Experts' corner

Mark Dizon

League Cup Learnings

When looking at your local league cups and determining how to choose a deck to metagame. Should you play something differently for best of one and best of three, absolutely! ....

10/08/2018 by Mark Dizon

We are looking at your local league cups and determining how to choose a deck to metagame. Should you play something differently for best of one and best of three, absolutely! Learn my thoughts and musing in this format coming off a top 64 finish at Oaks, PA Regionals.

Event Recaps

I won a league challenge with Metagross / Solgaleo Gx from a list that Zach Lesage had shared with me. It was consistent at the time and it was really good at setting up. I was able to go 5-0, beating Rayquaza (my list in the Ray of Light Article), Zoroark / Gardevoir, Buzzwole / Shrine, Gardevoir, Zoroark / Golisopod. The deck was able to hit two really good matchups, and Ultra road was an amazing ability in a format without Float Stone. Being able to hit turn 2 Rare Candy and then using Algorithm Gx or Sol Burst GX really allowed you to set up further turns. You were able to build a lead that most decks were not able to match. The reason I didn’t play it my first league cup was I was afraid that I had used most of my “run-good” at the league challenge. There was a really good chance I would not have Rare Candy and the Pokémon throughout another full day.

I started the league cup season in the SUM Format by reverting to my safe pick, Zoroark / Lycanroc. My friend Malik from Malaysia sent me a really cool list that had Body Building Dumbbells. The idea in this deck was that your Zoroark-Gx would need to be three shot in most cases, and by using Acerola you would be able to create enough advantage through tempo that your opponent would always be trying to catch up.

We ended up having two league cups on the weekend before Philadelphia Regionals.
So it turned out that I went 2-2 drop at the 65 person cup. Round 1, I lost to Rayquaza / Vikavolt due to missing an energy attachment on my Rockruff. Round 2, I proceeded to beat another Zoroark Deck. Round 3, I beat a Metagross deck that was not as consistent as the version that I had built and I just used Blood-Thirsty Eyes and Guzma to attack and snipe out all the Beldums. If they are never able to set up a Metagross, their win percentage goes way down. In Round 4, I ended up making a huge misplay versus Tapu Bulu / Vikavolt. I miscalculated my Dangerous Rogue damage, which I needed to take a huge knockout to turn the game. I ended up dropping to go play Moltres day in Pokémon Go.

As an aside here, the reason I revert back to Zoroark / Lycanroc when I play is the ability of the deck to be consistent due to Zoroark’s Trade ability, be aggressive due to Lycanroc’s Blood Thirsty Eyes Ability, and reach as Dangerous Rogue Gx can knock out almost anything with up to 280 Damage with an opposing full bench and a choice band, and finally Lycanroc as a counter to most Zoroark decks. The deck makes you the aggressor and your opponent has to find a way to stem the aggression. Where Zoroark Lycanroc slows down is when you play against a deck that you will have a hard time stemming there aggression, or that offer awkward prize trades. The decks I am most afraid of when I play this deck are the Rare Candy ones. You cannot consistently find a way to stop them from having Rare Candy, so that your game play goes from being aggressive when the decks have not hit Rare Candy, to just trying to survive when they do hit it.

An Old Friend

Going into my next League cup, I racked my brain trying to figure out what to play. Buzzwole Shrine had just taken the LATAM regional by storm and was at the top of everyone’s mind. Igor had told me that maybe a Zoroark control deck was the right decision to run decks out of energies. There were very few energies cards in most deck this early in the format other than Tapu Bulu and Rayquaza. I ended up choosing an unorthodox deck that I theorized would be good in my mind. Cue Espeon / Trashalanche. I ended up going 4-1-1 in Swiss with the deck.

W – Zoroark Garbodor
L- Zoroark Golisopod
W – Ho-oh Salazzle
W – Tapu Bulu Vikavolt
T – Zoroark Weavile
W – Rayquaza

Espeon / Trashalanche seemed to be the perfect counter to Buzzwole / Shrine since being able to confuse with Psybeam and clean up with Trashalanche. Zoroark / Golisopod and Zoroark / Lycanroc were confirmed bad matchups due to Zoroark Lycanroc’s reach and Zoroark / Golisopod’s healing. The Vikavolt decks were really good matchups, as both Rayquaza and Tapu Bulu require three energy to attack, allowing Espeon’s Psychic to knock them out with a choice band. These decks also don’t want to attack under confusion, and are then one-shot by Garbodor in the late game. Zoroark / Weavile was actually beatable and I had run him out of eight of his nine energy towards the end game. I needed to hit one energy in the last few turns and missed it. Drampa-Gx was the MVP here, with Berserk to one-shot the Sneasels and Righteous Edge for the Zoroarks.

In top 8 I defeated an interesting Buzzwole / Zygarde / Lycanroc deck, due to the amount of energy the deck needed to attack, allowing Psychic to take one shots after I used Divide Gx to put the Pokémon all in range of one-shot by Psychic. In top 4, I lost to Rayquaza, which I would say was a good matchup, unfortunately my luck ran out as Game One I was given a dead hand by Marshadow and game 2 I had to use Judge as my turn one supporter. Over all, the lesson here was that Trashalanche was still potent, and playing a deck that players weren’t prepared for would give you some extra win percentages.

The deck itself was built incorrectly and still found ways to win. Moving forward, I want to find a way to make it more consistent. Losing multiple draw supporters was a huge problem in the deck's consistency, as after I had used all four Cynthias I found myself not having “good” or “relevant” supporters to use turn by turn. I also made mistakes in building the deck by including more Mysterious Treasures and not enough Ultra Balls and Nest Balls, as Mysterious Treasure cannot get Eevee and you do not want to search for Espeon, rather you want to Energy Evolve into it.

I ended up finishing top 64 in Philadelphia Playing Zoroark – Lycanroc, More to come in my Zoroark Lycanroc Primer. 

After Philadelphia I attended a League cup this past weekend with 57 Masters playing Zoroark Lycanroc with a 1-1 Weavile. I was able to leave my Zoroark Decidueye Opponent in the dust but I lost two straight games to Buzzwole Lycanroc not being able to set up. I dropped to go enjoy Chikorita day, but I ended up having a lot to think about how to prepare for league cups and just general thoughts about the format.

Live by the Roll, Die by the Roll

After now playing over 30 rounds of Pokémon in this new format, I have come to the conclusion that the dice roll matters more than ever and that deck building and deck choice are extremely important factors when going into a tournament. The best of one outcomes of the format can be extremely different from the best of three outcomes of the format. Best of one relies extremely on Set Up – Set Up – Set Up more than anything. The true nature of the format has been revealed due to the loss of catch-up cards.


Though N might thought to be the number 1 catch-up card we are missing, I really want to stress the emphasis on Brigette in Zoroark decks in general as they still post a heavy amount of Meta share. You see being able to turn one Brigette on your first turn whether going first or second was extremely important to your set up. As a Zoroark deck making sure you get two Zorua and a secondary attacker on turn one of the game allowed you to be the aggressor and set up on your second turn. While using Brigette on the second turn of the game ensured that you had two Zoruas on your bench with a secondary attacker just in case your active starter was knocked out. In most cases in the mirror or vs a Buzzwole deck. Your active starter is easily knocked out through a riotous beating or a jet punch/ sledgehammer on your opponents turn two. In the format we have currently chances are your active Zorua will be knocked out on your opponents turn two and it will be harder for you to catch up to their lead.


N has always been a big one and most people are happy to see the card out of format. The problem with N being gone is we are now in a format where snowballing (one player takes a lead and the second player is just trying to catch up the whole game) happens on the regular. Think of your opponents rare candy decks, for example Zoroark vs Magnezone Duskmane. In the past the simple game plan versus this deck would be, Take a knockout with Zoroark on a magnemite then get one shot by a Duskmane Necrozma GX attack, N your opponent, and then Dangerous Rogue your opponent’s Duskmane with Lycanroc and continue the game on fair footing. I’m not saying that we always need to have this card in the format, but with it being gone, the player with the early lead will almost certainly have the games advantage in hand. Usually the person with this early lead is the person who went first.

BO1 v BO3 in Tournaments

I found that with the Best of Three format at Regionals I was able to concede quicker and give myself a chance to comeback after being down a game in the match. You get into this mindset that, if I can pull off a win in the game where I have serve ( go first) than even If my opponent goes first in the last game this might be the game they brick or are unlucky allowing me to break them and take the match. There were multiple games where I lost game one and was able to come back in game two and three. Unfortunately most League Cups in our area are run at best of one format where this isn’t a luxury.

In Best-of-One League Cups you need to pick a deck that: 

1. Does not care about your opponent's set up and only cares about your own. You ignore your opponent's set up and if you can set up you will snow ball a lead due to the sheer power level of your cards. Rayquaza is firmly in this boat because if you are able to set up your Rayquaza you will be able to steam roll through most decks. Decks like this do not mind going first or second due to their ability to stream knockouts one after the other, and not get one shot by Zoroark. These decks do have a bad time versus Shrine of Punishments decks but can punish the Zoroark decks and Buzzwole decks by out speeding them. You can also limit your bench to three and play around Dangerous Rogue, and now also have a counter to 130 HP Pokémon and Lycanroc with Dhelmise. Rayquaza might actually just due to its power level as well as the other rare candy decks, be a better choice for Best-of-one League Cups.

2. You can choose a deck that is consistent and has good matchups against most of the field, can beat the Rare Candy decks when they struggle to set up but will probably lose to the Rare Candy decks when they do set up. Zoroark is firmly in this section, as well as Buzzwole / Lycanroc. In a vacuum, your cards are powerful and don’t need a lot to get things going. When you have your board set up you can out draw due to your engine--in Zoroark this involves Trade, in Buzzwole / Lycanroc this involves Smooth Over and Oranguru, in Malamar this involves setting up multiple Malamars. With these threes specific decks, they bring back the Rock Paper Scissor format deck that we had last format, without the Rare Candy decks. They are all favoured against one part of the triangle, and have the wait-and-see aspect on the set up decks from the other side. Malamar is the only one of the three safe decks that has a good shot at beating the Shrine decks. Learning one of these decks and learning the matchups inside out might be the best place to start, however in a best-of-one format you are relying on winning the dice roll to be able to set up. A lot of the games are decided by who can take the lead by knocking a support Pokémon first. I am obviously biased towards Zoroark in this situation, but after my past experiences this weekend, but Buzzwole and beast rings find a way to punish you when you are trying to claw back into the game.

3. Shrine decks need their own section as they occupy a different part of the Metagame. On one side, its use of one-prize attackers brings back the idea that it is similar to Greninja. However, its ability to find knockouts and find the cards it needs makes it a more consistent deck than Greninja. While Greninja relied on your opponent having to set up multiple Pokémon, Shrine just requires you to set up your board and some stage one Pokémon. It also punishes most decks as most of them do play GX Pokémon. If you play against an unsuspecting opponent who doesn’t really know how to play around your strategy, chances are you are most likely to win. The 130 HP is a huge talking point when it concerns the deck, as other decks need to string together multiple cards to take knockouts, while you mostly just have to put your own cards down. This deck also allows beginners who got in on the right time to be successful because the deck is very feasible to make on a small budget and has the opportunity to beat the more expensive decks. Most players who bought into this deck and don’t have that many cards will probably play it for the duration of the format

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

When deciding how to Metagame for the tournament you are about to play in locally, I have learned that 50% of players will most likely play the most recent deck they have played. This is due to a lot of familiarity with the deck, and laziness, I have a lot of friends who are students and they do not have that much time to test or build new decks so they often bring the same deck to every tournament as they do not want to get new cards and just want to play Pokémon. 40% of the room will play the new big deck or divide it by half for example--Malamar, Shrine, Buzzroc, Zoroark all did well at Philadelphia, so the players who didn’t go and who are willing to change their deck will default to one of the following. The remaining 10% will be from the casual players in your area who will chose to play off the wall decks and these decks can surprise you. These players will either be in the middle of the pack or sneaking into top 8 as players did not know how to answer the strategy they presented.

When picking your deck, take into account, do I want to have the initiative? Do I want to try to answer what my opponents are doing? Do I play something safe? Do I play what I played last week? How do I answer the expected Meta?

If you are really trying to get ahead of the curve, you can figure out what techs you can insert into your deck to try to get the leg up on your opponent. If your area predominantly had a lot of Malamar and Buzzwole in the past, it might be correct to insert a Deoxys in your Zoroark deck instead of the third Devoured Field. Is Weakness Policy the correct tool to play in Zoroark, or do you try to match the number of Choice Bands you have because you need to take 180 HP knockouts more? Finding the solution in metagames will not always be easy. However, when you can think and compartmentalize how the Metagame will unfold, you are actually giving yourself extra win percentage points. Being able to play at least one Field Blower right now seems like such a luxury but by having that extra card in your deck to take out a Weakness Policy, a Mount Coronet, a Shrine of Punishment, or prevent a knockout from Choice Band next turn, it gives you extra leverage to play out of.

I’m not saying the format is bad like some others. I actually enjoy the puzzle we are trying to solve with this format, and it will be short-lived due to Lost Thunder right around the corner. However understanding how the format is actually played and what is important is needed when it comes to deck selection. Deck selection is one of the few things we can control in this variance heavy game, and being able to tell yourself that you made the choice for this deck and being happy with your decision is extremely important moving forward.  

[+21] okko


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