Experts' corner

Mark Dizon

Denver Dwellings

The Format is at its penultimate major before EUIC. Check out Mark's thoughts going into the tournament

04/05/2019 by Mark Dizon

Viewing the results of League cups and multiple events it would seem that Lightning is the deck to beat, and that’s because it is. There are so many variants of the deck, that testing requires you to figure out how to approach the matchups. Zapdos and Pikachu Zekrom GX have strictly taken over most of the metashare and the format has warped on trying to figure out how to beat the decks. When Zapdos debuted at the Oceania International Championships it was viewed as the starting point as the best deck in the format. Recently the biggest development going into Denver is the addition of other attackers in the deck to provide it with a higher damage cap. While Zapdos predominantly would eventually be paired with Jolteon GX as evidenced by the success of Rahul Reddy in Collinsville and eventually Pedro Torres’ win at the Italian SPE with the deck, the lightning aggressive version of “Luke Box” has become the defacto straight Zapdos deck.

On the other side of the coin, we have seen the advent of Bustedrom and Pikachu Box. Which has turned into a more mid-range Pikarom Deck. The term midrange is one that I haven’t heard used much in the Pokémon Trading Card Game. Mid-range as a deck descriptor in Magic the Gathering involves a deck that is in between of the two the diverse spectrums in Magic the Gathering. In Magic, there are aggro decks that assume the position of trying to end the game as quickly as possible. Control decks that look to control and answer all the threats. Combo decks that look to assemble a group of cards to create a game winning combo. Midrange is the center of Aggro and Control. The deck can win early but will also be able to win a late game based on the strength of the cards in it. When I look at the Pikachu Box decks I see all these things. The deck can take early knockouts with Zapdos, while powering the Pikachu-Zekrom GX to take over the end of the game. Using consistency and selection cards such as Jirachi and Volkner, give the deck even more angles to assemble its dual game plan. This ability to pivot strongly allows the deck to balance out its weaknesses and choose the axis that it wants to play on. While a deck like Straight Zapdos only has one game plan. I personally think that Lightning Box is the best Lightning deck because it gives you the most options.

The two newest Zapdos decks are Zapdos Lycanroc and Zapdos Ultra Beasts. These decks both bring additional attackers into the fold to help with the damage cap that Zapdos itself presents. While the Pikabox decks add Zapdos, Zapdos Lycanroc adds Lycanroc to try to shore up the Zororoc matchup and even improve the Pikazek matchup. Buzzwole and Nihelgo in the Zapdos Ultra Beasts deck also provides way to take big knockouts. The Zapdos Ultra beast decks also makes your opponent take six prizes, so the swing turns with the one prize Ultra Beasts the conditions will be met. Most decks cannot play around this with Baby Buzzwole guaranteed to take multiple prizes with Sledgehammer and your opponent on four prizes. Being able to take three prizes off a Pikarom or two prizes off a Zoroark and not easily knocked out without a modifier such as Devoured Field, Kukui or Electropower makes it very hard to take out. The ability to be able to find the energy needed for this Pokemon through Viridian Forest shows the utility now afforded to these decks. Viridian itself is just great card design as not everything deck can take advantage of it and also getting rid of unwanted cards to thin your hand to be able to Lillie after.

By taking into account all the metadata involving Lightning decks, deck choices are going to be hard to come by as we look into the format. Decks that you have been playing for a while or put on ice as the focus shifted to expanded have surely changed the expected meta in the format. Your matchups spreads are definitely skewed and trying to figure out what you are going to play against at this regionals is a science. As someone that generally defaults to Zoroark Lycanroc, I am extremely skeptical at playing my comfort pick. I recently won a league cup with it last week and made day 2 with it in Collinsville almost six weeks ago. However, the recent influx of Lycanroc in Zapdos Decks has scared me off the deck. Having to set up a Muk and fend off a Lycanroc is a tough order in Zororoc. I recently found that the regular Zapdos decks were easy to take down by setting up multiple Zoroarks, using healing cards and preventing knockouts on your Pokémon. In the two League Cups, I played the deck, I was able to beat Zapdos 6-3 in games. Those games consisted of a best of three versus Dallas top 4 competitors which resulted in a win, a loss to former World Champion Andrew Estrada who had 3 Electropower’s in his hand and a win against Top 4 North America Zach Lesage. Obviously not an easy competition. However, testing against players who were able to have a threatening rockruff with one energy on the bench was frightening. You need to fill up your bench to be able to keep up and use Zoroark’s to trade to match the cards they are achieving with stellar wish. Lycanroc itself in Zororoc is a miserable attacker as well and Zapdos can keep a bench of three making Dangerous Rogue a non-factor. If most players are looking to not play Lycanroc and default to Straight Zapdos the Zoroark Lycanroc is still a very competitive play. One of the hardest parts as well those is the coin flip reliance and feeling in the mirror. I generally regard regionals as a place to play what you know; however, Denver seems to be leaning on the play what you feel is most powerful.

With that being said, I completely believe an all-in deck could easily win the tournament outright. Whether it is the third-coming of Blacephalon after Zach Lesage’s Collinsville win, as most players do not believe the deck to be a “real” deck. Decks like Regigas Stall and maybe even Venusaur might do well with good matchup spread in day one but it would be hard for it to continue in day 2. This is evidenced by Ryne Morgan’s run with Venusaur in Collinsville albeit maybe a mistuned list at the time. Since Collinsville, Perth, Chile, El Salvador, Bolzano, Fortaleza, Jakarta, Cannes out of the eight tournaments, Only two of those did not have a lightning deck in the finals. Two of them even had mill/stall in the finals. These are basic numbers you cannot ignore. We also have to take into account that players might just pick up the decks they had in Collinsville. I don’t think the meta will shift too much, but I would be 250% ready to play against Zapdos Variants, Pikazek Variants, and Zoroark Variants. The high roller deck is no longer Pikazek as the deck has switched to midrange to turbo, so I would look at Ultra Necrozma being the more if it sets up it wins!

I know that this regional is a lot to think about. It leads into what the format will change into going into EUIC and then after that we are done with this Standard format on the forefront for the most part. In North America we will be switching back to expanded with the focus coming for Hartford Regionals. I really liked this format because I felt at the onset there was a diversity of decks. I for one am on the don’t ban Marshadow train. The card is almost like a double edge sword. For every time it bricks someone, it also saves someone from brick by giving them a Lillie. The card design is the greatest, but it is Judge on a stick for a lot of the time it is used. It also provides a redraw when searching for a combo piece, but this too is a double-edged sword because doing this might mess up the consistency plan by you going for a more aggressive plan of action, if you miss it, you can surely be on the back foot.

I have never been to a west coast regional. I am so thankful that I got my ticket covered for the event and really want to figure out the best way to the advantage of this opportunity. This an event I didn’t even have on my radar, including the SPE now happening at Origins. Push Push Push for your invite and try to have fun as the season is ending. We still have time but its closing quickly. I do better generally when Formats are solved. If you are at Denver don’t be afraid to come by and say hi.

Good luck,

[+23] okko


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