Experts' corner

Mark Dizon

Ray of Hope

How Rayquaza-GX was worth the Gamble on Day One of Worlds and how it looks going into Post Rotation

09/02/2018 by Mark Dizon

A New Beginnning 

Hi 60cards readers! My name is Mark Dizon and I am a Masters Division player from Canada. This was my first full season of playing the Pokémon Trading Card Game and I was fortunate enough to get my invite. I was able to achieve 620 Championship Points from League Cup finishes, a 23rd place finish in Hartford and 16th place finish at the North American International Championships. The Pokémon Trading Card Game has been a great challenge. I have found that this community is amazing, from seeing how players go from Juniors to Seniors to Masters, as well as the camaraderie that is seen in regional and international pockets, I am happy to have found a place in the game. The challenges in deck building and the cyclical changes in the metagame mean you need to be able to keep up or you will be left behind.

In preparation for Worlds, I took a moment to survey the metagame and the possible changes for the new set. I had really enjoyed playing Garbodor decks and Zoroark decks throughout the past season. I spent a great amount of time testing Metal decks, Zoroark/Garbodor , Zoroark/Lycanroc and Banette/Garbodor. I ended up deciding that it is best to go with familiarity than to try something inconsistent or a so-called “High Roller Deck”. Interestingly enough this might have been a mistake due to the nature of the day one World Championships metagame.

A Whole New World

If you have never attended a World Championship, whether as a competitor or spectator, the event is something I cannot even have fathomed. The opening ceremony is what I said I looked most forward to and it did not disappoint. To see all the regional communities in one place coming together for the game was unbelievable. When the countdown began everyone froze and took a look at the big screen to see the images and video. The cheers that erupted as the announcers and new things were announced resonated throughout the whole venue. The stage was amazing. Below you can see a picture of it and it really embodied the feel of the area we were in. Not only am I excited for the new season coming up because of playing the game, but I really want to get my invite again to experience Worlds again.

Tournament-wise, it did not go the greatest for me on Day One. It was an eye-opening experience. I played Zoroark/Lycanroc, believing that many players would revert to Zoroark/Garbodor, Buzzwole/Lycanroc and some players may try to out metagame the players and play Malamar to defeat the Buzzwole decks. One of the tedious parts of Worlds was having to hand in our decklist the day before the start of worlds. In a way it was a good thing so we did not have to test all night and worry but on the other-hand it really gave us one less day to try to figure things out. The biggest X-Factor was Rayquaza-GX. The deck was obviously extremely powerful, however the pros had mostly written it off on social media due to the high level of variance involving the deck. The fact that the deck could either go-off turn one or brick was extremely inconsistent and scared quite a few players of the deck. The other big thing about it was the high amount of items played in it that would allow Rayquaza-GX to be one shot by a Guardians Rising Garbodor, offering a poor prize trade was another reason given out to not play the deck.

Low and behold when I sat down round one, my opponent flipped a Rayquaza-GX on me. I was prepared to out play and out maneuver players all day with Zoroark-GX and Lycanroc-GX. When you play against Rayquaza-GX it is a pray and wait sort of game. You need to see if your opponent can set up extremely strong. Watching my opponent on turn one and he was acting extremely stressed. I told him “Just play the Sycamore” and then he slammed the Professor Sycamore discarding five energy, a Cynthia and proceeded to have a bad start. I was able to set up a full field, until he thinned his deck out, hit multiple Max Elixir’s and I was Dragon Breaked to the ground. 

Round two I played the Russian National Champion. I was super excited to see when he opened up a Zorua, but then he benced a Riolu and I knew I was in for a hard time. Lucario-GX made quick work of my deck even with another perfect set up. Not being able to get the first knockout on a Riolu with “Blood-Thirsty Eyes” and “Riotous Beating”  just let him snow-ball and take me out through his type advantage. He also played triple Parallel City. Funnily enough I spoke to him the next day and he said I was the only Zoroark deck he played against all day.

Round three, and we were in do or die territory at our first World Championships. I was 0-2 with a lot of pride on the line. I played against Zoroark/Garbodor, this was the exact match I wanted to play versus all day. I took game one extremely quickly as my opponent dead drew. Game two was the complete opposite as I dead drew, missed a turn one Brigette and succumbed to a donk. We had thirty five minutes left for game three. I took an extremely early lead and by the end of it, I had a 6-1 prize lead. I ended up losing from this 6-1 prize lead. I was put under Garbolock and N’ed to one. I extended my hand to my opponent and peered to watch the match beside me. I watched ARG Pro’s Jon Eng and fellow 60cards writer Jose Marrero engage in the 0-2 bracket. One of them was going to end up 0-3 and if some of the best players in the world could be in the same position as me, it wasn’t that bad. I got really punished for playing 60 HP Rockruff from the Trainer Kit. I thought it would help me versus the Zoroark Control decks but it was just brought up by Guzma and Fast Raided by Phermosa GX. 

What did we learn from the Worlds Decks

Looking back on the tournament, the format was really interesting. For those of you who do not know, the Open and Worlds are the only tournaments played with the new set format before rotation. It is a confined metagame with a lot of outliers, and it rewards those who are not afraid to stray from the mold. It seems that Worlds rewards innovation instead of conservatism and that is something that I have taken away for next year. Seeing the decks that performed there were archetypes that players surely were not prepared to handle from Rayquaza GX - Zygarde GX. Understanding metagame concepts is a skill that needs to be learned and something that the best players do when it comes to maneuvering a tournament.
If we take a look at the top 4 of Worlds we can see innovations in even the old stalwarts of the format as well as a different way to play one of the new decks. In Robin Schulz' championship winning Zoroark/Garbodor deck was played with 0 Ultra Ball. Taking a look at Stephane's list from NAIC and SPE Valencia, this was an innovation as they surely believe this would also help them in the mirror by having to discard less resources. The multiple Evosoda was popularized by Igor Costa, Azul Garcia Greigo and Jimmy Pendarvis at NAIC in there Zoroark/Golispod list and carried over into this deck.

Looking at Jeff Kolenc's Malamar list that was created by Canadian Edward Kuang who top 8’d NAIC with Malamar as well they innovated by placing a second Marshadow and adding in Acro Bike to increase the speed of the deck. They played zero N’s and focused on consistency of setting up and following through with their game plan. This deck was built to take advantage of the Buzzwole/Lycanroc decks that most players would fall back on as safe, as well as being able to beat both Rayquaza and the Shrine of Punishments deck that popped up on Day One. Marshadow GX was the true MVP as it allowed the deck to compete with the Zoroark decks , which were usually an extremely unfavourable matchup. Marshadow allowed the deck to abuse the GX attack of Dawn Wings Necrozma GX without having to bench the Dawn Wings which is usually an easy two prizes for the Zoroark Deck to take. Moving forward to post-rotation this combo is intact and seems like a good pick as a lot of players will run to Zoroark and Buzzwole as safe picks at the start of a format. The loss of Parallel City and Garbodor really increases the power level of Malamar.

It would be wrong to not describe Klive Aw as the people’s favourite in this tournament. His Zygarde/Lycanroc deck was a deck he has been piloting for the latter half of the season and sticking to it provided him his best chance to win the tournament. He stuck to the good old adage of “play what you know”. The deck played a whopping amount energies making sure he always had a good amount of energy in the discard to be able to use cell connector. The complete absence of Golisopod-GX due to its position in the metagame allowed the Grass-weak Zygarde to trump over multiple decks on this run. It’s 200 HP also ensure it was much harder to knockout. Having Lycanroc-GX allowed Klive to target the more important Pokemon and knock them out.

Pedro deck was very different from your average Rayquaza deck. Adding Puzzle of Time in Rayquaza was never a thought that would come into my head. That is probably why I am not a deck builder. This added consistency allowed the deck to bring back important supporters. One issue with Rayquaza’s ability is that it mills cards that you want to keep. Having Puzzle of Time allows you to bring back the important cards you mill into the discard. From my experience playing the deck you really want to have infinite Guzmas. Being able to retrieve them late game when your opponent thinks you are out of them, allows for game winning scenarios that they were not ready to play around.

It is amazing to look back at the four majors and World Championships, Zoroark started by winning the first major in London, winning the second major in Australia, taking a step back to Zoroark in Sao Paolo, taking back the title in a Zoroark mirror in Columbus and than finally cementing the year of Zoroark in Nashville. This whole past season proved to us that it was Zoroark’s world and we were just living in it.

I think the biggest take-away for myself when it looks at deck concepts from the event, is that in a new format, it might be better to play the “glass-cannon”, ”high roller deck”. The reason for this being, maybe it is better to have your opponents try to answer what you are doing than you trying to answer what your opponent is doing. You can build your deck to be able to play against a defined metagame, but going into a new format not knowing what to answer you are putting yourself at a disadvantage. Take this that the day one and day two tournaments had different metagames, but that is because players had the data from day one to make a more informed decision for day two. Going into Philidelphia, my thinking is you want to play a deck that other decks must try to answer. Being able to focus on just executing your game plan is a powerful mechanic as you are not second guessing what you are doing. I am really excited to see how a slower format plays out as I have never experienced one. My doing something extremely powerful while your opponents are setting up you are setting yourself up to execute better than they do. I have no doubt if I had to run back Day 1 of Worlds I would of picked the more explosive deck. 

What I Should've Played - Nashville Open

We actually obtained this decklist from Canadian Top 16 competitor and deck builder Zachary Lesage. The deck was consistent and smooth for what it did. I was too scared to pull the trigger and my brother was not. Zach had disruption built into the deck with Marshadow and Red Card to help slow down your opponent when you needed some more time to set up. Josh actually finished 15th place at the open losing his win and in because he was no able to draw in. I guess the glory comes to those who risk it. Below is how he fared with the deck.

R1 : Zoro Banette
LWW Game one I bricked and milled all my energy away when I needed one more Elixir to win. Game two was a grindy game but was able to sustain my energy on my board to win. Game three I was able to get three Rayquazas on turn one, and they didn't get a Zoroark on their turn two. I took over the match from there and won.

R2 Turbo Buzz
WW My opponent was using a list similar to Ian Robb's Buzz Garb list minus the Garbodors. They whiffed all of his order pad rolls and could never recover in both games.

R3 Zoro Lycanroc
WW My opponent got off to an early lead in game one with Lycanroc's GX attack, but the disruption of SLG marshadow and the utility of the rescue stretchers came in handy. I knocked out their Lycanroc and one of their two Zoroarks and was able to take the game. Game two, their board presence was no match for mine with only an active Rockruff and benched Zorua at the end of their first turn. They could not establish a proper board and I took two 2-prize knockouts without the use of Guzma, and secured the W with a Guzma at the end.

R4 Ultra Beast Rayquaza

WW Both games I was able to Tempest GX without being disrupted by N or Red Card (the only round this happened). This allowed me to set up much faster. Game one my opponent got REALLY unlucky. I took a turn two donk for the win. In game two my board was more explosive than his and he could not attach a wishful baton to sustain dragon break.

R5 Zoro Lycanroc
LWW I lost a close game one. They Dangerous Rogued my first Rayquaza, two shotted my second Rayquaza, and was able to Rescue Stretcher-Lele-Wonder tag-Guzma for game. Game two is a blur to me. I probably KO'd a Lycanroc, Zoroark, and a Tapu Lele or two basic pokemon. and two GX pokemon. In game three, I KO'd a Zoroark GX and they were left with one Zoroark-GX, then they missed pivotal field blowers and they didn't supporter on turn 4, only resorting to a single puzzle. I was too far ahead by then and secured the game with a late Guzma.

R6 Buzz Lycanroc
WLT In game one, my opponent was playing super conservative, not one GX was played until they played Lycanroc after i took four KOs on one-prizers. The turn after they used Dangerous Rogue, I was able to hit the energy I needed to KO their Lycanroc for game one. In game two, my opponent starts with Buzzwole-GX in active and hit some Jet punches. I made a play to KO his Lycanroc but due to my fast playing, I didn't find a seventh energy because I rushed and missed the KO. I was able to dreamy mist his Lycanroc for KO the and resustained energy but it created an opening for him to Energy Drive with his Tapu Lele-GX on my chipped Rayquaza that had four energy. I couldn't retreat that Rayquaza because my Dragon Break would have been too weak. The turn after i took a KO on his Buzzwole-GX, they were able to thin their deck enough to grab a Guzma off Octillery's Abyssal Hand and end the game. At that point, we reached time of the round and we drew.

R7 Buzz Shrine
WLW This is supposed to be a terrible matchup because of Rayquaza's Stormy Winds milling away items to feed GRI Garbodor's Trashalanche. Game one, In turn one I used Red Card and set up one rayquaza on the bench. The turn after i guzma-KO'd their trubbish, he conceded. In game two I was quite careless with my stormy winds and trashalanche was too big of an issue. In game three, Red Card cheese struck again. Once again, I set up a Rayquaza, my opponent immediately passed, and I float stone donked him. Never how I want to take wins because they never had a fighting chance but variance exists, and a win is a win.

R8 Malamar Hoopa
LL I unfortunately couldn't draw because there would have been too many people at 21 points that could have passed me and my opponent, so we agreed to play it out. With nerves at an all time high, I instinctively drew 6 cards after I let loose with Marshadow and resulted in a two card prize penalty. This Malamar list teched a Shrine of Punishment and used STS Hoopa as its main attacker. The combine spread of those two made things really uncomfortable. I was able to take 4 prizes with their Pokemon being squishy. My last play was to take his last Lele but I didn't see how I could reach the line I needed to Guzma it up and have the energy to retreat so I settled for a one prizer, and they were able to hit their Guzma for their fourth prize thus ending game one in my defeat because of the prize penalty. At this point, I was overwhelmed. It was my fault I lost game one, it was a terrible matchup, and the secured 6-0-2 record my friends were telling me that I needed to make day two was a dud. After he took his first knockout, I just conceded.

Final record: 6-1-1 Placed 15th After whiffing cuts with Buzzwole and Bulu, and bricking with Greninja, Rayquaza was a joy to play. Its a linear deck to play, you just count to seven energy and win. Sequencing is important however as one mis-sequenced step could make you miss KOs, whiff elixirs, or mill away Pokemon you could have played. Would I play this deck for the next format? Its a formidable option. It loses many cards but the they could be easily replaced.

A New Ray 

I think Rayquaza is still positioned well after Worlds. Even though it loses the speed of Max Elixir we can still play a much slower game because decks will take more time to set up now as they have lost the speed of turn one Brigette and having Professor Sycamore to bail them out. With the new Rayquaza list we can now take more time to two-shot Pokemon while setting up. I am really excited to see how the format shakes up and I will be playing the above list at an upcoming league challenge. You can always reach out to me on Twitter at @MarkDizon for any questions. I look forward to you seeing my next article as well, a retrospective of the past Standard Season and how it can show what will happen in Phildelphia.

[+21] okko


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