Experts' corner

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Zach Lesage

Heading to LAIC 2019

Zach details his top picks for LAIC

11/14/2019 by Zach Lesage

My Journey

As I sit down waiting for my flight from Portland to Toronto, I wanted to throw as many words into this article as I could because we are running out of time. We are always running out of time, but more specifically running out of time to test for the 2019 Latin American International Championships this week in São Paulo, Brazil. This past weekend at Portland I heard many top players stating that they haven’t touched a card from Cosmic Eclipse yet and they are terrified to jump into this new format. Others shared their thoughts on Pidgeotto Control decks being “busted” and Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX (ADP) being the best new deck from the set. Personally, I have tested this format as extensively as possible and I still feel lost. I switch my top choice on the daily and revisit neglected decks to see if there is something that I missed. This article won’t be as polished with hyperlinks / photos as they usually are, but I wanted to use that time to give you as much information I possible can before the event. The goal of this article is to share my thoughts on the metagame, provide insight on my experience playing in Brazil, and to showcase some of my decklists heading into this event! If you are not attending LAIC, all of this information is valid for League Cups and Daytona Beach, FL Regionals! Enjoy.

Thoughts on LAIC
This will be my third time playing Pokémon in Brazil and I have had a decent bit of success playing in that country. I lost my win-and-in and made Top 64 during my first year playing at that event and made Top Eight last year. During both of those events, I have realized that playing in Brazil is slightly different than playing in North America. I will start off by saying that the following sentences are observations made by myself, a handful of other top players, and they aren’t meant to be disrespectful to any country. That being said, Brazilian players can sometimes have financial issues / lack of available cards to build the brand new decks. Furthermore, they have slightly different release schedules for core sets and promo cards that can make acquiring cards a difficult task. I am expecting to face decks that contain less valuable cards and decks that were strong within the previous quarter. There will likely be a lack of more expensive decks from local players, such as ADP / Keldeo, and a larger portion of Malamar decks. Latin America also has a different metagame, as showcased in their Campinas Special Event, by featuring more GreenZard decks and AbilityZard decks than other areas in the world. I could see this transitioning into Green’s Charizard & Braixen-GX decks being more popular as well. Overall, here is what I expect the local metagame to look like for LAIC:

Malamar
Green’s ReshiZard / Green’s ChariXen
AbilityZard
Pidgeotto Control
BlaceNag

There will be other decks played by locals, but that list seems pretty solid to me. I wouldn’t play a deck that couldn’t beat Malamar or either GreenZard deck. That being said, I think most North American / European / Oceania players will come equipped with ADP / Keldeo and Pidgeotto Control. With that in mind, I think we will see less PikaRom, Mewtwo, and GardEon decks than usual. On one hand, GardEon did gain the most out of every deck from Cosmic Eclipse (abusing the new Tag Team support) and PikaRom has always been a great deck to explore a blind metagame. I don’t want to say Mewtwo is dead or anything like that, I just think it is a tough sell for LAIC. If you do decide to brave it with Mewtwo, tech a few Stealthy Hoods to get around the new Mimikyu, otherwise you might not attack much. Another hot take is that BlaceNag is as perfectly balanced as it always has been and will continuously be a great pick for a blind metagame. It was worked well for me in the past and I don’t want to dismiss the power of the deck. I don’t want to give out confusing statements, but this is a deck that I actually think is a casualty of the new metagame. If ADP / Keldeo, GardEon, and Malamar are popular at LAIC, I wouldn’t want to play BlaceNag. The rest of the metagame looks like an entire mess. I originally planned to write this article during my flight back from Portland, but I had an awful flight path home. It took longer than expected and I really didn’t have it in me to write. So I am returning to this article on my flight from New York City to São Paulo. I tested with my teammate Connor Finton in the Delta SkyClub lounge and we both feel like the format is absolutely blind right now.

Our testing consisted of getting ADP / Keldeo to a solid point, but it seems like the deck wants to do what it wants to do. Pidgeotto is appealing, but mirror matchups and poor starts are giving me cold feet. GardEon is super interesting because it can beat ADP / Keldeo and Malamar, but it still takes a hard loss to Pidgeotto. Green’s decks have always been underwhelming to me and that stands strong with PipStoise and Charizard variants. The last
deck that I have even considered is Malamar, but it falls under the issues of inconsistent in best of three. After thinking the metagame over and over, I’m likely going to play ADP / Keldeo or GardEon, but I still have tomorrow (Thursday in São Paulo at the the time of this writing) to test my heart out. Where does that leave this article? Well, the only other thing that I can do is showcase the lists that I have right now! I’ll explain each deck the best that I can.

ADP / Keldeo
Everyone who reads this card should immediately be drawn to it’s insane GX attack! Doing 30 extra damage throughout the entire game is nifty, but drawing an extra Prize for each KO is nuts! Couple that with some energy acceleration and a GX blocking wall makes the deck a true contender. I have pondered on N’s Resolve in the deck over Rayquaza-GX, but I think it is too disruptive for what the deck offers overall. It is something that Connor and I plan on testing tomorrow, but I like our list below right now.

Pokémon: 13
4x Jirachi TEU
2x Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX CEC
2x Rayqauza-GX CES
2x Dedenne-GX UNB
2x Keldeo-GX UMI
1x Mega Lopunny & Jigglypuff-GX CEC

Trainers: 33
3x Chaotic Swell
2x Viridian Forrest
4x Cynthia
4x Lillie
4x Energy Switch
4x Cherish Ball
4x Switch
3x Mysterious Treasure
3x Pokégear 3.0
2x Escape Board
2x Great Catcher

Energy: 12
7x Water Energy
5x Metal Energy

The list is super basic and we have tossed a few ideas of techs around. I have considered Zebstrika or Pidgeotto to beat Pidgeotto Control, but ADP / Keldeo can be incredibly quick. My goal is to have a consistent deck because I know I will play it correctly if I am given the opportunity to setup. As I am now sitting in São Paulo waiting for my girlfriend to get off her flight, I have thought of a few additional cuts from the list above. I am debating cutting Viridian Forest for Energy Spinner, Mysterious Treasure, and Mallow & Lana. Mallow & Lana is for mirror matches and the other two cards have a similar purpose to Viridian Forest. Again, these are merely considerations at this point because I still need to test with Connor later today! Other tech considerations have been Articuno-GX, Phione, and Drampa CEC. I might try splashing those techs in and out of the deck during testing tomorrow so maybe the list will change by a couple cards.

GardEon
This is my hot pick for the event and it is so tempting to pull the trigger on this deck. It loses to Pidgeotto, but that might be it. Well, it also depends on the amount of Fire decks that are played. If you hit a Fire deck, you are already behind from the start. Yeah, let’s avoid Pidgeotto and Fire decks. I have a hunch that if I have four Power Plant in the deck, I should be able to get past Chaotic Swell. I have pondered on the thought of Marshadow, but with this being a Green’s-based deck, I know it won’t work. If I can get this deck to beat ADP / Keldeo, I might just decide to play it. Other solid matchups include Mewtwo & Mew-GX, Malamar, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it had a great Reshiram & Zekrom-GX matchup. I don’t think ReshiRom is going to be played too much due to the high cost of the deck and the natural inconsistencies it has, but it still might show up. The crazy thing is that LAIC is a completely blind metagame. In North America we just had back-to-back Expanded events which has left NA players with little time to test. Cosmic Eclipse is the biggest set of all time and my buy list grows each time I look at the set. There are definitely more combos and nifty tech cards in this set compared to a first glance. Anyways, I’m still uncertain about a few cards in the below list, but here it is.

Pokémon: 4
4x Gardevoir & Sylveon-GX UNB

Trainers: 47
4x Power Plant
1x Chaotic Swell
4x Green’s Exploration
4x Cynthia & Caitlin
2x Mallow & Lana
2x Guzma & Hala
1x Cynthia
4x Pokégear 3.0
4x Tag Call
3x Great Catcher
3x Reset Stamp
2x Energy Spinner
2x Great Potion
2x Tag Switch
2x Fairy Charm (Lightning)
2x Fairy Charm (Psychic)
2x Switch
1x Island Challenge Amulet
1x Fairy Charm (Dragon)
1x Fairy Charm (UB)

Energy: 9
8x Fairy Energy
1x Unit Energy (Fighting, Dark, Fairy)

There is a lot to say about this list and at the same time, the list says it all. The new Tag Team support works amazing with this list because it is seamless. Tag Call searches for Supporters and GardEon which makes the deck more consistent. I played the deck at Knoxville and if I had this type of consistency, I would have had a much better chance at making Day 2. Each Tag Team Supporter adds an additional strategic layer to this deck; Cynthia & Caitlin is naturally better than Coach Trainer, Guzma & Hala is a great search card (that is the only reason why the deck plays Unit Energy, and Mallow & Lana is an amazing healing card. Once we get past those additions to the deck, it looks eerily familiar to GardEon lists before Cosmic Eclipse. Island Challenge Amulet allows the deck to live without Xerneas-GX and the Fairy Charms are for the flavour decks of the week. I could see this deck adding in a Lana’s Fishing Rod to get back a Fairy Charm, but that is something I need to test today. I might also change up the Fairy Charm like in this deck depending on how I feel the metagame looks going into tomorrow, but that is again something that will only happen with more testing. I could also see the deck going full on healing mode with four copies of Mallow & Lana, but that is generally it! It is a crazy play for LAIC, but if it avoids poor matchups, I could see GardEon going far in the event.

Malamar
Even though I will go on the record by saying this deck has been inconsistent for me, it does have strengths that other decks just don’t have. It has a solid base of Energy acceleration and it is mainly a single Prize Card deck. It has an amazing base list that Alex Schemanske and Michael Catron have created last format too. What else could be missing? I’m slightly worried about it having a poor ADP / Keldeo matchup and it still struggles with GardEon, but it can handle itself beyond that. Well, almost... I think it still struggles with Pidgeotto, but Espeon & Deoxys-GX can make that matchup work. Let’s peep at the list and get into some more detail.

Pokémon: 19
4x Malamar FLI
4x Inkay FLI
3x Jirachi TEU
2x Giratina LOT
1x Espeon & Deoxys-GX UMI
1x Ditto Prism Star LOT
1x Latios-GX UMI
1x Mimikyu CEC
1x Espurr UNB
1x Mew UNB

Trainers: 33
2x Shrine of Punishment
2x Viridan Forest
4x Cynthia
4x Lillie
1x Guzma & Hala
4x Pokémon Communication
4x Mysterious Treasure
4x Spell Tag
3x Acro Bike
2x Escape Board
2x Switch
1x Lana’s Fishing Rod

Energy: 8
7x Psychic Energy
1x Recycle Energy

There isn’t much that’ is new in this list. The deck utilizes the new Mimikyu to shut off Abilities which makes Shrine of Punishment a much stronger card in the deck. I am tempted to add a third copy of Shrine, but I can’t find the space for it. I guess I could cut Guzma & Hala, but that card has been working great to find Spell Tag / Escape Board, Shrine, and Recycle Energy. It would be my only cut as of now. Lana’s Fishing Rod is a great way to get back a Spell Tag and Mimikyu and is the reason why the deck doesn’t play two Mimikyu. I have Espurr over Great Catcher because I can grab it back with Fishing Rod and it helps against non-GX decks. The deck could run Lunala Prism Star, but I haven’t found it necessary in my testing so far.

Pidgeotto
This is the deck that everyone has been talking about and for good reason! The deck doesn’t gain much beside Bellelba & Brycen-Man, but that card is busted in this deck. At face value, discarding three cards off the top of your opponents deck is crazy, but what else can it do? You can use Lt. Surge’s Strategy and use it twice! This can help the deck finish games quicker and even makes it a viable deck in best of one (League Cups / Challenges). I have personally added a Girafarig for mirror matches, but the rest of the list is super standard.

Pokémon: 19
4x Oranguru UPR
4x Pidgeotto TEU
3x Pidgey TEU “Quick Attack”
1x Pidgey TEU “Collect”
3x Jirachi TEU
2x Articuno-GX CES
1x Ditto Prism Star LOT
1x Girafarig LOT

Trainers: 37
2x Power Plant
4x Professor Elm’s Lecture
2x Bellelba & Brycen-Man
2x Lt. Surge’s Strategy
2x Tate & Liza
1x Jesse & James
1x Mars
1x Faba
4x Crushing Hammer
4x Pokégear 3.0
4x Acro Bike
3x Custom Catcher
2x Chip-Chip Ice Axe
2x Reset Stamp
2x Pal Pad
1x Escape Board

Energy: 4
3x Water Energy
1x Recycle Energy

I guess I forgot to mention that I added in Faba. It can see some niche uses in some matchups, but it is great in mirror match. Recycle Energy adds an additional card they need to loop back with Oranguru and that is enough to slow them down. There is an argument that you can pitch it with Brycen-Man, but I’m unsure. If I were to cut Faba for anything, it would likely be a third copy of Brycen-Man. If you are looking to understand this deck more, you can easily watch this deck on YouTube at various major events - it is the same deck as always.

Tomorrow is the Day
Well, I have written my heart out today and I have tested my limits as a player. I’m not entirely sure what I will submit in the next few hours, but it will be one of those decks. There has been plenty of talk about Mewtwo & Mew-GX decks playing Greninja-GX and word of Lillie’s Poké Doll stalk being played, so I might have to change up some techs. Whether you are attending LAIC as a player or going to a local event, all of the above decks seem like a great way to start in the format. Remember to keep your deck choice as humbling as possible, make your deck consistent, and enjoy the game as always! As for me, I am currently in Brazil, I am travelling to Daytona Beach later this month, and then San Diego in early December. I am currently at 522 CP and my goal is to earn a stipend to attend the Oceania International Championships. I have been putting in a bunch of effort lately to improve as a player and I truly hope it pays off. If you are looking to follow me on my adventure, here are the links to my Social Media / sponsors:

PTCGOStore: use code zlesage5 to save 5% off your order
TCEvolutions: use code zach10 to save 10% off your order

Facebook: Facebook.com/zlesage
Twitter: Twitter.com/zlesagepokemon
YouTube: YouTube.com/RareCandyTCG

Reach out to me if you are interested in coaching or any other business opportunity.

Let’s go have some fun,
Zach Lesage

[+19] okko


 

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