading my articles, and watching me grow as a player!

Until next time,

#TeamCartaMagica #60Cards #PokeAcademy #PlayPokemon #Pokemon

[+24] okko


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