Experts' corner

Dustin Zimmerman

"Emergency Entrance" – Crafting the Perfect List Through Trial and Error

Dustin talks through why the decision to play the same deck at several tournaments in a row can lead to new discoveries.

11/06/2017 by Dustin Zimmerman

Hello! My name is Dustin Zimmerman and it feels really great to get back into playing the game after a year of focusing more closely on my personal life. For those of you who haven’t met me, I’ve been playing competitively for just over twelve years. In that time I’ve earned my invitation to play at the World Championships five times, earned the highest CP in North America (2014), and placed in the Semifinals of the 2013 World Championships in Vancouver. My best times are behind me, but I’m still chasing the dream. I was just recently sponsored by No Limit Gaming, and I’m very excited to be representing them this season alongside some very talented players. I’m currently sitting at a decent 170 CP, mostly thanks to a T32 (17th...) performance at the Anaheim Open.

Today I wanted to focus on the deck I’ve been playing variations of for every tournament this season: Golisopod. Although considering by now we know enough about how the deck operates (thanks in part to Jay Lesage’s recent article), I will instead touch upon how using the same deck consistently can benefit players like me who might not always have apt time to playtest. I’ll talk about how minor tweaks at several League Cups has since led me to what I believe is the “best” list. Finally, I’ll look ahead to Crimson Invasion and how I feel Golisopod is poised within the new standard format for London. Let’s jump in!

Table of contents


First Impressions

  • Ft. Wayne Regionals

Switching to Standard

  • Dayton LC
  • Garden City LC
  • Westland LC
  • Indianapolis LC

Reaching the Optimal List

  • Tecumseh LC

Looking to London

Final Thoughts




So yes, I have returned to the game and I want to reassert myself as a top contender. Despite that, I cannot quite find the time amongst my busy schedule to play as many games as I’d like. On top of that, making it to Regionals that involve flying (I live in Indianapolis) is extremely difficult. So what’s a guy to do? It really helps to first find a deck core that you anticipate will be playable throughout the course of several weeks or even months. By becoming very familiar with at least one deck, you can use the time you do have to focusing solely on finding the most optimal list, and/or merely adjusting the list depending on what you expect to play against that day. Let’s face it, becoming familiar with the idiosyncrasies of every deck, analyzing and memorizing all of their matchups, anticipating metagame shifts, keeping up with and adapting to what the pros are playing, and logging 10+ games a day on PTCGO can be a chore even for the most dedicated. As it turns out, the concept of playing the same deck for a large portion of the season isn’t even anything new, and has been enacted by many pro players now for several years! Kyle Sucevich played Dialga nearly all season when everyone else preferred Luxchomp, Sebastian Crema earned 100% percent of his Worlds invite in 2016 by playing Primal Groudon, and Isreal Sosa as we all know has essentially built his entire reputation on Yveltal EX. So if you are busy but still want to do well, don't feel like this is entirely a disadvantage. Though it does hinge heavily on which deck you decide to dedicate your time to. For me, that was Golisopod.


Having returned home from Anaheim, the thought on everyone’s mind was what to play for Ft. Wayne. It’s not always easy shifting from Standard to Expanded, and the banning of Archeops and Forest of Giant Plants left a lot of players wondering: “What will even be good?” Like most, I was tossing around the usual suspects in my head: Seismitoad, Trevenant, Night March, Rayquaza, etc. Then there were of course the cards that hadn't yet seen play in expanded: Garbodor, Gardevoir, Golisopod. One fateful day, I happened upon an arbitrary tweet that changed the outlook of my next 8 weeks:


Tweet from @lubyllule 








“Huh...”, I thought. “She does have a point.” So I talked with the rest of Team NLG and we bounced around a couple of ideas. We agreed that we wanted an additional Stage 1 alongside Golisopod, but we weren’t necessarily sure which one. In my opinion it was better to try to balance some of Golisopod’s inherent weaknesses with a partner that could benefit it in several ways against multiple matchups. The obvious choice was Garbodor, but I wasn’t too impressed. Then the discussion shifted over to Zoroark BKT: a quick, energy efficient attacker that can always put up big numbers against bad matchups like Fire or M Rayquaza. Not to mention, with a Float Stone, you can reset your First Impression after using Stand In. It all sounded great and we began making the list. Eventually, after hours and hours of heated discussion in the lobby of my hotel, we ended up with the following 60 cards (Aaron Tarbell decided to play this exact same list as well):

I’m not going to dwell too long on each card, but let’s quickly point out some interesting inclusions:

Zoroark BW

This guy caught a lot of people by surprise and has countless niche uses, but mostly it was an answer to fire decks that tend to hit for massive amounts of damage unconditionally. At the time it just seemed better than a third Zoroark BKT, but I’m sure I would have liked this slot to be something that helps late-game consistency (such as as Oraguru).


Simply put, Golisopod and Zoroark aren't great attackers against Battle Compressor decks (like Night March and Vespiquen). This was an easy one-card answer to those.

Scoop Up Cyclone

Obviously it would have been nice to have Computer Search, especially considering how quickly this deck likes to set up. But wow, having a free Acerola was so often a sheer and irreplaceable pleasure to have. Not only was this used in the conventional sense to scoop up damaged Golisopod, but it could also act as a pseudo-Computer Search, scooping up Tape Lele-GX to use Wonder Tag for a game changing Guzma. 

Target Whistle

Another card that I enjoyed playing for the surprise factor, Target Whistle was really great at re-benching so many Pokemon that nearly every single deck plays but chooses to discard when up against a Golisopod deck, including Seismitoad-EX, Keldeo-EX, Shaymin-EX, Manaphy-EX, and the like. Also, you could quickly add an extra 30 damage when attacking with Mind Jack.

Here’s how my performance at the tournament shook out:

R1 vs Mega Ray LWW

R2 vs Waterbox LWW

R3 vs Greninja LWT

R4 vs Gardevoir WLW

R5 vs Turbo Darkrai WLT

R6 vs Golisopod/Zoroark/Garbodor (Jose Marrero) WW

R7 vs Espeon/Garbodor WLW

Alright, 5-0-2! I just need to win one more match then I can ID into Day 2!

R8 vs Turbo Darkrai (Zach Lesage) LL

Oh... well how about at least one more match for T64?

R9 vs Night March LL


Ah. So that one didn’t quite shake out as planned. Oh well! Aaron ended up making T32 with the same list, so at least there was some success for the deck and my team. A few weeks later, Aaron again took the same list to Daytona Beach Regionals (-1 Max Potion +1 Rescue Stretcher) and placed in the T16. So if I had to go back, what would I change? I can honestly admit with great defeat that playing only 10 energy meant that I whiffed attachments all the time. It was dreadful. Also, not having something like Oranguru or a 1-1 Octillery meant that late game I was very uncomfortably dependent on my top-decks. As one of my friends put it: “This deck takes prizes way too quickly to not play any draw support.”

Overall, my inaugural experience with Golisopod was a positive one. I felt very comfortable with the way the deck operated at its core.


With only two short weeks until my next tournament, believe me when I say that I entertained the idea of playing many different decks. I hadn't yet known that I would eventually take the aforementioned stance on playing the same thing for multiple League Cups. I talked with Team NLG about which deck seemed best poised to win in a brand new tournament format in which no player had officially competed in yet. Nothing caught my interest for long. It became hard for my to try something new each day and practice enough with it to feel confident in my ability to win (something not a problem for many players, but alas...). Eventually, the day before the tournament, I stumbled upon a straight Golisopod list online. No Garbodor, just heavy consistency and some techs. I loved it, this had to be what I should play. After all, I have some previous experience from Ft. Wayne! Let’s just go for it.

 In order to effectively show you my thought processes involved in crafting what would become my ideal list, I will first show you a core Golisopod (exo)skeleton deck. These are the cards that found their way into the eventual 60 at all 5 League Cups I’ve played in since writing this article. Then with each passing tournament, I want to reflect on what I learned, liked, hated, and how I attempted to adapt to an ever-fluxing format.

(Note: I didn't necessarily start with this right from the beginning and add to it, this is just what eventually became the core group of 46 that worked in every variant.)

Dayton, OH (T2)

Additional 14 cards:

 +1 Wimpod

2-1 Octillery

+1 Tapu Koko

1 Jolteon EX

1 Oranguru

+1 N

+1 Acerola

2 Bodybuilding Dumbbells

+1 Field Blower

1 Heavy Ball

1 Enhanced Hammer


R1 vs Golisopod/Zoroark W

R2 vs Gardevoir W

R3 vs Metagross L

R4 vs Golisopod W

R5 vs Espeon/Garb W

R6 vs ??? ID


T8 vs Golisopod LWW

T4 vs Greninja WW

T2 vs Golisopod WLL

So this is what became the first standard list. Learning my lessons from Ft. Wayne, I went pretty heavy on draw support. My friend Reno suggested Jolteon EX, and I liked it obviously for any potential fire decks that I might go up against. The Bodybuilding Dumbbells was something that I saw Zach Lesage post online, and it intrigued me enough to make the cut (I’ll talk more on these later).

Overall, it was pretty good but far from perfect. Heavy Ball was underwhelming, being only capable of searching for 3 Pokemon (unlike in lists with Garb where you can search for 6), and Enhanced Hammer never had the impact I hoped for. Plus I missed so many KOs because I couldn’t find one of my two Choice Bands. How will I take this information and carry it forward?

Garden City, MI (2-2-0 drop)


Additional 14 cards:

+1 Wimpod

1 Golisopod SUM

1-1 Octillery

+1 Tapu Koko

1 Jolteon EX

1 Oranguru


+1 Choice Band

+1 Field Blower

1 Heavy Ball



R1 vs Xerneas BREAK W

R2 vs Ho-oh/Salazzle W

Wow, I beat fire! Now just one more win and I can ID twice into T8.

R3 vs Ho-oh/Salazzle L

Oh, turns out I can’t always beat fire. Well I just need to win the next once then I can ID once into T8.

R4 vs Greninja L


Crap. Didn't feel too great. You’ll notice the biggest difference with this list in comparison to all of the others you will see is the inclusion of Super Scoop Up. It was surprisingly good, and a card to this day I feel can find its way into a winning Golisopod deck. The only reason I didn't play it again is simply because I found other cards I liked better. You’ll also notice I didn’t learn my lesson with Heavy Ball.

This tournament was on a Saturday and I only had a couple hours before the next one. I really wanted to try to find something new to play, so I looked online at a couple of lists and talked with my team about how I should adapt to what I saw the past day. But... I was on a mini-vacation with my girlfriend visiting my grandmother, and we had plans for the evening. So instead of arbitrarily playing a new deck that I couldn’t practice with, I chose instead to further modify my Golisopod list. This was much easier, and I felt better about it.

Westland, MI (4-2-0 9th)

Additional 14 cards:

3 Trubbish

2 Garbodor

1 Garbodor

1 Turtonator-GX

1 Tapu Fini-GX

+1 N

+1 Acerola

+1 Float Stone

+2 Choice Band

1 Heavy Ball


R1 vs Espeon/Garb W

R2 vs Golisopod W

R3 vs Metagross W

Okay nice, here we are again. Just one more win so that I can ID twice into T8.

R4 vs Ho-oh/Salazzle L

Pretty rotten luck there, but I still have one more chance for a win so I can ID once.

R5 vs Ho-oh/Salazzle L

IT HAPPENED AGAIN! Fire decks continue to be the bane of my performances.

R6 vs Espeon/Garb W


So I caved and finally tried a list with Garbodor, as I had constantly been hearing from friends and pro players that it was far and away the better variant of the deck. A few minutes before registration ended, I cut the Jolteon EX in my list originally for the Turtonator-GX because I looked around and I didn’t see any fire. This was a big mistake, as I found out. Though the Turtonator did come in hand a couple times against mirror and Metagross, he’s just a unique and fun card to play (sometimes you can even pull off a Bright Flame, but don’t hold your breath). The Tapu Fini was pretty underwhelming, but was meant to Tapu Storm GX a Gardevoir that had overextended to take the OHKO on a Golisopod. It had a minor dual purpose too, using Aqua Ring + Choice Band on opposing fire types for the 2HKO while being able to escape to the bench. Overall my impression of Garbodor in the deck wasn’t impressive enough for me to continue on that path. I had a ways to go before I found my ideal list.

This was a rough weekend, but in six short days I have another chance.

Indianapolis, IN (2-2-0) drop

Additional 14 cards:

2 Alolan Vulpix

2 Alolan Ninetales

1 Remoraid

1 Octillery

+1 Tapu Koko

1 Turtonator-GX

1 Espeon-EX

+1 N

+1 Acerola

3 Bodybuilding Dumbbells


R1 vs VikaBulu W

R2 vs Volcanion L

R3 vs Golisopod/Zoroark W

R4 vs Golisopod L

Swing and miss! What’s going on? I will say that at this point I was no longer intruiged by Bodybuilding Dumbbells. I wanted them so badly to work, and I thought in this Ninetales variant they'd be even better, as they prevent the OHKO from very common non-EX/GXs like Gallade and Oranguru. Looking back, more Choice Bands would have been much better. Proactive cards that you can receive the benefit from immediately are often better than reactive cards that depend entirely on what your opponent does on their next turn.

Had I made a mistake in choosing to use Golisopod as my primary deck throughout this stretch of the season? I refused to believe that were true. After all, 4 of my 6 past losses were to fire. Even with the cards teched for the matchup, sometimes it’s just overwhelmingly in their favor. Plus it wasn't like fire accounted for the majority of the metagame, I just hit the few players out of 40+ in attendance that had sleeved it up that day. I still wanted to pilot Golisopod, but something had to change.


Back at home I found myself scouring through all available cards in the format with hopes of discovering a hidden gem that no one else had though of (a pleasure too often I am guilty of pursuing). I would shoot any idea that popped into my head by my team to get their impressions, often without second-guessing myself (looking at you, Random Receiver). Finally, I found what I thought would be perfect.

First, let me lead this in by explaining a problem I’ve often encountered. Against fire, Jolteon-EX is amazing, but if you don't go first and get an energy attachment, the advantage is out of your favor. A mid-game attachment to Jolteon is just begging for the opponent to Guzma him up and OHKO it, completely negating everything and you will very likely lose. There was just no surprise to it. If I wanted a greater success rate, I needed attack with Flash Ray the same turn I benched the Jolteon. Max Elixir isn’t going to cut it, so I landed on...

Multi Switch. I absolutely love this card. Yes, while the original purpose of its inclusion was a quick Flash Ray, the utility of the card goes far beyond that. When an opponent plays against Golisopod, they can asses the board state in confidence knowing that the deck can only attach one energy at a time. Which sounds dumb, I know that’s the rule of the game, but decks like Gardevoir, Metagross, Xerneas, and Vikabulu have methods to attach additional energy, leading to unexpected and explosive turns. Golisopod does not have that, and thus has no chance to use a surprise tech that takes more than one energy attachment.

Well, not anymore! Even if there isn't an energy on a single Wimpod/Golisopod, with Multi Switch you can Crossing Cut GX out of nowhere with a single attachment plus a previously attached DCE on a benched Tapu Koko. You can Multi Switch energies up to Tapu Lele-GX for a surprise Energy Drive OHKO. Whiff an energy for the turn? Just borrow one from the bench, etc. The utility is greater than you’d expect. MOST importantly, the door is just wide open for techs similar to Jolteon-EX that can cater to whatever matchups you expect to face on any given day. With the release of Shining Legends, one really great card (see below) solidified this strategy as the way I wanted to play Golisopod hence forth.

So what techs can you play now that you’re running 2 copies of Multi Switch? I’ll dive into each one I’ve found and let you know when to play them (depending on what other decks are popular in your area).


The original zappy boy, your main answer to any fire you might have the misfortune of being paired up against. Make sure you keep your bench small, which would prevent your opponent from playing Guzma to take every prize card. Salazzle-GX can give you some trouble, but if you’re quick enough Flash Ray can OHKO Salandit. Even if you don't need him for a certain matchup, the free retreat never hurts in a Golisopod deck.

Play this if a lot of Volcanion or Ho-oh/Salazzle is expected.

Hoopa SHL

This card is insane! With Hex Maniac rotated out of the format, the only way for EX and GX-heavy decks to deal with his Scoundrel Guard Ability are Garbodor, Alolan Muk, and Guzma. Muk is never played and the other option, Guzma, just keeps Hoopa alive. If I had the room, I would play two copies. Super Psy Bolt with a Choice Band attached can 2HKO most threatening Pokemon. Even if it takes longer, you likely have the time to spare. This card is also something really great to retreat into on your first turn or Crossing Cut GX into. Given, you will need a Float Stone handy.

Play this if a lot of Gardevoir, Golisopod, Zoroark/Ninetales, Volcanion, Ho-oh/Salazzle, or Metagross is expected. 


Having played this card twice before at previous events, I can say that it’s worthy enough of an inclusion. Shell Trap is just very annoying, and so good against opposing Golisopod because even if they Acerola away the 40-100 damage they took from the attack, they have another 80 coming right back at them. If they attack and take 80 damage, you can First Impression + Choice Band for the KO.

Play this if a lot of Golisopod or Metagross is expected.


This one seems obvious, and yet I haven't really seen anyone playing it. Magearna-EX is a really nice way to punish a Gardevoir that has overextended into taking a KO on a fresh Golisopod. Assuming you already have a DCE or Rainbow energy somewhere in play, an attachment plus a Multi Switch allows you to immediately retaliate with an OHKO. The same holds true against Xerneas BREAK and the increasingly popular Ninetales-GX. Occasionally, Mystic Heart can even protect anything with a Rainbow Energy from an opponent’s annoying strategy, including but not limited to Jirachi’s Stardust, Drampa-GX’s Righteous Edge, Froakie’s Bubble, or Sylveon-GX’s Plea GX.

Play this if a lot of Gardevoir, Ninetales, or Xerneas is expected. 


Yes, this is a real suggestion! I’ve only considered it in theory, but Prima Rondo can OHKO Zoroark-GX and Drampa-GX with little effort. Unfortunately, it has no really great uses outside of that.

Play this if a lot of Zoroark or Drampa/Garbodor is expected.


So now that I’ve discovered my favorite way to play the deck, I’ll share the full 60 cards of my final “perfected” list that I brought to my most recent League Cup. This is a list that takes all of the lessons I’ve learned over the past two months and fixes them the best I can. If I’m going to play Golisopod, this is where I want it to be.

Tecumseh, MI (T4)

R1 vs Golisopod W

R2 vs Metagross W

R3 vs Xerneas BREAK W

R4 vs Gardevoir ID

R5 vs Gardevoir ID

T8 vs Gardevoir WW

T4 vs Golisopod/Zoroark (Aaron Tarbell) LWL

So I couldn’t pull off a win, but I felt very good with my decision on the day. If I could have predicted the future I would have cut the Jolteon-EX for another Hoopa or the Turtonator-GX (I don’t think anyone was playing fire that day, but you can’t blame me for being afraid). What’s great about this list is that you can swap out those 3 tech spots for whatever you’d like, and the deck will function exactly the same. Golisopod is an insanely effective attacker as we all know, and he just wants some buddies.

Looking back, I’m so glad that I stuck with the same deck for the entire season. It allowed me to focus my energy on creating the perfect list instead of wildly shifting gears and trying to find the perfect deck. I understand that for a lot of pro players this isn't an issue, many of the best can pick up a new deck the night before a tournament and win handily with it. But for those of us with less confidence in our innate ability to adapt to something new, sticking to a familiar concept can be a path to success. Do note that this should only apply to decks within the metagame, whatever you may choose (no one is winning anything with their Machamp-GX deck just because they’ve been playing it since it was released).

Where do I go from here? By the time I am able to compete in another tournament, Crimson Invasion will have been released and I’ll surely have found some time to properly practice. I could definitely see myself in that time discovering a new deck that caught my fancy, and show up to Memphis Regionals with all 3 Golisopod-GX in my binder. But you know for dang sure that I am going to try to adapt this most recent list I have here to assert itself into a brand new metagame - I won’t let it go that easily! Let’s for a moment pretend that I am going to London Intercontinentals, as I sure some of you reading this will be. How would I play this deck across the pond?



When a new set is released, it’s important to not only see how your deck gets better, but also how it may get worse. Crimson Invasion offers a couple of exciting cards to try out, but the hardest part is anticipating how everyone else will adapt to the new pool of cards and whether or not your deck can survive the influx of new archetypes and strategies. Optimistically, I’ll first talk through what I’d consider adding and why:


Not the best card to be printed, but worth looking into in my opinion. The option to hit a quick 30 on your first turn with Fast Raid isn’t terrible if you’ve attacked into an EX or GX with ≤180 HP. If either that attack or a later First Impression is donning a Choice Band, you get the 2KHO a turn before it would have otherwise been possible. If you’re really lucky you can donk a Remoraid, Rockruff, Froakie, or Staryu on the first turn of the game. As for the other two attacks: we’ve all seen how effective confusion can be a la Espeon-GX, and Beauty-GX can hit for some serious damage late in the game for cheap. 


What a fun card, all around. The ability is great, effective to some degree against nearly all popular decks (Spicy Play Alert: Cut Down once, attach Rainbow, use Acerola, Cut Down again). The first attack is not only great against Gardevoir and Ninetales, but you can then promote out to a Hoopa in an attempt to stall. Oh, and Blade-GX? C’mon, everyone wants to use Blade-GX.


Considering how functionally integral Guzma and Acerola are to the deck, I would very much want to play a copy of Lusamine. You trade one turn of doing “nothing” for a fifth and sixth chance to use Guzma.

Other considerations: Warp Energy, Counter Catcher, Gladion


Alright so what new cards could make the deck worse to play? I’ve thought about it a little bit and I have a couple of opinions. The release of the (amazing) cards Counter Catcher and Counter Energy mean a deck like Golisopod that likes to go go go and take prizes really quickly can now suddenly have its bug body shattered by a resurgence of board control. Not sure what I mean? Ask anyone who played in 2005–08 about how you did not want to take the first prize against a deck holding Pow! Hand Extensions and Scramble Energies. It’s very good and healthy for the format, just be cautious when asserting yourself too early in the game with a couple of quick First Impressions.

If I woke up tomorrow and I found myself magically in London on November 17th, here’s how I’d adjust the above list to play for the weekend:

-1 Jolteon EX

-1 Acerola

+1 Kartana GX

+1 Lusamine


Thank you so much for making it this far, all the way to the end! I really hope that in some way something that I said resonates with you and you can use that information to achieve success. This article goes out to all of us who just can't quit a certain deck despite others telling you it isn't the best play.  Please, if you like this deck, take the time to playtest with it and tell me what you think! You may find something that I haven’t myself.

If you enjoyed my first written piece for 60Cards, consider giving me the ‘ol thumbs up! And be on the lookout soon for when Team NLG becomes official and we create proper media outlets. Until then, you can follow my “regular” Twitter account @multiplecats. The Golisopod illustrations seen in this article were made by artist @sqshiijelly.

See you around! –Dustin Zimmerman

[+13] okko


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