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Frank Percic

Finding Your Spark With Lost Thunder: An Exploration of New sets and a Brief Explanation of Some Updated Decks

In this article, Frank goes over how all of the new Sun and Moon sets have impacted the Standard format and what this means for Lost Thunder, in terms of LAIC

11/14/2018 by Frank Percic

Table of contents

A Short History of Set Releases into Standard 

Rayquaza/Naganadel 

Buzzwole/Ninetales

Malamar

Lost March 

Conclusion 

Hello everyone, and Welcome to another 60cards article by yours truly. It has been awhile since I last wrote. However, after a rocky day 2 world championship run, I have started the 2018-2019 season pretty favorably with just shy of 200 CP at the end of the first quarter. With quarter one slowly coming to a close, the first IC in Brazil is poised to set the tone for how the next three months of Pokémon will shape up. This event will be the most prestigious tournament since worlds, as players from all over the world shall be in attendance. One of the most notable and prevalent things on all of the future competitors’ and spectators’ minds right now should be the initial legality of the newest TCG set: Lost Thunder.

A Short History of Set Releases into Standard

With the release of Lost Thunder, we have seen more new cards at one time than ever before. Not only this, but in these cards we find multiple new staples and meta-defining new archetypes. This is shaping up to surpass Guardians Rising as the best set we’ve seen in this modern era of Pokémon. With only results from the Champion’s League in Japan readily available for players to extract tournament data, finding good decklists and predicting the tournament meta seems to be proving difficult for players preparing to compete in Sao Paulo. However, in this article I’ll present some new deck ideas focused on utilizing cards from Lost Thunder.

Before I get into more detail, I would like to talk about how new sets influence tournaments in the standard format, in a recap of the last few set releases.

Sun and Moon: The first tournament for this set was Anaheim Regionals in February of 2017. The release of the set saw a lot of excitement toward Umbreon-GX, Lurantis-GX, Decidueye-GX, and Tauros-GX. However, this tournament was dominated by Mega Mewtwo-EX and Darkrai-EX decks like we had seen in the past. Most notably, Travis Nunlist used a 1-1 Espeon-GX line in his top 8 Mega Mewtwo deck and John Kettler placed 15th with Decidueye / Vileplume. During the next Major US regional, Kettler then placed 2nd with Decidueye / Vileplume as the deck also won Sheffield Regionals that same weekend. From that point, Decidueye / Vileplume became the undisputed best deck in format, only contested by hard counters like Mega Mewtwo-EX Garbodor with multiple Wobbuffet, as well as Volcanion.

Guardians Rising: This set, upon release, was very hyped. This mostly stems from the release of current staples like: Tapu Lele-GX, Rescue Stretcher, Field Blower, and Choice Band, to name a few; as well as some possible archetypes like Sylveon-GX Mill and Alolan Ninetales-GX with Aqua Patch, and Tapu Koko-GX. During its initial legality at Seattle regionals in 2017, we saw one of the highest day 2 meta shares of all time with 80% belonging to Drampa-GX / Garbodor. This deck continued to have a place in the meta for the rest of the season and was easily the best deck to emerge with the new set, along with the eventual crafting of Espeon-GX / Garbodor. Drampa-GX / Garbodor then went on to win the largest tournament in Pokémon history at the time: the 2017 United States International Championships.

Burning Shadows: Burning Shadows was first legal at the 2017 World Championships in Anaheim, California. The obvious favorite from the set was Gardevoir-GX; however, cards like Golisopod-GX, Necrozma-GX, Noivern-GX, Guzma, and Acerola were on everyone’s radar. Gardevoir-GX made an astounding showing, as expected, winning the world championship and sharing the largest chunk of top spots at the supplementary Anaheim Open. We also saw new creative decks like Ho-oh / Kiawe and Golisopod / Garbodor do well. Drampa-GX / Garbodor was also able to utilize new and unexpected tools like Tapu Fini-GX, Po Town, and Acerola to continue as a dominating force. After rotation, Gardevoir-GX dominated early in the first quarter along with Garbodor.

Crimson Invasion/Shining Legends: Though Crimson Invasion and Shining Legends were legal one week apart, the first major tournament where both were used was at the IC in London during November of 2017 (similar to Brazil this month, the first IC of the season.) Many players utilized a 2-2 line of Zoroark-GX as a draw support option, most popularly with Ninetales-GX. However, it was Tord Reklev’s quad Zoroark-GX deck with Golisopod and 4 Brigette that won the tournament. This meta-defining deck also shared top 8 spots with two Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX decks and a metal Silvally-GX deck that never again found traction. Cups following the tournament saw a huge uptake in Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX decks as well as Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX decks, which both played in the finals of the following American regional in Memphis. These decks continued to stand out through the next IC in Australia, where half of the top 8 was comprised of Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX.

Ultra Prism: This set was centered around the newly introduced mechanic of Prism Star cards. However, most of the excitement (aside from the current staple Cynthia) was centered in the new metal Pokémon Dusk Mane Necrozma-GX, Solgaleo Prism Star, and Magnezone, as well as the ability-stopping Glaceon-GX. Powerful tech cards like Cyrus Prism Star were ready to be utilized as well, however during the tournament we saw no new archetypes even break the top 64. The only new card to really become utilized was Cynthia, aside from Russel Laparre’s usage of the Oranguru from this set. From that point forward, Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX forwarded itself as the strongest deck, along with Zoroark-GX. Eventually, the Unit Energy from this set formed a new archetype in the form of Zoroark-GX / Garbodor a few months after initial release, thanks to France’s Fabien Pujol.

Forbidden Light: Forbidden Light brought us one very obvious archetype in the from of Malamar Ultra Necrozma-GX, utilizing the new Mysterious Treasure card. These cards, along with the newly printed Buzzwole-GX supplements: Beast Ring, Diancie Prism Star, Buzzwole, and Beast Energy, really seemed to be the sole interest of the set. During their initial legality at Madison Regionals 2018, the breakthrough deck was Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX with a heavy focus on the new non-GX Buzzwole card, which most saw as a supplementary card. Malamar variants also saw play with a preference for psychic focused builds rather than those using Ultra Necrozma. Buzzwole, Zoroark / Lycanroc, and now Malamar continued to reign supreme until the 2018 United States IC. It was there that we saw a slight shift in decks as France took home a 1st place finish with the previously mentioned Zoroark-GX / Garbodor deck in the hands of Stephane Ivanoff. This was done in a sea of Buzzwole-GX / Garbodor decks, an archetype with some previous success, reimagined by Wes Hollenberg during Madison Regionals.

Celestial Storm: Celestial Storm was first legal for the 2018 World Championships. Rayquaza-GX was seen as the obvious standout from the set, but new archetypes such as Zoroark-GX / Shiftry-GX, Scizor-GX, and Zoroark-GX / Banette-GX were also hopefuls. Rayquaza-GX dominated the tournament along with a surprise new archetype of “shrine” decks utilizing the somewhat underrated card Shrine of Punishments. With rotation happening at the beginning of this season, those two cards still seem to be the only commonly used additions from Celestial Storm. Even Copycat, a card most expected to be a staple post-rotation, has yet to really make a huge impact.

New Decks for Standard

Though this brief history was nice, what does it all mean? For starters, there is a ton of data to be pulled from some of the things I brought up, and even more information to add. However, what’s relevant to this article is how this information will impact the Latin America International Championships (LAIC). One of the first things I noticed is how many popular decks barely see play the first regional they’re legal. Some examples being: Decidueye / Vileplume, Zoroark / Lycanroc, and Buzzwole / Lycanroc. However, there are other decks that gain immediate traction like Gardevoir-GX, and Rayquaza-GX. So what is it that separates these two categories? I think the main takeaway from this trend is that the very obvious decks seem to do well. What I mean by this, is that the set specific strategies that are very blatant and linear will prevail initially. In this new set, the obvious standout deck is, without question, Blacephalon / Naganadel. The age-old Pokémon damage mechanic of multiplying the amount of energy you can provide has always been a strong strategy in the past, and has no reason to fail now. However, I think that at this point in the pre-tournament metagame Blacephalon is too big of a target. I have seen decks like Decidueye / Ninetales employing Swampert as an attacker, as well as decks focused on the new White Kyurem. Therefore I would like to instead offer the following deck as a standout choice for the tournament: Rayquaza / Naganadel.

Rayquaza / Naganadel


Looking at the deck, the strategy is obviously similar to that of Blacephalon/Naganadel, being attach a bunch of energy and do as much damage as needed. However, the outstanding difference of the two, other than rayquaza not having weakness to water, is that Rayquaza does not need to discard energy in order to attack. This places less need on naganadel’s ability in the later stages of the game, giving you a more flexible approach to winning. You also are given the freedom to pivot between Pokémon with Zeraora GX. I feel that this is definitely the best way to play Rayquaza GX since Max Elixir left the format. That being said, lets go over how to play the deck.

Firstly, I want to preface everything by saying this is a completely different deck than Vikavolt/Rayquaza. Vikavolt is much more straightforward in strategy and slightly slower to set up. The deck simply called for getting vikavolt into play and accelerating energy with it appropriately and attacking with rayquaza and whatever non-GX attackers were in the deck. With Lost Thunder Rayquaza finally gains a bit of decision making, small as it may be.

There are multiple ways to power up your Rayquaza including its ability which we have seen used less often with Vikavolt. The name of the game is speed, and I have seen this deck hit for 210 damage on the second turn. Against GX centered decks like Blacephalon, Zoroark, Decidueye, etc. you will want to pack as much energy on board as quickly as possible. The faster you can take knockouts on their Pokémon the better, as once you are set up to do damage all you must do is stream attackers to win, where as your opponent will most likely need to get a few pieces together to keep up.

Against non-GX decks however, things become slightly more difficult. Decks like Alolan Exeggutor and Lost March aim to win by making you take 6 Kos rather than 3, something this deck isn’t exactly keen on doing. However, there is still potential to win with some methodical thinking. One of the most powerful tools in the Pokémon TCG is understanding the prize trade, and knowing how to use this to your advantage will prove to be very useful. One of the first mechanics of evening the prize trade is going to be keeping non-GX Pokémon within 2hko range. What this means is while for you're doing mass amounts of damage and OHKOing all of your opponents Pokémon, you need to make sure they cannot do the same to you, as they will be taking double the amount of prizes. So, for every 2 attacks you get off you will be taking knockouts, and therefore 2 prizes. Your opponent will be doing the same if it then takes them 2 attacks to knockout a single two-prize Pokémon. This is known as an even prize trade, and if this exchange is kept throughout the game, theoretically the first person to attack will win, as they will take the 6th and final prize first. This type of balanced exchange is observed in all matchups whether it be GX vs non-GX, GX vs GX or non-GX vs non-GX, but for now we will continue to specifically focus on the GX vs non-GX exchange, as it is important for this specific deck. So the winner of the match will be the person who is able to offset this exchange to their favor. Non-GX decks attempt to do this by taking 2 prizes in a single attack, something that can’t be done against them. As a GX centered deck, your goal is to shift this trade toward you in a number of ways, which I will go over now.

The speed of this deck can be used to your advantage in very early KOs on non GX Pokémon. It’s not unheard of to be able to do 90 damage on the first turn of the game through Rayquaza’s ability and a well timed energy switch. This early pressure will allow you to hinder your opponents set-up as well as be the initial aggressor in terms of prize trade. Decks like Alolan Exeggutor and Lost March take a few turns before they can get a solid stream of heavy attacks going. Your goal with Rayquaza-GX is to take as many prizes as you can before your opponent begins to take 2hko’s. You also never want to sacrifice a Rayquaza to a OHKO, as that will skew the prize trade toward them. Secondly, you have naganadel as an attacker. Naganadel can do either 80 or 160 damage, taking a OHKO always against Lost March and at 3 prizes against Alolan Exeggutor. Using Naganadel once your opponent starts streaming attacks can be very good, as you won’t often need its ability to power up Rayquaza’s attack against one-prize attackers. The 3 rescue stretcher you have available will help you get out continuous Naganadel, and eventually most other decks will run out of resources before running through all your attackers. A well timed Marshadow can also hinder your opponent's ability to stream their one-prize attackers, as they will need multiple pieces to continuously do this. Stopping your opponent from being able to attack for a turn or two is another easy way to put the prize trade back in your favor, as you will be taking prizes while they are not. One last tip in order to win against these decks is to always take advantage of any two-prize Pokémon they use, such as Tapu-Lele. KOing a Tapu Lele is the easiest way to retaliate from the fact that your opponent can also take 2 prizes on your GX Pokémon, and when used with the strategies above can seal you the game.

Hopefully this in depth look at some of the nuances of the deck help you in winning all of your matches. With this conclusion I would like to move on to another deck I have come to grow very fond of: Buzzwole GX/Ninetales GX.

Buzzwole/Ninetales


Looking at the qualitative data we previously gathered, one trend I noticed is how the less obvious decks pick up traction after the event it is initially legal. Using the examples I provided previously, we can see that in the cases of Decidueye GX/Vileplume and Zoroark GX/Lycanroc GX both decks found extremely strong footing later in the set legality. So, how do we predict what deck will be good earlier. Before both Sun and Moon as well as Shining Legends first became legal, we knew that the inherent ability of both Decidueye GX and Zoroark GX was good. However, it could not prevail on its own. So, finding the right partner to use with an inherently good ability seems to equate to success. The obvious standout in this deck is Alolan Ninetales GX. The new ability which lets you grab 2 items from your deck is the best that we have seen since Zoroark GX’s Trade. But what do we pair it with? The Immediately obvious answer seems to be Buzzwole GX. Some players have tried Zoroark GX as a potential partner. However, I think that the 2 honestly outshine the other. What Ninetales needs is an attacker that can hit hard out of the gate so that you can later cleanup with Snowy Wind. It needs a Pokémon that is comfortable on its own so that your Mysterious Guidance ability can be timed just right, a Pokémon that will allow you to sit on the same hand for multiple turns in a row and just continually attack. That partner seems to obviously be Buzzwole. Its multiple damage modifiers and 1 energy attack is perfect for Alolan Ninetales GX. That along with the fact that you can also supplement both attacks with the FDY Unit Energy. With that being said, let's look at the list.


One thing you can immediately notice is that there is a much heavier ninetales line than you would expect. Rather than playing a 2-2 line like most would consider, this thicker line will allow for a larger margin of error when dumping resources as well as add consistency to the deck. There is an uncanny amount of synergy with this deck. Not only do you have unit energy, but brooklet hill works well in this deck also. The newly printed custom catcher also mitigates the need for extra draw and replaces the function of Lycanroc GX, while allowing Alolan Ninetales GX to also grab important pieces like Beast Ring.

The strategy of this deck is pretty straightforward in the fact that you just chip away at things with buzzwole and then clean up any short damage with Alolan Ninetales GX. Custom Catcher can be used to manipulate your damage placement as needed, and attackers like Weavile and Lycanroc can be used for a large damage swing turn before Beast Ring is available for use. Be sure to also take full advantage of Sledgehammer and Lusamine if possible, as those are extremely strong cards with some very specific time windows. Another thing to note is don’t be afraid to just sit on your hand without playing a supporter. Sometimes it’s better to just wait for the right time to use a card rather than Cynthia in to a worse hand. The inherent spread ability of this deck should take care of nuisances like lost march. But be sure to place the damage as effectively as possible. Malamar can also be tough for this deck. However, by clearing the board of multiple threats at a time with ninetales and using cards like Lycanroc GX and Weavile to combat your opponent rather than something easily picked off like Buzzwole GX, there is hope for this deck to beat anything that’s thrown at it.

Malamar

Speaking of Malamar, that's another deck I have had sleeved up since getting my hands on the new set. Malamar is interesting in the fact that there are a multitude of ways to play the deck. So far we have seen the loveable GasKan take home a decently sized list of achievements. However, with the addition of Spell Tag and successful results in Japan, the new Spread Malamar seems to be gaining favoritism in the community. I feel it’d be best to talk about both of these decks and determine which one is best.

When looking at spread Malamar, I have a few initial concerns. Upon testing, the consistency of the deck seems pretty poor, especially when compared to the fact that GasKan’s appeal fell in its extreme consistency. Having fewer basic energies and less versatility in attacking makes the deck a lot slower. The main appeal of the deck comes with its synergy with Spell Tag. However, the norm now seems to be decks like Blacephalon and Lost March playing Lysandre Labs to get around Spell Tag, making spread somewhat redundant. Tapu Koko is very frail, and only running 2 DCE makes it somewhat of a pain to use efficiently. At the end of the day, I have kind of put this deck on the backburner to focus on a more traditional build. Try something like this instead.

The success of GasKan lied in its simplicity. There was 1 or 2 of each different attacker and a Marshadow-GX to versatilitally use each attack as needed. Mobility was easy with max counts of escape board, and the prize trade was always favorable thanks to multiple non-GX attackers. Those same concepts are strengthened with the newly added set. Giratina and Spell Tag can still be important parts of the deck, even if spreading damage isn’t your main goal. In this specific version I have left spell tag out due to the previously mentioned inclusions of Lysandre Labs. However, I do think in the right meta it can replace Choice Band.

Though this list seems pretty similar to its predecessor one inclusion deserving some recognition is that of Giratina Prism Star. The reason I’ve included this in the deck is because of its ease in attacking and hefty HP. Looking at results from Memphis, you can see that the mass amounts of Malamar in day 2 were there thanks to a favorable trading of prizes and ability to combat anything. This prize trade that was mentioned earlier in this article became super important in non-GX focused decks facing each other. Whoever was to take the first prize usually ended up winning even with Dawn Wings Necrozma’s GX attack coming into play before the last prize was taken. You can see how this was combated in Gustavo Wada’s 2nd place list, that boasted a 9-0 record day one, through his inclusion of the 160hp tank Lunala Prism Star. Lunala easily mowed through all opposing attackers while simultaneously not falling to any other one-prize Pokémon, making it the perfect tool to get ahead early on. Personally, I feel as if Giratina Prism Star is even better in the sense that you can power it up early on much easier though its 2 energy attaching ability. Its 2 energy retreat cost is much easier to fulfill and its 160 damage attack can be very useful in the early game, especially in the mirror. That all being said, the deck, outside of what I’ve mentioned should be played just like any other Malamar deck. Be sure to use your attackers efficiently, and plan ahead how you are going to take all of your prizes. This deck, being a toolbox, can be tricky at times. However, if you use the prize-trade advice I mentioned previously and know when to use which attackers, this deck could easily win any tournament I believe.

Lost March

One final deck I want to discuss is Lost March. I haven’t been the biggest fan of the deck up until this point due to how frail it is. However, I do think there’s some merit given the proper list. I have come up with the following 60 cards based on a lot of theory and some observation of lists that I have seen do well in Japan. So without further ado, take a look.

The consistency of this list is very pertinent to its success playing as many possible outs to Professor Elm’s Lecture as you can is important to getting set up and mitigates the need for things like Timer Ball or Great Ball. you use Elm to get all of your Hoppip/Skiploom, supplemented with whatever you can grab with Net Ball. The inclusion of Shedinja is super important to your success also, as it allows you to skew the prize trade in your favor. Against GX heavy decks, use the Shedinja pieces to fuel Lost Blender and conserve everything you need to attack. This will allow you to continue rolling while also racking up mass amounts of damage with Lost March. When facing non-GX centric decks, you will need to do far less amounts of damage, making Shedinja a good tool for taking more prizes than your opponent faster. One thing to Worry about is the use of Lysandre Labs in opposing Lost March decks. However, timing the Shedinjas until late in the game and effectively using Field Blower will help you around this, if your opponent even plays it at all. Also be weary of benching Tapu Lele-GX. there are 3 copies, so if needed you can grab Professor Elm and set yourself up. However, hopefully it will just be fuel for Mysterious Treasure or Lost Blender.

Conclusion

Thanks everyone, and I hope you enjoyed seeing all of my lists as well as my brief explanation of what makes the decks unique. After reading this article you should have a good understanding of how to trade prizes in your favor, as well as how deck develop in the meta after a new set is released. With that being said, what should be the best play at LAIC? The answer to that question I believe lies early in this article, citing how the obvious, damage heavy, decks seem to always perform as expected. In a blind untested meta, a very consistent Blacephalon, Rayquaza, or Lost March list will most likely take home the tournament. However, in the meantime Have Alolan Ninetales-GX sleeved up, because I think that that card will eventually define the format after a few tournaments. But until then, see you next time 60cards readers.

[+16] okko


 

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