Experts' corner

Ryan Sabelhaus

"Steam Up, Knockout, Eh?"

Toronto Regionals 7th Place with Volcanion-EX/Starmie Summary, Looking at the Standard Format, and Alolan Ninetales-GX

05/29/2017 by Ryan Sabelhaus

Ryan is back to go over his tournament report at the Toronto Regional Championships, where he was able to play 7th with his Volcanion-EX/Starmie deck. He then goes over the current shape of the Standard format, along with explaining some realizations from testing and League Cups so far. Ryan ends the article with his Alolan Ninetales-GX deck that got him a Top 8 League Cup finish.


What’s happening, 60cards readers! Plenty of big tournaments have just come and gone, which include the Virginia Regional Championships and Toronto Regional Championships. For anyone that has been following those tournaments, you probably saw that I finished 9th place at Virginia Regionals with my Mega Mewtwo-EX/Wobbuffet deck, and also finished 7th place at Toronto Regionals with my Volcanion-EX/Starmie deck. Definitely can’t complain with those results in back-to-back weeks!

I felt that both decks were very strong options for their respective format. In the Standard format, Mega-Mewtwo became much quicker and could deal with Decidueye-GX/Vileplume handily with the help from adding a couple of Wobbuffet. In the earlier turns of the game, most opponents would struggle to get setup while a Wobbuffet is in the active position. Through preventing Shaymin-EX and other forms of acceleration, Mega-Mewtwo can now charge up plenty of attackers behind this ability-locking wall. For the Expanded format, this Volcanion-EX/Starmie deck worked wonders for my fellow CCG Castle teammate, Rahul Reddy, at the St. Louis Regional Championships. We both played this deck for that tournament, but he found good matchups and ended up placing in the Top 4. For Toronto, it would be my turn to hit some good matchups and find my way to the Top 8. Volcanion-EX is just an extremely strong deck to deal with in the Expanded format, especially when Blacksmith is so easily accessible.

Since the Standard format has shifted so much thanks to the release of Guardians Rising, I’ve decided to focus the first half of this article on discussing my deck list and performance at Toronto Regionals. The Expanded format should remain relatively the same, aside from some fancy tech cards being added into decks (and possibly Garbodor seeing play to capitalize on decks with high counts of items). The Standard format has shifted so drastically and Garbodor has taken over the majority of tournaments, which means talking about Mega Mewtwo-EX would not help anybody for the future. Mega Mewtwo-EX will almost never see play anymore with that unfortunate weakness to Psychic Pokemon. Looking forward to the Expanded format, Volcanion-EX is still a viable deck that could perform well at major tournaments. It seems much more fitting to shift the discussion towards the option that can still be played to success, which would be Volcanion-EX/Starmie.

After checking out that performance in Toronto, I’ll go over some observations that I’ve noticed while testing the new Standard format. This will basically just sum up my thoughts for where the game is heading currently, what decks I feel are strong/weak, and considering some of the better tech cards that I’ve witness during gameplay. To close out the article, we’ll look at a deck based on my favorite card from the new set, Alolan Ninetales-GX. This build was able to get me a Top 8 finish at one of my local League Cups, which had a surprisingly high number of players (50) and multiple World Championship competitors. If you’re having trouble dealing with those pesky Garbodor decks, Alolan Ninetales may be the answer you’ve been looking for. Let’s get this article started!

“Active Volcano in Toronto??” – 7th Place Toronto Regionals

The Deck: Volcanion-EX/Starmie

This deck was an absolute blast to play throughout the duration of this tournament. With such explosive combinations and speed, Volcanion-EX’s can get setup instantly and hit for knockouts on even the first turn of the game. Multiple times through this tournament, I was able to attack on the first turn with a Volcanion-EX to KO an opponent’s Pokemon-EX. Battle Compressor helps to get the process started, through discarding Fire Energy, Blacksmith, or maybe just an Exeggcute to help with the Ultra Ball discards. If you can’t find a Compressor, just use Volcanion-EX’s ability to get those Energy into the discard. When the Energy are ready, all you need now is to find a Blacksmith. This task becomes extremely easy with the Jirachi-EX that was just recently added to this build, which can also just be grabbed while using a Hoopa-EX to setup.

For the version of this deck that was played in St. Louis, Rahul and I had chosen to go for a speedier version that utilized Max Elixirs. After playing in that tournament, we both agreed that they could be thrown out for some additional tech cards or consistency spots. Jirachi-EX was an easy addition towards a consistency spot, which made finding a crucial Colress or Blacksmith that much easier during gameplay. With the other open slot, we chose to tech against one of the more popular decks in the format (Night March) by adding in a Karen. This also coincidentally helped against multiple Vespiquen/Flareon decks that I ended up playing against, while being a great source of recovery in other matchups.

For many people wondering why there is a Starmie line in this build, it is mainly to counter opposing Item-locking decks. Not only does the ability of Starmie allow you to grab two Energy cards out of the discard pile to constantly fuel Volcanion-EX’s Steam-Up ability, but it also allows you to discard useless Item cards that you no longer want to see in that matchup. This can help to act as a way of strengthening late game N’s, as there are less unplayable Item cards in the deck to clog up a hand. Even against opponents that weren’t using Item-lock, Starmie was just an infinite way of fueling up my abilities to keep swinging for big damage. If somebody decided to knockout my Starmie and waste a Lysandre, it meant that I still had an attacker in the active position to just swing again.

Tournament Report/Matchups

While not as big as some of the larger Regionals in the United States, there were many Worlds competitors at this event that were trying to push higher into the Championship Point rankings. Many high-level players were trying have a strong performance to lock in a Top 16 spot for the North American rankings, which also gives an instant pass to the 2nd day of the World Championships. With a field of over 360 players, I just decided to go with a consistent deck that could stand a chance against any opponent, which ended up being Volcanion-EX/Starmie. This would at least give me a shot for every matchup that I ended up facing throughout the tournament.

I also received some positive feedback about showing how I would approach each matchup that I faced, so I’ll be doing this again for every round of the tournament. Knowing a good strategy to utilize against each opponent can make a game much easier to win, so having the right mindset before each round begins can make-or-break a player’s tournament performance.

Round 1 – Quad Lapras-EX

When facing a Quad Lapras-EX deck, they are attempting to run every opponent out of Energy cards while constantly fueling their hand from drawing each turn. Since Volcanion can just attach those Energy from the discard pile with its attack, this matchup becomes a little bit easier to manage. For the Expanded Format, Blacksmith is also a viable option to help counter the strategy of discarding Energy. For this matchup, I was looking to just keep energy on the board and eventually one-shot any Lapras-EX that threatened to attack me. My trading is much easier to manage with one-prize attackers and the constant refueling of Energy from the discard.

Against this opponent, I was able to get plenty of energy on the board and eventually just one-shot his Lapras-EX or Wobbuffet. Both games finished pretty quickly, as my opponent couldn’t seem to find many other Pokemon to bench and just couldn’t deal with the speed of an early Blacksmith.


Round 2 – Volcanion-EX (Mirror)

When approaching the mirror match, the strategy is fairly simple. Try not to bench any liability Pokemon-EX on the bench, attack with Volcanion to get multiple Volcanion-EX ready, and then just start swinging into each other with no regrets. Usually the first person to take a big knockout on an opposing Volcanion-EX comes out with the win, but the games pretty explosive either way. Since I played Starmie and my opponent didn’t, I had a slightly better out to any late game N shenanigans, but the games are usually over fast and that shouldn’t matter too much.

For this round, my opponent got setup a little slower than me and I was able to take the first big knockout onto an opposing Pokemon-EX. This gave me a big advantage throughout the game, as all I needed was a Blacksmith for return knockouts onto opposing Volcanion-EX’s. For the second game, my opponent couldn’t find a Supporter card on the first two turns of the game and it ended up putting her too far behind. After a couple turns of setting up my own Volcanion-EX’s on the bench, I took the first big knockout onto a benched Shaymin-EX with my Volcanion and 3 Steam-Up abilities. The game ended two turns later with two more EX knockouts from my powered-up attackers.


Round 3 – Night March

This was the deck that I specifically teched against by adding Karen, so that card is the key to success in this matchup. You never just immediately play down Karen after the first or second turn of the game, as your opponent will still have plenty of resources to discard those Night-Marchers. It’s also crucial to make sure and utilize the Karen yourself to recover some Volcanion that have been knocked out. Just begin the game by trading Volcanion for Joltik/Pumpkaboo multiple times, and then just drop the Karen and get back those attackers. They should be low on resources to discard their Pokemon, so one more Karen later in the game is usually able to seal the deal. As long as this deck is trading one-prize attacker for one-prize attacker, Karen will inevitably spell their doom.

Both games during this round went about the same as I was expecting. The first game, my opponent was not ready for me to play down a Karen and had already wasted a huge amount of resources. Without any way of powering up his attacks, he just couldn’t find a way to take knockouts. The second game was more of a grind, with my opponent playing much more conservatively after seeing that I had a Karen. He spaced out discarding resources throughout the game, which forced me to Karen more often to fish out those Battle Compressor and Puzzle of Time. After the 4th Karen, my opponent just couldn’t do enough damage to take a knockout on my active Volcanion-EX that had a Fighting Fury Belt attached.


Round 4 – Carbink BREAK/Zygarde-EX/Landorus-EX (Russell LaParre)

I wasn’t really expecting to see this matchup, but anyone that knows Russ can see his love for Carbink. The deck is a strong contender with Focus Sash in the Expanded Format, which also made knockouts much more difficult for me to find. Overall, the matchup is a little favored for my version of Volcanion-EX, as I play the Tool Scrapper with a Dowsing Machine to get rid of those Focus Sash and find big one-shot knockouts. Carbink’s ability makes the matchup more methodical in terms of fueling up attackers, as I also need to constantly switch between Volcanion-EX and Volcanion when necessary. If Russell went to power up a Zygarde-EX on the bench, I would attempt to take a one-shot knockout with my Volcanion-EX and a Tool Scrapper. Whenever Carbink BREAK would come to hit for damage, a Volcanion with multiple Steam Up abilities would be the answer of choice.

The first game was over quick, as I couldn’t find a Supporter card and ended up drawing 4 Fire Energy in a row through the first 4 turns of the game (looks like I may have needed to shuffle more). The second game wasn’t going very well either, as I couldn’t find a supporter and didn’t even have an attacker to power up with my Volcanion. After a couple turns of sending up a sacrificial Exeggcute and Staryu, I managed to top-deck an N. My only hope was for Russel to draw poorly off this N, with me also drawing a good hand to get some attackers ready. I found an Ultra Ball to grab Hoopa-EX along with another Volcanion to start getting energy on the board. Russel drew nothing off the N, which helped me to steal a game and inevitably tie the round. I was definitely happy with the tie from how poorly I drew this round.


Round 5 – Vespiquen/Flareon

For the Vespiquen/Flareon matchup, it’s basically a copy/paste situation with the Night March matchup. Constantly use Karen at good times to make life more difficult for an opponent. Force them to space out their discarding resources and make them slow down their game plan. Most games usually come down to a crucial turn where an opponent isn’t able to get enough attackers in the discard pile, while also using a Lysandre to hit a benched Pokemon-EX of mine (since I’ll usually have a Volcanion attacking). The only real difference between this matchup and Night March would be making sure to bench 3 Volcanion-EX to one-shot opposing Flareon with Volcanion’s Power Heater attack.

This round went according to plan, as Karen wasn’t prized either game and I was able to just constantly shuffle back in the Pokemon from his discard pile. My opponent played the matchup very well and almost stole a game with a double Battle Compressor/Lysandre combo out of his hand, but the only copy of Lysandre was in his prizes and forced him to just attack my one-prize Volcanion. Karen was able to steal another game for me at this tournament!


Round 6 – Darkrai-EX/Giratina-EX/Salamence-EX

I had never really played this matchup before, but was told that it was very “easy” by my CCG Castle teammates Rahul Reddy and Igor Costa. Well… they were VERY wrong! Salamence-EX is such a huge problem to deal with in this matchup, as it can destroy one of your Volcanion-EX’s with just two Energy attachments (one of which can just come from a Max Elixir). The key to this matchup is playing around Salamence-EX and only attacking with Volcanion until a knockout can be found onto the Salamence. You also have to make sure and go relatively quick though, as Darkrai-EX BKP becomes just as deadly when given enough turns to gather energy onto the board. So, don’t attack with a Volcanion-EX until you can knockout their Salamence-EX, and make sure to do this quickly to avoid their Darkrai-EX BKP from just sweeping the field.

Both games during this round went exactly as expected. I was able to take a quick knockout on the opposing Salamence-EX, which made the game pretty care-free without any major threats. Volcanion-EX has no problems when they aren’t being threatened with a return KO back from an opponent. The second game went just about the same, as I made sure not to bench too many Pokemon-EX until I had the knockout on his benched Salamence-EX. He had already drawn a good amount of prize cards from early aggression with his Darkrai-EX, but using N in the late game with a Starmie out was my way of coming back. The game becomes much easier when the threat of Salamence is dealt with. Its nerve-wracking to play around that pesky dragon that can just blow up a crucial Pokemon on my field with ease.


Round 7 – Seismitoad-EX/Crobat (Noel Totomoch on stream)

I was pretty sad when I saw the matchup for this round, as I knew ToadBats with 3 Silent Lab was a terrible matchup for my deck. Without abilities, I couldn’t take big one-shot knockouts and swing the game in my favor. This also would allow ToadBats to use their Super Scoop Ups to pick up damaged attackers and place right back down to negate my previous attack. The strategy for this matchup was to get a Blacksmith onto a Volcanion-EX as quickly as possible, while also conserving my Sky Fields to use later (when I needed abilities to take knockouts). Since ToadBats doesn’t do too much damage, I would have a couple of turns to try and setup these combos, but it’s easier said than done while under Item-lock.

These games were played on stream and are on YouTube currently if you would like to watch them. I was able to come out of this game with a tie after 3 pretty intense games. If you were wondering why I held cards on some of the turns before being Item-locked, or why I took some time during turns to stop and think, it was because I was trying to play around Ghetsis and Delinquent throughout the series.


Round 8 – Darkrai-EX/Giratina-EX/Salamence-EX

We’ve already gone over the matchup against this deck, but my opponent for this round was also playing a copy of Hex Maniac that made life a little harder during these games. This caused me to constantly hide behind Volcanion during crucial turns of the game that my opponent would Hex Maniac, just to try and prevent him from getting any free prize cards on my Pokemon-EX. But as stated already, the name of the game was targeting down that Salamence-EX before it could take out my attackers.

With this round, I followed the strategy that I had previously talked about through hiding behind my Volcanion and targeting down the Salamence-EX. It took a little longer than expected, since my opponent was able to get a Fighting Fury Belt onto the Salamence-EX and reaching 220 HP is difficult when the Supporter being played that turn is a Lysandre. I eventually was able to take down the Salamence, but Hex Maniac caused the game to go on for a few more turns than expected. I ended up getting the win after a late game N had me draw into a VS Seeker for Lysandre. We didn’t have much time for the second game, which led to an awkward scenario on the last couple of turns. Time was called while I was on my turn, so I used a Colress to draw into a huge number of cards and then retreated to a benched Volcanion. My opponent had 4 prize cards left and only 2 turns to operate, which meant that he would need to use Lysandre on the first turn and KO a benched Pokemon-EX to force the tie. Since I only had 2 prize cards left and also had a hand of around 9 cards, I would easily win the game with a Lysandre onto his benched Shaymin-EX if there wasn’t an N. Since my opponent couldn’t play both supporter cards on that turn, he was forced to Lysandre and couldn’t minimize my hand, which allowed me to Lysandre for game.


Round 9 – Mega Rayquaza-EX

Since most Mega Rayquaza-EX decks play a good amount of Hex Maniac, this is not a good matchup for Volcanion-EX to see. Reaching 220 HP is very difficult for Volcanion-EX unless they are completely setup, which only becomes more difficult against a Mega Rayquaza-EX deck that can setup even quicker. The basic strategy against this deck is to just setup behind Volcanion with multiple Steam Ups each turn and try to keep up with the opponent. Stealing cheap Pokemon-EX knockouts is crucial to winning the game, especially if they can be done with a one-prize attacker like Volcanion. With usually 2 or more Hex Maniac for the Mega Rayquaza player, and no counter stadium for this version of Volcanion, the chances of winning are bleak, though.

I was relatively happy this round, since I knew that day 2 was guaranteed even with a loss. My opponent sat down and instantly offered the ID, saying that he was way too hungry after playing the whole tournament with no lunch break. I gladly accepted the ID and finished the day as the overall 7th seed going into day 2.


Round 10 - Seismitoad-EX/Crobat (Noel Totomoch)

Ahh, the same bad matchup from the 1st day of Swiss. We’d have to go with the same game plan as before, which is to setup a fast Volcanion-EX and try to conserve Sky Fields until knockouts can be achieved to avoid the Super Scoop Ups.

I ended up running right back into Noel for the first round of day 2, but the tables were completely turned this time around. Noel wasn’t able to get setup at all on the first game with no Supporter cards and just one Pokemon. I got the turn one donk with a Volcanion-EX and Blacksmith to steal a free win. The second game involved Noel using an Ultra Ball to grab a Jirachi-EX, which found him a Ghetsis. The Ghetsis hit me pretty hard and left me with just 2 cards in hand, which were a Colress and a Fire Energy. I top-decked a Battle Compressor and decided to grab the Exeggcute and bench it for the best possible odds of drawing well off the Colress. Those 4 cards I got from Colress were a Volcanion-EX and an Ultra Ball (for Hoopa-EX), which started a long series of trainers and setting up through Shaymin-EX’s. Noel didn’t find anything from the previous Ghetsis and was only able to Quaking Punch. With multiple Energy in the discard pile, I got the Blacksmith onto a Volcanion-EX and knocked out his only attacker. Noel still couldn’t draw anything and lost the next turn.


Round 11 – Flareon/Vespiquen (Caleb Gedemer on stream)

Same game plan as the previous Flareon/Vespiquen, which was to get 3 Volcanion-EX out and take knockouts with Volcanion while constantly using Karen later in the game. It just comes down to preventing a Pokemon-EX knockout late in the game, which is difficult for these decks to accomplish if Lysandre is the needed Supporter for that turn.

This game was also streamed and can be watched on YouTube. The first game seemed to have been cut out, but it basically involved Caleb getting a great start and stealing the game on the last turn with a double Battle Compressor/Lysandre knockout on a Keldeo-EX after getting hit by a Karen. The rest of the series can be seen in the video, and ended in another tie during a game 3 that was looking very promising for myself.


Round 12 – Seismitoad-EX/Giratina-EX (Dean Nezam)

This matchup is pretty similar to any other Seismitoad-EX variant, but there are more dead cards in the form of Energy denial. The Crushing Hammers and Enhanced Hammers don’t really have an effect on Volcanion as much, since the Energy can just be attached through attacking. Salamence-EX in some of these variants can make things a little difficult, but if the Volcanion-EX deck can get setup quickly and get a Blacksmith onto a Volcanion-EX to threaten knockouts, the matchup is a lot easier. Starmie is also a crucial part of surviving the late game when many energy have hit the discard pile. The constant refueling of energy to use multiple Steam Ups every turn can allow the normal Volcanion to trade with Seismitoad-EX, which causes a one-prize attacker to keep up with a two-prize attacker.

Dean is a very close friend of mine and we knew that whoever won this round would have a great shot of making the Top 8. Dean drew very poorly both games and couldn’t even find a Supporter card, while I was able to hit the turn 1 Blacksmith both games onto a Volcanion-EX. It was an unfortunate way to beat a friend, but also allowed me to ID my last two games and sit at 30 match points for the Top 8.


Round 13 – Lurantis-GX/Vileplume (Azul Garcia Griego)

This matchup is very simple. Lurantis-GX is a grass Pokemon, while Volcanion is a fire Pokemon. Since grass Pokemon catch on fire very easily, Lurantis-GX/Vileplume gets incinerated after just 3 attacks from Volcanion-EX. Unless the Volcanion player draws completely dead and a turn 1 Vileplume comes out, there’s no danger of losing this matchup.

Sitting at 28 match points meant that I could attempt to ID twice and sit right at the number of points needed for Top 8. I knew that there were many Primal Groudon-EX decks at the top tables, so I intentionally drew with one of my best buds and spared his life (not only to allow him into cut so I can have an easy matchup, but also to help possibly take out a Primal Groudon-EX deck for me).


Round 14 - Carbink BREAK/Zygarde-EX/Landorus-EX (Russell LaParre)

Well, we’ve already gone over the matchup against this same player that happened in the 1st day of Swiss. Russell is another good friend and decided to just leave it up to fate with an ID. We both moved to 30 match points and awaited the results.


When the results came out, I was glad to make the Top 8 with this cool version of Volcanion-EX/Starmie, but was also sad that Russell had to bubble out of cut. Regardless, I found a pretty bad matchup in Primal Groudon-EX that was to happen in Top 8, so I knew that I would need to get pretty lucky to win this tournament.

Top 8 – Primal Groudon-EX/Wobbuffet/Scramble Switch (Alex Schemanske on stream)

For this matchup, it’s extremely likely for Alex to open with a Wobbuffet or find a way of getting that Pokemon in the active position. This makes the matchup very difficult, as I need to use abilities to get Energy into the discard pile for my Blacksmith and Volcanion attacking. Against Primal Groudon-EX, Volcanion needs to get setup very quickly and knockout Wobbuffet by at least the second turn of the game. If Volcanion-EX’s can get setup on the bench while a Volcanion with Fighting Fury Belt is taking the knockouts on Wobbuffet, the game should be slightly favored towards Volcanion-EX. Another option would be to use an early Lysandre onto a benched Groudon-EX before it evolves and abuse abilities to help get setup. Both are very difficult to accomplish without abilities from the opening of the game, though.

Another game on stream. I tried my best to overcome this tough matchup, but didn’t draw very well in the third game and it ended up costing me a chance at another Regional Championship! It was a good run though, so nothing to complain about.

Overall Finish = 7th Place

Final Thoughts on Volcanion-EX

Personally, this deck is my favorite choice right now for the Expanded format. There are many tech spots to help against certain matchups, such as the Karen that worked wonders against Vespiquen/Flareon and Night March. With Blacksmith able to fuel up attackers on the first turn of the game, along with every Pokemon being so easily accessible with just a Hoopa-EX, the speed and strength of Volcanion-EX is blatantly obvious. I’m unsure how much of a counter the new Garbodor from Guardians Rising would be against a Volcanion deck like the version I used for Toronto Regionals, but this would be the list I play at any upcoming Expanded format tournaments.

Post-Guardians Observations/Realizations

For this section of the article, I’m just going to list off some observations about the new Standard format I noticed during many hours of testing and through the first League Cup I attended this past weekend.

1) This format has become much slower, which I feel can be summarized by saying that every game now has an additional turn of setting up before attacks start flying. This could be from many players opting to use setup decks with stage 2 Pokemon that need time to hit the board, or could also be due to many Garbodor decks running rampant that can’t do much damage in the early stages of the game. Regardless, this allows for more creative decks to come around that would usually be too slow in a fast-paced format of quick attacking.

2) With added time and additional turns of setting up, Greninja has now resurfaced and made quite an impact in the first round of League Cups that occurred. With the older versions of Greninja usually needing just one free turn to get everything setup, this new format fits perfectly into the ninja frog’s diabolical plans for format domination!

3) From the tournament results we’ve seen so far, Garbodor is the deck to beat. Everyone seems to love that deck since Item cards are what make the Pokemon Trading Card game work. If you’re heading to any Standard format tournaments, make sure to have an answer for Garbodor. At the very least, just try to slow down and not discard too many Item cards in the opening turns of the game.

4) Choice Band has completely overtaken Fighting Fury Belt as the Tool card to play. It appears that 30 extra damage is just too much to pass by, even without adding any additional HP. It also doesn’t hurt that Choice Band can be attached to evolved Pokemon and carry the same effect.

5) In my opinion, it feels like the perfect split for Tapu Lele-GX and Shaymin-EX in most decks would be a 2/1 split. Having Tapu Lele isn’t as much of a liability on the bench, but it feels weird to just completely take out Shaymin-EX with such a good ability for getting useful cards without the use of a Supporter. Just one Shaymin-EX seems like the perfect amount.

6) Rescue Stretcher is a very underrated card right now. Just being able to grab a Tapu Lele from the discard pile, or possibly even to get back an attacker that just got knocked out, is so strong with that immediate impact of going to the hand. Whenever that effect isn’t needed for that turn, players can just throw back 3 good options to find later in the game. Make sure to play at least one of these in most decks for the current Standard format.

7) Alolan Vulpix may find play in many setup decks for the Standard format with such an amazing attack that doesn’t require any Energy to use. Any decks that are playing stage 2 evolution cards should certainly utilize Alolan Vulpix to grab those evolution cards from the deck. With a solid evolution in Alolan Ninetales-GX, the entire line can be splashed into almost anything that utilizes Double Colorless Energy.

“Clever Like a Fox” – Top 8 Finish at GA League Cup

The Deck: Alolan Ninetales-GX

With this tournament coming very quickly into my testing, I didn’t really feel that I had a good grasp on the format. I decided to just go with one of my favorites decks at the time, which was Alolan Ninetales. This deck has a fantastic Garbodor matchup, which ended up really paying dividends as I beat 3 Garbodor variants on my way to the Top 8 of this League Cup in Georgia.

Deck Summary

To summarize how the deck works, Alolan Vulpix is the best starter that can help to grab all the Pokemon needed for any situations. Grabbing more Vulpix to have multiple attackers, getting an Octillery to evolve on the next turn for more cards to draw, or maybe just grabbing an Alolan Ninetales-GX to get out the main attacker for the second turn of the game. From turn 2, this deck usually just tries to snipe around the field with Ice Blade to setup knockouts for future Blizzard Edge attacks. Whenever any big amounts of damage are taken, Alolan Ninetales-GX has what is probably one of the best GX attacks in the game currently, which allows it to completely transfer all damage on Ninetales to the opposing active Pokemon. If an opponent attempts to play around this by only doing small amounts of damage, this deck plays multiple Rough Seas and a Pokemon Center Lady to just heal that away.

The only real counter to this strategy is an opponent that can just one-shot for over 210 damage without abilities (as Hex Maniac is played to stop that attempt). This was exactly what I found in the Top 8 of this tournament, as my opponent was using a Gyarados/Machoke deck. This not only shut off my attempts to snipe his benched Pokemon with Machoke, but also just one-shot knocked out every attacker that I built up. Alolan Ninetales-GX is still a very strong deck right now and is the best counter to Garbodor that I’ve seen so far. The current tech cards for this deck are the Rayquaza, which was added as a counter to Sylveon-GX, and the Bunnelby, which was added as a counter to Garbodor and Sylveon-GX. These can be changed based on whatever is being played in your area.


Thanks again to anybody that read through this article! I know that many people were cheering me on through both of these tournaments that I did well at, so thank you to anybody that was following along and wishing me luck. The current Standard format has so much renewed life now thanks to Guardians Rising, so look forward to many new decks and ideas from myself. If you aren’t following me on any social media, be sure to add me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter ( @Sabelhaus_TCG ). I’m sure that I’ll be posting some deck lists up pretty soon from League Cups that I’ve been attending.

Also, be sure to check out for any trading card game needs. You can use the promo code “CCGTEAM5” to get 5% off of any purchases made, which could come in handy for all the fantastic new cards that are out in Guardians Rising. If you were ever looking for a good time to fully invest in Pokemon, this set has given the format new life and is probably the best set to be released in years. If you have any questions or comments about this article or new deck ideas, don’t be afraid to message me with anything!

-Ryan Sabelhaus<3

[+8] okko


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